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Does Size Matter?



Transcription of Video:

Hey. Jim Duncan here in Charlottesville, Virginia also known as Seattle East because it has been raining for so, so long.

The thing about brokerages, big and small, what defines a brokerage? I wrote a story a few weeks ago and a friend of mine who is a real estate brokerage said he took umbrage to the fact that I was using “big brokerage” in a negative way. I see what he’s saying because his brokerage is a fairly sizable brokerage, but it’s not acting like a big brokerage anymore.

By big brokerage I mean resting on its laurels and depending on the three S’s – size and scale and in my mind, squandered opportunities. Big brokerages have an an opportunity for a number of years to really dominate their markets, but for whatever reason – I think we could get into them – they just haven’t. They have been complacent and they have been stagnate in their growth and their adoption of new trends and technologies. Small brokerages have taken this up and have really leveraged their competitions’ inability to react to new trends.

I’m just wondering what a brokerage means. A big brokerages’ identity is lost in my mind. You could go to any one of the big brokerages around the country and ask them what the franchise means – what the brokerage means to that particular agent and I guarantee you would get 1000 or 2000 different answers.

Whereas if you go to a small brokerage that has popped up in the recent past, you would get a fairly cohesive answer from the few agents in each brokerage. I think if you would ask anyone in the who have gone out on their own in the last 18 months what their brokerage means you would get a fairly distinct and good answer. If you asked any of the agents within those firms what that brokerage means to them you would get a good, distinct, and strong answer.

So I’m wondering: what does ones identity as a brokerage mean? How do you define that for yourselves and your customers? Where are we going from here? Are you out there seeing a big rejuvenation of the big brokerages or are you seeing the same stagnation that has been persistent for so many years? I’m curious to know your thoughts.

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

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  1. Jeffrey Douglass

    June 19, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Jim, Having worked for a huge brokerage and managed 175 agents in a Branch I can say there is benefit to both large and small brokerages. At the end of the day it comes down to the talent of those in leadership and what the culture of the Company is.

    Much discussion is going on regarding the changes in the industry through this market shift. Many of the large brokerages are struggling because the majority of their top agents are on very high splits, many with marketing allowances, which does not allow the Company to be profitable. While in good markets the middle to lower agents on lower splits would help, most business is going to a few agents. These big boys are really stuck because they cannot adjust the agents and they have brick and mortar expenses. Trying to augment their profit margins with affiliated companies like escrow and title may or may be in the best interest of the consumer.

    I know that I was under a great deal of pressure to hire any agent (new of otherwise)that walked through the door. This poloicy and others lead to me finally deciding for me I would rather be in control of my Company and very selective in who would work for me. In reading you blog I think that we have similar ideas of what the new small brokerage should look like. I want to focus on the Client, Agency, and the experience.

    I think it will be really interesting to watch more of these top agents decide to move out on their own as more pressure is applied on them because of lost revenue with the big brokers. There does not seem to be much differences between the big brands or a compelling reason, beyond the split, to be with them. Most are now really using the “legal” scare tactic or the “top producer” worship to keep them going.

    I know that in the San Diego market we are seeing more and more smaller brokerages with new ideas and successful agents.

    A mix of both large and small with completive business models probably will be best for everyone. Thanks for your great article.

  2. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    June 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    I’ve worked for the big boys all my professional life and I don’t know that I every understood that any particular office or independently owned franchise had a clear “mission” or “vision” or whatever it is you’re alluding to.For me it’s ab out agent services and the BRAND. I’ve had people tell me that “Oh no. It’s about YOU. It’s not about some big, universally recognized name.” I say, “yeah. Right.”

    There may be some people out there that pick there Realtor because they’re charming but my guess is that the brand helps. If the office or franchise is run well. I’m happy with the mammoth.

  3. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    June 19, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Sorry for all the typos. I’ve been trying to sign onto AG and it keeps erasing my comment. It was about the third time I typed it.

  4. Matt Thomson

    June 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    What I’ve found locally (in Virginia West, where it hasn’t rained in a month) is that the identity of the small brokerages has been “It’s saving me money. It’s the only way I’m staying alive.” Not what the broker had in mind, I’m sure.
    Most of the large brokerages are scrambling, too. Changing splits, cutting services, and thus losing many agents. Agents are scrambling here, looking for greener grass.
    Our brokerage, while the 3rd largest in the US, is run like a small boutique. People talk about the profit share, education, technology, etc, that KW offers, and while all that is really great, I’d say 95% of the agents in our office would give you that one succinct answer you mention…”We love the atmosphere here. It’s fun coming to work and it makes me want to be in the office.”
    I don’t think the logo on the building matters nearly as much as the character and culture within.

  5. Missy Caulk

    June 24, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Jim, this week I got an email from someone about listing their condo.

    She said I had talked to her and emailed her on it in the past. The name didn’t ring a bell, so………I put her name in my search bar and low and behold there is was. I had contacted her in 2007, I looked at the email and it had my old RE/MAX signature on it.

    An A-ha moment, she found me not the brand as I am now with KW. That was really heart-warming to me, and a great revelation.

