At age 28, Juan Carlos Barreneche is one of the most successful agents in the U.S. as well as the founder of the Gold Bar Team, which has over 273,000 followers on Instagram. Bernice Ross talks to him about his two primary goals in life: to help people and to be financially free.

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At age 28, Juan Carlos Barreneche is one of the most successful agents in the U.S. as well as the founder of the Gold Bar Team, which has more than 273,000 followers on Instagram. His two primary goals in life are to help people and to be financially free. Last year the Gold Bar Team did $65 million in sales. They are currently on track to sell more than $130 million in 2022.  

Barreneche began college as a pre-med major with the goal of becoming a surgeon. As he was preparing for an organic chemistry exam during his junior year, he asked himself, “Is this what I really want to do with the rest of my life?”  

He quickly realized that if he continued to study to be a surgeon, he would not be financially free for many years. He decided to search Google for “financially free” and ended up spending the night reading Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Kiyosaki’s book made Barreneche realize that he needed to be investing in assets like real estate. Rather than going on to med school after graduation, he got his real estate license instead.  

He struggled his first year in the business, but then he hired a mentor and coach who helped him build a team that would run without him being there. In other words, he shifted from being an agent to building a business as an asset.

The launch of the Gold Bar Team

While Barreneche considered starting his own brokerage, he realized that the work that was required meant he would have much less time for production. As a result, he decided to pursue building a team inside a brokerage, eXp, that provided him all the benefits of starting a brokerage with none of the costs. 

As Barreneche began building his team, he focused on hiring the right staff, the right managers and the right team members from day one. He currently has team members in New York, Florida, Atlanta and Las Vegas and will soon be opening in Connecticut and New Jersey as well. 

Lessons learned the hard way

When Barreneche started his team, he says, “I made almost every mistake an agent can make.”

The most notable mistake was going against the proven approach that Gary Keller described in his The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: “Never hire a buyer’s agent first. Instead, your first two hires should always be administrative.”

Barreneche quickly learned why hiring a buyer’s agent first is a tremendous mistake. 

If you hire a buyer’s agent first without the tools and systems in place for that buyer’s agent, you’ve just increased your chaos. You also take on the job of being their transaction manager. 

Prior to hiring any new members for his team, Barreneche makes sure he has the right infrastructure in place so that new hire can best fulfill their role on the team. 

How Barreneche structured his team

Barreneche’s current team structure includes 40 agents with 10 support staff. He also has expansion partners in different markets, each of whom has their own team of five or six agents. 

His support staff consists of five full-time employee positions including a (an): 

  • Operations manager
  • Transaction manager
  • Branding manager
  • Recruiting and onboarding manager
  • Marketing and media manager

His virtual assistant team manages the team’s social media accounts, creates content and handles the team’s video production. Their current ratio is one support person for every four agents. 

In-office or virtual? 

When Barreneche launched his team, they had an in-office model where the camaraderie and morale was great. However, the pandemic forced them into a 100 percent virtual model.  

I don’t think my team will ever go back to that office environment. We have adapted and made this virtual environment so efficient, that being 100 percent virtual is now the way I prefer to work. 

How to quickly find potential team members  

While Barreneche has used online employment search tools such as Indeed, his biggest success has come with Instagram. He uses three hashtags to search for potential recruits who are already in the real estate industry: #realestate, #realestateagent and #realestatebroker. 

Using these three hashtags on Instagram allows him to quickly locate a large pool of people who may make excellent team members. 

When Barreneche finds a good candidate, he asks them to be willing to go to their family, their friends and their network to help them continue to grow the team internally as well. 

Vetting prospective team members

Barreneche emphasizes the importance of having core values for your team. The three core values he recruits for include: 

  • Initiative: This means they’re willing to show up, work hard and put themselves out there. He says this trait is becoming increasingly harder to find.
  • Integrity: Barreneche wants to make sure his team members are not only honest with other people, but with themselves as well. If someone tells him they have a specific goal, he searches for team members who are willing to do what it takes to reach that goal. 
  • Intellect:  By intellect, Barreneche does not necessarily mean being book smart. Instead, he is searching for people who have a learning mindset and are willing to read books, take seminars and attend conferences to continually grow their skills. 

