A series of trial and errors — I think we can all agree that we felt this way at some point in the beginning of our real estate careers. My story is probably not that different than yours. There is no magic formula to making it in the real estate biz.

A series of trial and errors — I think we can all agree that we felt this way at some point in the beginning of our real estate careers. My story is probably not that different than yours. There is no magic formula to making it in the real estate biz.

For me, it’s the experience that I gained in my first year working for both a corporate brokerage and an indie brokerage that will carry me through my career that’s invaluable.

If I can offer any advice for those of you just starting your career, go out and interview every brokerage you can, small or large.

Each has a different personality, business model and set of values.

One is not better than the other. And as it turns out, most clients don’t care about going with a large or small brand as long as they have an established relationship with the real estate agent.

If you’re on the fence about where to get started, here are some of the pros and cons I’ve experienced at both types of firms:

Franchise brokerage


  • Large community: My principal set me up with as many introductions as possible in an office of about 50 agents. The advice I received in these interviews was invaluable. The common thread of all the conversations was the value of persistence. I learned that everyone starts at the beginning and that really no one has the right answer to success.
  • Tons of opportunity for classes and large training events: I passed my real estate license within eight months of moving to Portland, Oregon. Starting a brand new career in a brand new city with zero sales experience seemed like an exciting yet near impossible task. I was drawn to a large company because of the plethora of classes and sales training events offered. The office was into Tuesday broker tours. These were great opportunities to learn about my new city, hear from experienced professionals and understand the value of a home in the Portland market.
  • Brand recognition: As a newly minted broker, I interviewed with all the name brand companies like Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway and Windermere. As I was just starting out, I thought that brand recognition could add legitimacy as a new broker.


  • Expensive fees and splits: Every company I interviewed for had an expensive monthly marketing/office fee and splits that largely benefitted the company. As a new agent and someone with experience in marketing, building my marketing templates was something I was excited about and had time for. I didn’t want to pay a monthly fee for it. Also considering I was just starting out, every penny counted. Spending money every month on a fee that didn’t really benefit me left me feeling resentful.
  • Classes are not as helpful as real-world experience: You can go to a million and one classes on how to generate leads, how to create a winning listing presentation and how to do an open house; these classes all offer great ideas on getting organized, but nothing compares to the real life experience of getting out in front of people.
  • It’s easy to get lost in the crowd: Advice I got early on was to find a mentor and work with him or her on his or her deals to get experience. In a large office, many people come and go as they please, and it’s hard to nail down someone who’s willing to train. Often because of the perceived time commitment, finding a mentor is super challenging. Although I had many people who were willing to answer my questions, I never found someone who wanted to commit to fully training me.

Independent brokerage


  • A large opportunity to gain real-world experience: I had again found myself among professionals who were so willing to share their experiences with me. The difference this time was that I was part of a team. A team that still operates autonomously but creates opportunity to learn closely from one another. With an open office environment, I can hear questions and deals thoroughly discussed throughout any given day. This is where I’ve acquired the most real-world experience to date. The open office has also given me a chance to really get to know my coworkers on a personal level.
  • More opportunity for growth: As they aren’t working from a corporate model, smaller companies are able to change, adapt and create based on the market. The ability to be flexible and pivot directions if need be keeps smaller companies dynamic and growing.
  • Enriched brand presence: My current firm, Sean Z Becker Real Estate, is an independent brokerage in the heart of the South Waterfront community. Smaller companies can hold true to their original core values a bit easier than larger firms. Similarly, one of the reasons I love Portland is the value it places on local culture and community. Becker understands this and has adopted it as a part of his business model. His brokerage places value in its individual people. It’s a breath of fresh air.


  • If it’s raining, you’re less sheltered from the storm: One way we get leads in through walk-ins. When the weather is bad or it’s near the holiday, this slows down. If you don’t have a huge book of business, you slow down quite a bit. Same with open houses. If the company doesn’t have a ton of listings because it’s the slow season, your lead generation through open houses also slows.
  • Real estate is a competitive industry: There are still challenges I face day-to-day. Real estate is a competitive industry, it can be hard to not compare yourself to your teammates. But I was gifted with a piece of advice early in my career in those interviews: be persistent in your efforts.

I started at a larger firm and moved to a smaller firm (where I currently work), but it’s possible the opposite may be the right path for you.

Personalities and situations vary, so choose the company that creates an environment for real-world experience, best suits your values and passion, and gives you the confidence to succeed.

Nicole Curra is a broker with Sean Z Becker Real Estate in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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