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Business Marketing

“House has spark” – burning up the MLS with typos and other bloopers



The year is starting a march toward its natural ending, friends…and it seems a few real estate careers may be also. This week I found some real head-scratchers in local real estate ads and the MLS.  However, I get submissions from all over the U.S., so no one is safe from the eyes of  the Blooper Scooper. Check out these blunders:

Do You Smell Smoke?

“House has spark” (Apparently your real estate career isn’t the only thing going up in smoke.)

“Big pep area in kitchen” (Is that the cookie jar where Mommy Dearest stashes her uppers?) 

“Dull Viking ovens” (Methinks there’s something in the cookie jar that will perk up those dull Vikings.)

“Large greenhose in back” (Large, naked Jolly Green Giant in yard.)

“Mush added to this house” (Was that the overflow from between your ears?)

I Think I See Flames

“Beautifully remolded guest” (Another cosmetically-altered Barbie hits the Hollywood party circuit.)

“Enjoy a drink poolslide” ( Hell, if the pool is sliding, I’ll need a whole pint of Jack.)

“Each bedroom has own bedrooom” (Hello-o-o, Alice, how are things down there in the rabbit hole?)

“Separate pod to build GH” (That should please my pea-sized buyers.)

“Play room for the kiss” (Something tells me this is the back seat of a ’67 Chevy.)

Still Smoldering…

“Ideal for gusts” (That’s great…if you want to live in a wind sock.)

“Impaccably detailed” (Incredibly challenged)

“Stylish pewder room” (Try burning a match.)

“Stone pillars flake driveway” (Flakey agent got stoned in driveway.)

Nothing But Embers (This Week’s Fave):

“From a bygone error” (You have just written your own epitaph.)



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Point & Purpose

What makes a top producer in real estate?



What makes a top producer?

Stop and think for a few minutes about who the top producers are in your market?

Ok, now think about what they doing that has allowed them to continue to consistently produce in a down market, when everyday REALTORS are throwing in the towel.

Every day I scan the MLS to see, what has sold, what is active, and what went under contract (I assume that is something most agents do every day.)

Over and over again the same names pop up as the listing agent with the home that sold or the actual buying agent that sold the home.


Except for one agent in my area, all the top producers have teams. Now it may be a two person, husband and wife team or a well oiled team with a team leader, several assistants, a listing coordinator or a closing coordinator. But, they all have HELP.

In my area, the names that keep popping up are on Teams. I believe it is virtually impossible to be a top producer without help. Well, you could do it alone but if you do how is that effecting time with your family? Realistically how many transactions can you juggle and give good service?

Running a Business

The second thing I notice about those top producers is the fact that they treat their business like a business. Real Estate to them is not just selling a house, but something they brand, allocate resources for, grow and manage. Not only are they thinking of ways to grow their business but they also thinking of the future and how to sell it down the road.

I remember being told by a entrepreneur friend of mine years ago, “all businesses are built to be sold.”

Far to many REALTORS, think of Real Estate as a job they do and someday when they retire then all the hard work of creating and nurturing relationships they have built is gone. (I’m outta here)

Focused and Positive

One other observation I have observed with top producers is they are focused and positive. I never see them “hanging out at the office”, or attending broker opens, or really for that matter, serving much at all on their local boards. Oh there are a few, but really very few.

Finally, I don’t see many top producers in my market on Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue or other social media sites during the day. I don’t see them at every conference known to man around the country.

What I do see is they work everyday, on their business and in their business.

How ‘bout you?

Think of the top REALTORS in your market, what characteristics do you see?

Flickr Photo Credit

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Business Marketing

“New bd pans inc” – Making a Splash on the MLS



I have two things to say this week: 1. When you drink, you can’t think. 2. When you drink you can’t- … uh, what was I saying? Oh, yes – the MLS.  It was so full of bloopers this week that I am led to conclude that happy hour started Monday and never stopped. Read these and tell me if it is any wonder I was driven to throw back a few martinis myself:

Booze ‘N’ Fools

“Free membership to gin inc” (It seems someone else beat us to it, Martini Mary.)

“Grab now use imagination” (That’s what Arnold said to his housekeeper.)

“House has new edition” (Agent lacks erudition.)

“Babblying broke runs in back” (Bumbling buffoon runs amuck.)

“Drop by for cocktail ho” (Oh, is the Sunset Strip for sale?)

Puff ‘N’ Stuff

“Near Sacramento airpot” (I believe his name is Jerry Brown.)

“Claw me for selling” (I’m too busy clawing my eyes out over your spelling.)

“Reduction on mid-century ner Holywod” (Another mid-sixties porn star is looking for work.)

“We can sake your home” (Can I get fried rice with my sake?)

Proof or Goof

“Nice streem” (Said Grandma to Grandpa after his diaper  exploded.)

“Nice for dog kids” (Uh, they’re called ‘puppies,” pal.)

“New bd pans included” (Thank you, Nurse Nancy – can you warm those first?)

“Good stable in neighborhood.” (Have you contacted Mary and Joseph?)

“Drawing for plasma” (Is this a blood-bank?)

And This Week’s Winner Is:

“Good school in areola” (Thanks for keeping me abreast of things.)


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