I am not going to let the fact that no one seems to know what a real estate broker is, or what a real estate company does, dampen my enthusiasm for my new brokerage. I made the classic rookie mistake of putting “Broker/Owner” on my business cards. I believe the only reason people take my card is because it has the word Realtor on it, and most people think it’s a job title and pronounce it “real-it-ter.”
When I make a mistake, I like to admit it, correct it and move on as quickly as possible. My next batch of business cards will read: Founder/CEO and, of course, I’ll leave the “Realtor.”
So far, I have been unable to explain what a real estate broker does or the difference in doing business with me now as opposed to two months ago before I started my company. When I try to explain it, I get a look that tells me I am boring my audience.
In this industry, the real estate company is all about a brand. We lose sight of the fact that throughout most of the U.S., a person with a real estate sales license (an agent) cannot sell real estate all on their own. He or she must work under a licensed real estate broker, who is supposed to provide supervision. The real estate company is the entity that has the licensed broker.
Most of our clients never meet the actual real estate broker who is technically representing them through his or her agent. Many never set foot in a real estate company office even if they work with an agent to sell a house and buy a new one. People do not ask me to refer them to a real estate company or a broker; they want a referral to an agent.
In the real estate industry it is all about “transacting,” “GCI” (gross commission income) and how many “sides” or “deals” an agent can “do” each year, not to mention how many “leads” can be captured and turned around. Real estate companies are becoming like transaction factories with little quality control.
My company isn’t like a factory but more like the corner bakery. Everything is handmade, one at a time. And who knows, maybe we will find a way to bake a little joy into each of our clients’ purchases and sales.
When asked about my company, I get all tongue-tied. If I could just name some well-known corporation as my employer, the conversation would likely end, and we could move on to discussing the services I would like to provide in exchange for a fee. Instead, I am expected to say something profound about my company because it is small and no one has ever heard of it.
As near as I can tell, the services I provide are the same services that most other real estate agents provide. The major difference is I probably do a better job providing the services.
Even though our clients don’t always know what a real estate company does, I think they imagine that companies sell real estate and do all sorts of important things that help in the homebuying and selling process. This assumption is probably because of all the advertising real estate companies put out there.
There was a time, not so long ago, when real estate companies provided offices with copy machines, file cabinets and telephones. I used to think technology would disintermediate the real estate company, but that cannot happen unless laws change so that real estate agents do not need to work under brokers.
Real estate brokers have a job to do, and from what I see, every day there are plenty of opportunities to do a better job. There are opportunities to be the expert who cares about the client as a person who is making a huge purchase or selling a valuable asset. There are opportunities to see the human side instead of viewing it as another transaction. I am serious about being a client-centered company rather than an agent-centered company, and I am serious about the idea of providing high-quality services.
Real estate brokers can insist upon certain standards. That isn’t the same as treating an independent contractor as an employee. We can ask that agents know the difference between an amendment and an addendum and that they know how to advise their clients — and even how to number pages in a contract and put in some dates.
Eventually, I will figure out how to explain my real estate company to potential clients and make it sound interesting and relevant. But until I do, I’ll keep emphasizing my abilities as a real estate agent because most people understand what a real estate agent does.