Real estate teams are an incredibly popular topic for discussion these days. The effectiveness and success of teams is undeniable, and the ability to leverage talents and time effectively are the key components to why teams are such a successful force in the industry.

However, joining a team is a monumental decision and not something that an agent should blindly enter into.

Asking the right questions up front is critical to ensuring a successful partnership between the agent and the team, while neglecting to do so will almost certainly set the partnership on the pathway to failure. Here are four questions you should ask before joining a team.

1. What are your expectations – and those of the team?

Defining expectations clearly up front will head off disappointment and disillusionment further down the road. What is the desired time commitment, and are you expected to work in an office or model home during certain hours?

Are you only going to be a buyer’s agent, or will you manage listings? What is the management hierarchy: to whom (and/or where) do you report? Are the teams rigidly or loosely structured?

Real estate agents are inherently optimistic, so we tend to focus on the positive only. Expectations are mostly good, but there are a lot of components to this business that agents sometimes want to avoid.

Sometimes an agent joins a team without understanding that he or she will be expected to cover for a team leader when he or she is out of town.

An agent may not understand that he or she will be expected to be in the office during certain hours to make cold calls or manage open transactions.

There are a lot of points and expectations to clarify before you agree to join the team — just because the team is successful doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you and your business.

How does it all work financially?

How do you get paid? Are you on a split or a salary? Is your split with the team only, or do you have to pay additional fees to the brokerage?

What about MLS fees, license fees or continuing education? You have to clearly define your pathways to income early on, and you must be comfortable with how the math works.

I often find that agents focus on the “split,” but don’t define the opportunity. The number you can expect on your tax return is the one that really matters!

It’s also important to define how each possible scenario might work. What if you secure a new buyer from your sphere? Is that treated differently than a lead generated by the team?

What if your sister wants to buy a house, or a past client of yours wants to list? If you meet someone in a bar who wants to buy a $10 million commercial property, what are the rules with your team?

Whatever the arrangement, if you aren’t comfortable with it, you may want to reconsider joining the team.

How do you grow?

Defining what it will take to increase both your status within the team and your earnings is important. Understanding an expected timeline to advancement is critical.

You may join a team at a compensation level that isn’t comfortable for you at the start, but if you have a plan and a timeline for advancement, you have something to work toward.

Without having this conversation at the beginning, you may be confronted with the fact that there is no pathway to advancement. Just assuming you will be able to increase your earnings without defining a plan and timeline for doing so is a recipe for disappointment.

What does an exit strategy look like?

No one wants to enter a new relationship with an eye toward its completion, and so it’s sometimes hard to have these conversations. But it’s critical. Not all partnerships stand the test of time.

Situations change, and working on a team may, at some point, no longer be possible. If and when that time comes, what happens to your business and relationships?

Having the hard conversations early will serve all parties involved well, should the need to part ways arise.

Joining a team is a fantastic way to build your business and increase your success. Doing so with clear expectations, goals and plans for the future is the best approach to creating a long-term and successful partnership.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions — it’s your business and your time. You deserve to know!

Jeff Martel is the broker/owner and chief inspirational officer with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate 43° North in Meridian, Idaho. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn

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