Agent recruiting is at an all-time high. The postcards come in the mail, and I receive e-mails from new companies and old companies. There are ads for real estate agents on the Internet, too. To an industry outsider it might even look like there is some kind of a shortage.

There is a shortage of sorts: If the real estate companies can’t make a profit from our sales, they will fold. They need as many agents as they can get, and they need to keep the agents who are generating sales.

Agent recruiting is at an all-time high. The postcards come in the mail, and I receive e-mails from new companies and old companies. There are ads for real estate agents on the Internet, too. To an industry outsider it might even look like there is some kind of a shortage.

There is a shortage of sorts: If the real estate companies can’t make a profit from our sales, they will fold. They need as many agents as they can get, and they need to keep the agents who are generating sales.

The recruiting methods are interesting, but mostly the same. Most promise a higher commission split and no hidden fees. Most promise the latest and great technology, and several advertise a fun work environment and training.

Two things that most brokerage companies offer — I consider them detriments to my business instead of assets — are the free company e-mail address and Web site.

We are independent contractors, and as such we run our own businesses. The real estate company e-mail address belongs to the real estate company. Using it for business other than inner-office communication can be a mistake. When we leave real estate companies we don’t get to keep the e-mail address. Who gets the e-mail from our prospects after we leave the company?

There are other issues with those e-mail addresses. Some real estate company e-mail addresses are blocked by spam filters and by some Internet service providers (ISPs) — it seems that some businesses don’t want their employees getting spam or working with a Realtor on company time.

One local real estate company that also owns a mortgage company routinely blocks e-mail from other mortgage companies so that they do not get into agents’ e-mail accounts. Who knows what else they block besides spam?

Free real estate company Web sites are usually just Web pages integrated with the main company site. They do little for agents. One large real estate company has the agent pages set up so that consumers trying to contact an agent must fill out a Web form, and that form goes to a central department in the company before going to the agent. The department they go to is the very same department that collects leads off of the Internet and sells them to agents for a referral fee.

Test the real estate company Web site. If there is a place for consumers to search, use it as a consumer would. Then search for one of your listings and send a note asking to see the listing — you just might be surprised at the result. I tested a friend’s Web site in this manner and he never got the request to see the home. It took him three days to track it down and find the problem.

Owning domain names along with Web sites helps insure business continuity should the brokerage go broke. It also makes it easier to move to another brokerage. Web sites are inexpensive and so are domain names.

Having a Web site and an e-mail address are basic agent needs these days. They are critical business assets. Set up the free agent Web site but don’t put it on business cards or send consumers to it or rely on it for lead generation. If the company allows, put a link from it to your own Web site.

Own your business, including the Internet-related assets, and keep it portable. It is your business and you should be able to easily move it at any time.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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