Brokerage

Erica Simpson: ‘The box is nowhere in sight’

An independent broker covering the Carolinas talks about getting off the ground

Inman is interviewing independent brokers. Here’s Erica Simpson, broker-in-charge at Erica Homes.

Why do you stay independent when there are so many great franchises to join?

Our business model is quite different. We don’t just train. We add the application piece of the training. Real-life situations, live training calls and more.

When did you decide to launch your independent brokerage and why?

We were getting bank contracts and doing short sales during the foreclosure boom. Our traditional brokerage firm wouldn’t allow us to do certain tasks for the clients.

What factored into that decision?

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I had to survive the market crash and sustain my livelihood while being able to provide service to my clients.

Why did you think it was the right time and the right move for you?

I was receiving an overwhelming number of referrals from past clients and the general public for short sales at the time. My main concern was to serve that clientele at the time by helping them avoid foreclosure.

How old is your brokerage?

It was founded in June 2011 — four years old.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting your brokerage off the ground?

Getting other agents on board because my firm was so small, and letting them know I had a lot of the same resources as the big players in my market.

What was the easiest part of getting your brokerage off the ground?

Leveraging leads because I was getting so many referrals. Even now, we are receiving more leads than we can handle.

What’s your approximate agent-to-staff ratio?

Three to one.

Are you part of an independent brokerage network?

I belong to many trade organizations such as NRBA, NAREB, AREAA, NAR just to name a few.

What’s the quirkiest thing about your firm?

We think outside of the box; as a matter of fact, the box is nowhere in sight

Describe your office. Where is it located? What does it look like?

Our main office is a four-office suite with reception and break and storage areas. Our second office is a three-office suite with reception and break and storage areas. We also have three smaller offices.

1196reception

What kind of floor plan do you use?

Enclosed office spaces since most agents are mobile and don’t require office space.

How many agents and offices do you have?

Six offices and 27 agents.

How do you recruit new agents?

Real estate schools, referrals, direct contact and social media.

Where and how do you market your brokerage?

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn), North Carolina and South Carolina Employment Commissions, print (billboards, business cards, promo items), classified ads (Craigslist, Postlets, Zillow, Trulia) and in community resources.

Do you have office parties?

No.

Are you active on social media?

I am very active on social media. I have more than 4,000 fans and am at my friend limit on Facebook. There are more than 300 agents in our agent networking group on Facebook, more than 500 people in our community service group on Facebook and more than 500 connections on LinkedIn. I also have more than 500 followers on Twitter and more than 2,000 on Instagram.

What would you say are the biggest advantages to operating as an independent brokerage instead of as a franchised firm?

We have the flexibility to blaze our paths rather than to be confined to the ideas and rules of a franchise. We have the ability to try out innovative marketing techniques without being regulated — as long as it is within the parameters of the law.

What are the biggest challenges?

Lots of trial-and-error finding out what works and what doesn’t, and duplicating myself.

What sets your brokerage apart? What makes you different from your competition?

My experience has allowed me to work in many facets of the real estate business. I have completed a significant number of sales for first-time homebuyers, listing bank foreclosures, selling short sales and working with retail sellers. Not many brokers have indulged in so many facets of the residential real estate industry.

What’s the biggest business improvement you made last year?

Bringing on more agents.

What’s the biggest improvement you have planned for this year?

Diversifying the types of agents we are bringing on board so that we can handle all facets of the business.

Are you an independent broker who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email amber@inman.com.