If you’re a new agent interviewing at San Diego-based Realty National, make sure your first question isn’t, “What are your splits?” That drives broker-owner Randy Zimnoch crazy. Zimnoch is an agent, developer and investor who co-founded Realty National — sister company to FortuneBuilders, the real estate coaching and education company that was founded by Than Merrill — in 2012 and has 50 to 60 agents.

  • When searching for a brokerage to call home, agents should be asking about the company's core values above all else.
  • Don't ask about commission off the bat.

Randy Zimnoch

If you’re a new agent interviewing at San Diego-based Realty National, make sure your first question isn’t, “What are your splits?” That drives brokerage owner Randy Zimnoch crazy.

Zimnoch is an agent, developer and investor who in 2012 co-founded Realty National — sister company to FortuneBuilders, the real estate coaching and education company that was founded by Than Merrill — and has 50 to 60 agents.

In his self-published book, “The Perfect Brokerage For You: The First Step to Your Ultimate Lifestyle as a Real Estate Agent,” he provides a list of 19 questions meant to guide new agents to the right brokerage and help established agents end their pattern of brokerage hopping.

When searching for a brokerage to call home, agents should be asking about the company’s core values above all else. The no. 1 reason most agents fail in real estate is because of a misalignment with their brokerage, argues Zimnoch. Finding one that aligns with their lifestyle and values will better prepare them for success.

Zimnoch’s easy tip for the search: If the company’s standards don’t match your own, move on.

“Don’t be distracted with perks like leads or a high split. Don’t sacrifice your values for theirs. Core values determine the culture of the company and determine your long term happiness and success there,” he wrote.

The grass isn’t always greener

Agents can accelerate profitability and save themselves a world of stress by choosing the right brokerage early on. But constantly thinking the grass is greener at other brokerages and letting recruiters in your head will get you into trouble.

Before changing brokerages, agents should know that the disruption of a switch typically costs 20 percent of their sales volume in the first year, according to Brian Buffini, cited by Zimnoch.

Some agents leave their brokerages because they’re “getting their ego stroked somewhere else,” says Buffini.

Zimnoch urges agents to make sure they are getting the most out of their brokerage before deciding to jump ship. Your brokerage might offer everything you’re looking for — you just have to ask the right questions and get “plugged in.”

If you do decide to leave your current brokerage, do so on good terms — burning bridges is never a good idea. There have been situations where a brokerage doesn’t realize their agent has switched until they receive a notice from the Board of Real Estate, he said.

“This industry is small and we all know one another,” said Zimnoch, so it’s always best to communicate openly.

Step it up, brokers

Brokers have a big responsibility to improve the hiring process, said Zimnoch. “It’s up to us to figure this out and change the stigma of this industry. It will need leaders like us to facilitate this.”

For decades, the industry has been all about getting anyone and everyone in the door: “If you are breathing and you have a social security number, let’s get you in,” he mocked. It is a flawed system. “How are you building companies, how do you maintain a culture, when you don’t even know who you are hiring?”

When agents go to interviews, they are completely green; they have no business, yet they are being pursued and that situation gives them false self-confidence, he added.

When Zimnoch sees a potential new agent, they have two interviews at his company. After the first one, they are sent off with homework — to read the book and come back with good questions. If they are not a good fit, he tells them to use the book and go and interview other brokerages.

Zimnoch advises agents to look for management style in individual offices. You find a lot of unique niche cultures among real estate brokerages, he said.

“If you interview at one Re/Max or Keller Williams office, don’t assume that another office five miles away will be the same. It could be completely different. One might stink and the next one might be awesome. It comes down to leadership style,” he said.

The 19 Questions

  1. What are the company’s core values?
  2. What defines the brokerage? What is it known for?
  3. Do you have anything I can leverage that is exclusive to your company that no other brokerage in the area has?
  4. Do agents support and share trade secrets with one another?
  5. Is there support staff in place to help me when needed?
  6. Will the support staff go to a client appointment with me?
  7. Do you have a self study training website for the agents?
  8. Are the agents in the office open to me shadowing them?
  9. Do you allow part-time agents to be part of the company?
  10. Do you allow teams to work at your brokerage?
  11. What should I expect at the team meetings?
  12. Do you do any team-building events together as a company?
  13. Does the company promote sharing goals with each other?
  14. Does your company support any charitable organizations?
  15. Does your company offer lead opportunities?
  16. Are your agents able to represent themselves on personal transactions?
  17. What type of commission schedule do you follow and what will be my split?
  18. Are there other fees outside of the commission split that the company charges?
  19. Is there a rewards program in place if I recommend another agent to join the company?

Email Gill South.

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