Early findings from C.A.R.’s 2020 membership survey include a continued decline in the number of broker licensees in California, the pros and cons of the indie and franchise models, and a look at how women are finding their voice in the industry.

Over 500 brokerage leaders gathered today in San Diego for the third annual WomanUP! conference sponsored by the California Association of Realtors (CAR). In addition to the 70 different speakers, CAR also released some preliminary findings from its 2020 WomanUP! research, which is still on-going.

In 2017, CAR discovered that of its top 100 revenue producing firms, only 14 were run by women. CAR launched the WomanUP! initiative to help more women step into brokerage leadership. As part of that process, CAR has conducted three different surveys of its membership, plus 80 one-on-one interviews over the last three years with a cross section of women brokers representing multiple business models.

Early findings from the 2020 research include a continued decline in the number of broker licensees in California, the pros and cons of the indie and franchise models, as well over 50 metrics that brokerages use to measure their success and stay on track. The research also offers a look at how women are finding their voice in the industry, and why family partnerships appear to be more sustainable than partnerships among unrelated partners. Here are 11 preliminary takeaways.

The number of CA Department of Real Estate broker licenses issued continues to decline

From 2010 to 2019, broker licenses dropped from 149,000 in May 2010 to 131,500 in May 2019, an 11.7 percentage decrease. Research found that brokers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their profitability due to the rise of agent teams, Baby Boomers retiring, costs of competing with bigger brands, rapidly changing technology and an aggressive recruiting environment.

Why women start their own brokerages

Women start their own brokerages when their current brand no longer reflects their values, fails to pivot quickly to meet changing industry and technology changes or there is a significant change in their family situation.

How pioneers paved the way

Many of the women with the longest tenure in the industry were the first female broker members of their board, fought to have women be able to get a mortgage without a husband or father as a co-signer, and were often told, you should be home having kids and baking cookies. For many years, most of these pioneers were the only women “at the table” at their association or their Chamber of Commerce.

Felicia Hengle, president of Coldwell Banker Schmidt, Ohio, advises:

“Don’t let being a woman define you! I think everyone has an equal opportunity. I have never seen that as a roadblock or maybe I refused to let myself see it as a roadblock. You push through it and never adopt a victim mentality. If you happen to be with someone who’s stealing your joy, then it’s time to surround yourself with someone who isn’t. If you really have that greatness in you, go for it!”

The brokerage industry is always evolving

Prior to the 1970s, the brokerage business model was mostly mom and pop or niche companies. During the ’70s and ’80s, the franchise model exploded, to be followed by the cult of the agent in the 1990s. Since 2010, agent teams have become paramount, but surprisingly, many teams run by women today are moving back to the boutique brokerage model. 

Getting involved is key to finding your voice

Regardless of their age, virtually all 30 women interviewed agreed that volunteering at their local or state association, the Chamber of Commerce, and WCR had been a valuable resource for building their businesses. This includes obtaining trusted advice, locating a mentor, and finding their voice in the industry.

In our current research, seven of the 30 women interviewed said they felt they had found their voice when they were invited to be on stage at Real Estate Connect. 

Indie or franchise is a personal preference

Women have found tremendous success in both the franchise and the indie brokerage models. Those preferring the franchise model point to the systems, tools, and strong network of other brokers within franchise organizations. On the indie side, many didn’t like the franchise fees, had their own systems and often were in a place where their individual brand was more powerful than the franchise brand in their community.

Dorcas Helfant-Browning, principal broker, Coldwell Banker Professional Realtors in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the first woman president of NAR explained: 

“I opened a small boutique and struggled for a while. I bought my Coldwell Banker franchise and then my business took off. We always want to stay abreast of the latest industry trends and changes. That’s one of the reasons that I am a franchisee and have been since 1989. I believe that I must rely on bigger resources who also have my interests at heart and want to help us take our company to the next level. And believe me, my partners feel the same way.”

Erica Ramus, Broker/Owner RAMUS Realty Group in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, had a very different experience: 

“I bought a franchise, and that franchise purchase was a mistake. After three years of running it, I wasn’t using their tools and systems and no longer wanted to pay their royalty fees. The money I spent wasn’t wasted, however. It gave me the backbone to actually open my own office. The best piece of advice that I ever received was, “Take the franchise name off your front door and put your name on it.”

Family partnerships are sustainable partnerships

Business partnerships formed among family members are strong and often last for multiple generations. CAR’s research found that only a small fraction of partnerships formed between unrelated individuals were sustainable over 10 years.

What’s old is new

Being an integral part of your local community through charitable fundraising, supporting local schools, sponsoring programs for those in need and being a community resource has been become a primary focal point for many women brokers, regardless of their age or experience. The most successful brokerages couple this old school approach with the latest technology to fit the evolving needs of the clients and the communities they serve. 

The part-time vs. full-time debate

Should brokerages hire part-time agents? It depends. Only a small percentage of brokers had production quotas and hired full-time agents. They strongly believe clients are best served by those who are full-time and are adequately prepared.

As one franchise executive observed, unless you’re willing to commit to meeting your part-time agents one night a week and conducting Saturday or Zoom training classes, you’re doing those agents a tremendous disservice.

The metrics that measure success 

Brokers track a wide variety of metrics. The 30 women interviewed for the 2020 research noted 50 different areas that they track. The top seven were:

  • Agent productivity, net profit, company dollar.
  • Closed sales, GCI, revenue, volume.
  • Market statistics (Absorption rates, days on market, average sales price, comparable sales, where sales originated.) 
  • Overhead and staff costs.
  • Cost per transaction. 
  • Tracking income against their business plan, projections, and to what extent they are staying accountable to that plan. 

Many brokerage leaders are introverts

Just ask Elizabeth Mendenhall, Past President, NAR:

“For many of us who are leaders, we’re a lot shyer than people think. When I’m in my head, I may not smile or be as friendly as I should be—sometimes I even look like I’m scowling. It’s important to remember to be nice because it helps to pave the way for everything.

If you’re an extrovert and you’re networking, you get energy from it. I don’t—it exhausts me. I am a waste at the end of the night. But if I’m in the meeting, and we’re thinking and discussing an issue, I’m all in on it. I can sit there all day long. It all comes down to striking a balance.”

One final piece of advice for women in brokerage leadership comes from Mayi de la Vega, founder and CEO of One Sotheby’s Realty in Miami, Florida. Balancing business and personal demands is always a challenge. De la Vega has the following advice:

“Find balance in your life. Understand that at times there will be setbacks and limitations. Above all, make sure that you live in gratitude. Know that tomorrow the sun will come up again and the new day brings a new beginning. Be resilient. Never let anybody bring you down with their words, thoughts, or actions.”

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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