Real estate franchisor HomeSmart is partnering with Resourcing Edge, a Texas-based human resources firm, to offer a comprehensive benefits package to its 14,000 agents …

Arizona-based real estate franchisor HomeSmart announced a unique partnership to offer its 14,000 agents a health insurance program through a new group buying initiative, a rare opportunity for real estate professionals who, as independent contractors, don’t typically receive benefits through their brokerage.

HomeSmart is partnering with Resourcing Edge, a Texas-based human resources firm, to offer a comprehensive benefits package, including health care, dental, vision and 401k — with group buying prices.

“So many agents will say to us: ‘the cost of my coverage is just crazy,’ and wonder if there’s anything we can do to help with that,” HomeSmart COO Wendy Forsythe told Inman.

Agents who franchise under HomeSmart’s umbrella will be able to leverage the agency’s size — which boasts 127 offices across 17 states — to find benefits packages at a lower cost than what’s available on the health care exchange.

“What [Resourcing Edge] has done is create a program where each agent is considered their own company who can then join the group and get the benefits of the pricing discounts,” Forsythe explained. Agents won’t have to go to the health care exchange to find a health plan and will instead choose from a benefits package provided to them by Resourcing Edge through HomeSmart.

According to Forsythe, the rising cost of benefits is consistently a major concern for the franchisor’s agents, all of whom are independent contractors. A report from found that health care premiums through the Affordable Care Act’s open exchange went up by as much as 50 percent in some states.

And those costs could continue to rise with the tax bill passed last month that tacked on a provision to repeal the individual mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance. A March 2017 report from Inman found that many agents would opt to drop their health plans or sign up for catastrophic-only coverage if the individual mandate was repealed as the Trump administration promised.

“Part of our commitment to our agents is to try and help them operate their businesses as effectively from a cost perspective and an operations perspective as possible,” Forsythe added. “We felt this was an opportunity to help our agents in an area of their business and their lives.”

So far, HomeSmart agents have expressed a high level of excitement about the benefits, according to Forsythe.

“When we did the official launch, the voicemail box of Resourcing Edge filled up within the first hour from agents calling in,” she said. “They actually had to staff up and change their voicemail box storage capacity.”

HomeSmart has set up quarterly enrollment so new agents or agents seeking new coverage will have the opportunity to sign up for the program on an ongoing basis. Benefits are available immediately to agents, who have until January 19 to sign up before the end of this enrollment period.

Despite the complications that arise with different health care exchanges across state lines (and varying providers), the benefits package will nevertheless be available to HomeSmart agents in all 17 states in which HomeSmart operates, according to Forsythe.

In addition to the full range of benefits, Resourcing Edge also provides human resource and benefits support for employers. Through the new partnership, HomeSmart franchise broker-owners will not only be able to offer the benefits package to their staff but also take advantage of an extensive selection of human resources services, including payroll and legal services.

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