As a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty, Teresa Boardman has vast experience working in and running an independent brokerage. Here’s her take on what it’s like to be an indie broker and what the future might look like.

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.

As a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty, Teresa Boardman has vast experience working in and running an independent brokerage. Her company is all female-owned and operated, although her agents once ran their businesses from a co-working space, post-pandemic, Boardman traded that in for remote work.

On top of being small, resilient and nimble in the face of change, Boardman’s company also uses MLS tech as her tech stack. Here’s what she thinks of being an independent broker and what the future might hold.

The problem with indies

“Indie” is kind of vague. It took me a while to figure out what an “indie” is. It’s short for “independent,” and that often means companies that are not part of a franchise. However, there are some rankings out there that categorize brokerages like eXp Realty as an independent brokerage.

There are some huge independent real estate companies, and sometimes, they become franchisors, and sometimes, they don’t. There isn’t any size limit for indies either. Indies make up some 80 percent of all real estate companies, and in the U.S., small businesses made up 44 percent of all economic activity before the pandemic hit.

All to say, small businesses create jobs and fuel innovation. We should really just be called real estate companies.

Here’s what you should know about me

I have to preface this by saying that I’m a broker-owner of a real estate company that I started almost seven years ago. Before that, I was in a small independent company for six years. I also spent seven years working through two different franchises

My real estate career spans the Great Recession, housing market crash and the first two years of a pandemic — and I’m definitely ready for whatever comes next. 

Most consumers don’t have any idea what a real estate broker is or even that real estate licensees have to work under a broker. People think they understand what a real estate company is and what it does, but they really don’t. That said, people do understand what a company owner is, which is why I call myself a broker-owner. 

One of the main reasons I started my own company is because I felt as though I would have regretted not starting it. I kept thinking about it, and I just knew I had to do it. Some days I wish I hadn’t, but most days, I’m very happy with my decision. 

My company is 100 percent female-owned and operated. I like to use the analogy that we are more like the corner bakery than like a big box store. We are client-focused, and each transaction is handcrafted and unique.

We can and do provide one-stop shopping through connections that have we’ve built over the decades. Just last week, a client made a special point of letting me know how much he likes working with the lender I recommended. 

Working spaces

Our headquarters was in a co-working space, but it’s now permanently closed — an early casualty of the pandemic. I explored some alternatives, but it just didn’t make sense to pay to work in an area with unmasked, unvaccinated people during a pandemic.

Now, we work from home offices, coffee shops and our clients’ houses anyway with no need for office space. It’s fascinating to me that, in an era where so many workers don’t want to go back to the office, real estate companies and agents place a high value on having office space and on what that space looks like.

Company culture and tech

Aside from office space, some companies focus on having a culture, and they like to call their employees and contractors “family.” I have all kinds of things to say about hiring “family” and working with them — but I will save that for another day.

I get asked what I use for technology since I don’t build my own and am not part of a franchise. I’m fortunate to be a member of the NorthstarMLS, which gives us access to excellent technology, including electronic forms and signatures and access to appointment scheduling and feedback systems for our listings.

The rest of the technology we use is fairly inexpensive and widely available. In fact, it’s technology that makes it possible to run a small business and compete for business with larger companies. 

Clients who have houses to sell understand that their homes will show up on the same websites, whether they list with me or with a franchisee.

Real estate technology products come and go. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t pitch a product or service that I don’t need because it isn’t needed in my market or because I already have one or two or because it doesn’t fill a need or solve a problem that I actually have. 

The future of indies

It is hard to predict the future of real estate companies. It is possible that we will see some big changes in the industry brought on by new regulations. 

Going forward, I believe that being nimble and resilient is more important than ever. I believe that there is a lot of room for innovation and reform in the real estate industry especially at the real estate broker and company levels. 

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

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