Editor’s note: This is the last of a two-part series. See Part 1.
It’s the beginning of a new year and for some real estate agents, it’s time to change offices. For others, 2013 may be the year that they finally decide to see if real estate is the right career for them. The question is, which office is right for you?
Part 1 of this series identified six of the 10 key questions you should ask to determine whether your current office is the right one for you. Here are the remaining four questions that can help you determine if you should stay in your current location or if it’s time to search elsewhere.
7. What types of technology do you use to help your agents market themselves and their listings?
Many companies provide their agents with a website or a Web page that resides on the broker’s website. Others have full-blown Web marketing programs that cost nothing, including their own CRM (client relationship management) platforms. As part of this process, compare what your current company provides vs. what is provided by your competitors.
Also ask the broker/manager if they have a company intranet, and if so, ask the broker to share how that works and what services are provided. Also be sure to inquire about whether there is an additional fee for these services.
The most important step you can take, however, is to research each firm you are considering online. (For experienced agents, see how your company stacks up against the competition.) It’s smart to do your Web marketing research prior to meeting with any broker-owners or managers.
Begin by going to Google and search which brokerages have the highest organic search results for real estate in your area. Next, visit the company’s website. Is it easy to use? Is the site attractive? Does the site link to all of the listings on the multiple listing service?
It’s also smart to look at how other agents display their listings. Do they use lots of pictures and video or do their listings have just a single picture? If the other agents are doing a poor job of marketing their listings, consumers will go elsewhere since they spend the most time on sites that have the complete information. Finally, check the major social media sites to see if the company is using social media as part of its marketing strategy.
8. For your agents who work full time, what is the average number of transactions that they close per year?
If the broker/manager cannot or will not answer this question, it means that either the data is not tracked or that the number is low. When it comes to selecting an office, buyers are usually not very concerned with which office represents them — it’s your personal relationship that matters. On the other hand, research from the National Association of Realtors shows that when a homeowner is ready to list his home, he generally lists with one of the top three companies in terms of the company’s market share.
Consequently, if you are in a productive office with lots of signs and market share in your area, there are usually more incoming buyer leads as well as a greater opportunity to receive more listing leads.
9. Do you have a policy and procedures manual that outlines what you expect of me and what I can expect of you? If so, may I have a copy?
Even if a company has a policy and procedures manual, virtually no one ever reads it until there is a dispute. This document explains office policies, administrative procedures, plus a host of other important issues. Some things to look for include what happens to your listings if you leave the company? What are the conditions for an increase in your commission split? Does the company have a relocation department and if so, how is relocation business handled? Does the company have a dress code or required "career apparel"? It’s important to know these procedures before you affiliate with a company — not after the fact when there is a dispute or some other issue.
10. Does your company have a lead generation program for its agents and if so, would you please describe it?
While some companies have full-blown lead referral programs (for which many charge a fee), others have no formal program other than phone duty (sometimes known as "floor time" or "up time"). If the company offers a lead referral program, inquire about the requirements for becoming a participant. If the company offers phone duty, determine whether it provides training on how to maximize phone duty as well as how quickly you will be allowed to take phone duty. Please note that many offices have call centers or a policy in which incoming sign calls are funneled to the listing agent. This translates into fewer calls coming into the phone duty agent, but more calls going to you when you are the listing agent.
If you’re a new agent, choosing the right office can lead to a long and happy relationship with your brokerage for years to come. For an experienced agent, if your broker’s current operation needs upgrading, there’s no better time than right now to begin investigating whether a move is right for you.