Agent training can give independent brokers competitive edge

New recruits need more resources than we're giving them

Here’s a thought: “In five years, 50 percent of the transactions will be completed by an agent who is not currently licensed.” That’s a quote from the incoming president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, Ron Croushore.

It makes you stop and think about where these new agents are going to come from … and who is going to train them.

I own an independent brokerage. There are lots of us in the same situation; the number of independent brokerages is over 80 percent of brokerages in the marketplace, and it’s growing.

I don’t have franchise training programs to rely on. When I started my brokerage a couple of years ago, I realized I would have to develop my own talent. Yes, I have read numerous articles and tips about recruiting, but I still realized early on that I would have to train staff if I wanted to grow my brokerage quickly.

I sit on a statewide committee for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, which is essentially used as a “think tank” to consider upcoming issues facing our organization. In the first meeting, a member at large pointed out that the committee comprised members who all appeared to be over 40 (“No offense,” he said). He then asked this question: “How many of you have worked with a new agent in the last year?” After I raised my hand, there were no more agents or brokers who had worked with new agents in the room.

This is the challenge for our industry.

I decided not only to create a training program for my agents, but also to start a licensed school where we could provide prelicense classes and continuing education. Different states have different regulations about starting a real estate school; Pennsylvania has a pretty reasonable process, as does Florida — two states where we are currently licensed.

It takes quite a bit of effort to get the school licensed and up and running, but once you get it going, running a real estate school really has some benefits:

  • A school provides continuing education for your existing staff. This is a significant advantage; you can get courses authorized that benefit the training programs you think would be a good fit for your agents. Too often, the agents can fall into a trap of just taking bare-minimum continuing education classes, and those may not be a great fit for your organization or cover a topic in an area of emphasis for your agents.
  • Prelicensing classes can be a boon to your organization. In many cases, you can offer classes at no or low cost to prospective agents who complete the course and join your brokerage. When I started my school, I didn’t realize that I could offer scholarships — I learned that afterward when I was attending a district Realtor rally. I met a school director from Pittsburgh who provided classes for a large brokerage. It was a revelation for me — and perhaps you knew this already, but this strategy could be a tool to help grow your staff.

By no means do you have to start a real estate school. You might decide a better alternative is to partner with a local or regional proprietary school. You might also find that your local or regional board of Realtors can help with classes on a regular schedule or a customized basis.

One suggestion to get your training program going is to work with a school that can license a branch setup. This would enable a broker who wishes to have the in-house ability to teach his own agents. He would be able to designate a trainer agent with both skill and knowledge and get that person licensed through a proprietary or association-owned school to deliver training and provide a competitive edge.

YouTube videos

We set out to create a playlist of videos. We have recorded more than 50 of videos and have built a library to teach agents about a variety of topics that are of interest to our brokerage. This is a fantastic — and free — tool we use to help onboard new agents.

Because they are available online (and therefore nearly everywhere when accessed on a cellphone or tablet), they are particularly helpful to the new agents — and especially to those new agents who may have time to view our training videos in the off-hours and at their own leisure. The videos are also helpful as refresher tools for existing agents. As the broker, when I get calls from agents who need help on a particular topic, I will often refer them back to the training video and point out that they need to catch that episode for some training or a refresher.

These are just some of the best tools I found to help me develop in-house training. I am sure there are others. Let us know about them in the comments!

Adam Conrad Jr., MBA, is the founder and broker/owner of Perry Wellington Realty, licensed in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and West Virginia.

Email Adam Conrad.