What to ask when you interview a prospective team member 

While you can certainly ask about their background, their goals and the reasons they want to enter the real estate industry, Barreneche says the question that gives him the best sense of how the person’s values fit with his team is, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

Asking a prospective hire to think five years ahead really changes the perspective as far as the conversation goes. If they haven’t thought about that question and have no plans, it tells me they are not a visionary and that they just don’t have that future in terms of how they can be creative to really help someone get to their goals.”

On the other hand, when someone says, “I want to build an empire,” they want to be financially free, or they see themselves working with Barreneche to achieve those goals, they’re probably a good fit for his team. 

Agent compensation

Barreneche offers several compensation models, all of which deduct expenses off the top. Failure to deduct the team’s transaction-related expenses off the top before calculating the agent’s split is one of the costliest mistakes any team leader can make. 

What’s surprising is that even though Barreneche offers splits up to 90-10 based on the level of support the team provides, many of his agents who have been with him since 2018 have opted to stay on the “Yin-Yang 50-50 split.” Here’s why: 

If you expect someone to give you half their earnings, you must provide everything from marketing, to branding, their photography, their video, their ads, a receptionist to answer their calls and transaction management. On top of that, you must provide mentorship, consulting and training to help them reach their goals faster. 

In terms of agents opting for a 90-10 split, the team doesn’t have to invest in overhead, expenses or provide infrastructure. They do provide an in-house trainer/coach, usually in a group setting. 

Administrative compensation

Barreneche pays competitive rates based on the type of position and the amount of experience the person has. For example, a receptionist with no experience would earn an entry-level salary. In contrast, someone who has three to five years of experience and can add value by significantly increasing the team’s ROI would merit a competitive rate of approximately $70,000 to $100,000 per year.

On top of his administrative staff’s salary, they also receive an incentive-based bonus on the team’s overall production. 

When agents sell real estate, they know that the more they sell, the more they keep in their pocket. Their incentives and their psychology are directly aligned with their goals. 

I wanted to put my entire staff in that same mindset so that they feel motivated to work as hard on this one transaction as the agent works because they have a profit share tied to every single deal. This is on top of their salary. 

The profit share has also made retaining administrative staff much easier. 

Next-gen real estate

When I interviewed Barreneche, he had eight newly licensed agents reach out to him in a four-day period. They all found him on Instagram using one of his three real estate hashtags.  

Barreneche says this is a quantum shift from what he experienced six years ago when he was the only person in his graduating class who was thinking about getting into real estate. 

More than ever, people from the ages of 18 to 30 years old view real estate as a potential career. What makes real estate attractive in my opinion is the flexibility of working from anywhere, the opportunity to really build a business as big as you want with no income earning cap, and the fact that it’s fun.

Barreneche believes new agents come to him for two reasons: 

First, they don’t want to go out on their own and make the mistakes I made. They feel they can reach their goals faster by working with me versus going out and achieving it on their own. 

Second, the Gold Bar Team brand really separates us from most other agents and teams. Gold Bar is really a symbol for wealth, where we help agents achieve financial freedom. 

Because we put our agents first, our brand has resonated with a lot of people. They feel that by joining our team, we will handle many of the things they would have to do on their own if they weren’t part of the team. 

Also, our mentorship and that consulting advice is invaluable if it can help them get to their goals two or three years faster. I’m saving them two or three years of their life that really could be very tough if they went at it on their own.

What’s trending in the markets the Gold Bar Team serves

Barreneche has been tracking trends in the multiple areas his team members serve across the country. During the last two months, the number of properties that are selling for above asking or at full price in seven days has started to dwindle. Days on market are also getting “longer and longer.” 

He also reports that when he attends Sunday open houses, the lines have disappeared, the visitor lists are empty, and there’s no longer the previous frenzy that buyers used to feel that they must get this house. 

We’re in a very strange time period that I call limbo. Prices are still astronomically high, the inventory is low, and the buyers are waiting on the sidelines for something to happen. If you’re a buyer looking to get a good deal, now is a good time to reach out to sellers.  

Barreneche sees a price adjustment period coming over the next six months. He believes that after this adjustment period to the new rates, sold riders will start popping up on signs again. 

Advice to new agents 

Barreneche’s final piece of advice is for agents to remember why they wanted to go into the real estate business in the first place — to be financially free, to help others and to have flexibility over their work schedule. The irony is that if you’re successful, many agents end up working 40 to 60 hours per week and become full-time employees for their clients. The bottom line is:

To be financially free, you must leverage your business so that you can achieve your goals faster and more easily while also maintaining your work-life balance. 

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 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.

Bernice Ross | teams
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