It’s never been a more interesting or exacting time to be an indie broker. In November, Inman celebrates the indie by narrowing in on what growth tactics are working best and what tech is emerging that offers the best competitive advantage.
When Mike Regan first founded Hunter Rowe Real Estate more than 15 years ago, he had this idea that he could do something different.
“I got into real estate not with a background of sales and marketing but with a background in process improvement,” Regan told Inman. “And I thought here’s an industry that could use a lot of process improvement.”
Regan had previously worked as a business consultant and had an MBA in economics, and his idea was to structure a real estate company more like a doctors office. In other words, he wanted his agents to focus on the specific tasks that created the most value while at the same time turning over other jobs to a strong support staff. The hope was that this would free agents up to make more money, and would help clients see them as high-performing professionals.
“The agents who are really professionals at what they do,” Regan said, “I’d like them to have the same prestige as doctors or lawyers.”
A decade and a half later, Regan said this approach has largely worked. His indie brokerage — which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina — has already done about $250 million in volume in 2020, and will likely hit $300 million before the year ends.
The company has also seen explosive growth in its agent count; Regan said that he has added 25 agents since July, bringing the total to 62. The brokerage has 38 support staffers as well, most of whom are also licensed agents but who spend most of their time assisting the selling agents — much in the way a nurse might support a doctor.
Regan added that he additionally plans to expand next year into new cities and states in the Southeast region.
“We want to grow 60% in the next year,” he said.
So how exactly does all of this work and what makes Hunter Rowe unique?
Teasing out the medical metaphor, Regan explained that when people go in for treatment, an array of people — receptionists, nurses, etc. — assist them before the doctor actually comes in. If the treatment is ongoing, the doctor may primarily just oversee a variety of assistants, specialists and nurses who all participate in components of the treatment.
That’s more or less how Hunter Rowe works. Regan said agents do things like consultations and negotiations. But after that initial point of contact, the support staff is ready to step in. They can field clients’ questions, take clients on showings, and guide them through contracts.
“The idea,” Regan said, “is to free yourself up of the things that someone else can do in order to do the things that only you can do.”
Agents supervise this process, but Regan said the result is that they’re able to devote more time to things like lead generation than they would be if they had to handle, say, contracts all on their own.
The relationship between agents and support staff tends to have a kind of one-on-one organization, with certain staffers typically working with and handling multiple tasks for the same agents over and over again.
Commission splits at Hunter Rowe vary, and Regan declined to say exactly how the breakdown works in each case. But to cover the costs for all of the support services, agents pay “a small investment out of their commissions,” and then for services a la carte as they use them.
So for example, if agents wants someone to handle their showings, they would pay to have one of the support staffers do that. However, the agent also gets to determine how much of the work they want to delegate.
To make all of this work, Regan said Hunter Rowe has been gradually developing its own computer system over the last 15 years. The system is called Relevate, and in total the company has spent at least $570,000 on it over the years. That’s a lot, but Regan said the coordination the system offers is essential when it comes to having multiple people working on a single transaction.
“Without the computer system this would be a mess,” he added.
There are certainly other companies out there that offer varying levels of service for their agents. But Regan said that by bringing the kind of specialization common in other industries to his company, he’s been able to build a company that has a very high retention rate, and in which agents typically average about 30 transactions a year.
“They can do a better job and take better care of people and that’s what this model does,” he concluded. “It allows the best agents to give the best service.”
Correction: Regan’s brokerage is called Hunter Rowe, and its software is called Relevate. This post initially misstated those names.