- Minnesota-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices affiliate Edina Realty has rolled out a system for agent onboarding that has been adopted by other HomeServices companies.
- Fast Track is a nine-unit course being used by both new agents and experienced veterans looking to refresh their skills.
What do you do with a degree in business and IT?
Lots of things, but when your family is stacked with three generations of real estate professionals — both mortgage and agency — it’s perhaps not surprising that Jake Perpich decided to become an agent.
And if he was going into the family business, he had better choose Edina Realty (a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate), his mother, Lori, a loan officer in the Edina Realty Mortgage business told him.
Perpich is hoping to buy a home himself next spring, and after selling 14 of them in his second year of business, he is well on his way.
But having family in real estate, of course, doesn’t guarantee success in this tough field. To what does he owe his launch?
Perpich was one of the new agents to benefit from Edina Realty’s Fast Track onboarding program, a nine-unit course introduced three years ago to help new agents with the basics of the business.
Agent training and its ties to the uneven quality of service that makes up the real estate landscape continue to be important industry conversations. In Inman’s recent Special Report on agent training, the largest slice of respondents prioritized mentoring as something brokers can provide to help associates thrive.
The Fast Track program enables managers to follow agents’ progress in multiple tiers, from office managers to regional managers to senior leadership.
It’s been a hit. “It’s one of our most significant achievements over the past year,” said Greg Mason, CEO and president of regional giant, Edina Realty Home Services, which also includes title, insurance and mortgage companies.
Moreover, a number of HomeServices of America sister companies are adopting the program, including ReeceNichols.
Mentor, role play, present
The first version of Fast Track started three years ago, but the program has evolved significantly.
The current adaptation was released a year ago with full implementation throughout the company, Mason said.
Edina Realty, with 2,500 agents and 75 offices in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, currently has 1,200 agents enrolled in Fast Track, which is available on mobile for easy access.
The appeal of the program is seeing it live and the way users interact with it, learning and building their business though the instruction, video and one-on-one dialogue with their manager.
Mentoring is integrated into what’s offered for Fast Track students; Perpich shadowed other agents on listing and buyer appointments. His favorite part of the program, he said, were the checklists that are available to agents.
“They are extremely detailed and cover the entire process of working with a buyer or seller from the initial meeting to post closing. For a new agent who has never experienced either side of a transaction, these checklists are a great blueprint to follow,” he said.
Role-playing is a big part of it, as well as presenting, said Gena Henrich, Edina Realty’s marketing and communications manager.
ReeceNichols decides not to reinvent the wheel
According to Chris Kelly, chief legal officer at ReeceNichols Real Estate in Kansas City, his company was just getting ready to revamp its own internal mentor program and instead decided to use Fast Track as a template for their mentors, so the team didn’t have to make it up as they went along.
Mentors can log onto Fast Track and see where their mentees are during the week before their weekly meeting. Having used it since February, senior agents are enjoying not having to start from scratch with their agent support and are being encouraged to add their own flavor, Kelly said.
Meanwhile, millennial agents definitely appreciate the more systematic training coming out of the Fast Track model than perhaps generations before them, Kelly said. As he puts it: “They don’t like the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach.”
In addition, the interest from experienced agents at ReeceNichols has been so strong that the company is going to be setting up a Fast Track version for experienced agents, Kelly added.
The same trend is happening at Edina Realty, where experienced agents are using Fast Track to refresh and update themselves.
“For both new and for experienced agents, the business continues to get more complicated,” Mason said.
Passing the torch
Of the 450 new agents coming into Edina Realty last year, around 75 percent of them were millennial, according to Mason.
The large regional brokerage, founded in 1955, pretty much mirrors the National Association of Realtors’ figures of having up to 30 percent of its agents with 10 to 15 years to go before retiring.
Managers are partnering junior agents up with veteran agents before they transition out of the industry.
“We are working a lot with agents to transfer those businesses,” Mason said. “We are also seeing with a lot of seasoned agents, their children are coming in after college and they are working together and creating a great partnership.”
The brokerage is also reaching out to new agents through social media, search engine marketing, local communities and its website. It’s started to use LinkedIn, and some offices have had success with Craigslist as well.
The company is looking for people who can be “committed long-term, who want to make a commitment for a career,” Mason said.
New recruits are interested in learning the skills to run a business. “We incorporate that in our training, online, webinars and speakers, bring in financial consultants and tax planning to help them with that,” Mason added.
Edina Realty also offers multiple commission split options. It has one payment route similar to the 100-percent commission model, a 90/10 split and a monthly fee.
The latter is popular with the more experienced agents who are established running their business.
Marketing to millennial buyers
Edina Realty, which had its best year since 2005 last year with $8.7 billion in closed volume and over 33,000 transactions, is putting substantial effort into the millennial buyer market given the affordability of homes in Minnesota in comparison with other parts of the U.S. — an average of $244,o00 in Minnesota and $275,000 in the Twin Cities.
Perpich said he has been helping his friends from college and school buy their first homes. They feel as though they can ask him the stupid questions and not feel intimidated, he said. And he has built up enough experience to give seasoned advice.
Minneapolis was the top-ranked city in the Millennial Opportunity Index in 2016 because of its high educational attainment and participation rate in the labor force.
Mason said there are millennials at the upper end who have come to homeownership later because they had experienced the mess of the Great Recession, but they still see homeownership as a great investment.
Then there are younger millennials who are pushing to get into the market quicker. These two groups will be the main buyers in entry-level housing in the next couple of years, he believes.
To talk to these millennial buyers, Mason is making sure the company has a good social media presence.
Edina Realty measures monthly that they are a consistent 50 to 60 percent share of the social media voice in the real estate market. The company website averaged 2.5 million monthly visits in 2016, and its 2017 ad campaign is also directed to a younger audience with a clever, fresh feel.
“We’ve been in the business 62 years; we want to be relevant,” Mason said.