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What am I looking For from a Real Estate Company?

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Not Impressed

I thought it would be appropriate to follow up on my post last week, “What Agents Really Want“. I mostly wrote about what I don’t want or need. The point of the post was that we are always being recruited, but I am less than impressed with what the recruiters are advertising. I am not looking for a family, team or social life. I have all of those things, but I do have business needs.

Pay Day

I want to paid as soon as possible after a closing and if something goes wrong I want my broker, or someone from my office to play the roll of bill collector. I don’t want to have to call other brokers and argue with them for my check. I want my paycheck to be treated with respect. It should be understood that I sell real estate to pay the bills and I am the one who brings the money into the office. Without me there is no payday. I already worked for the money and earned it, don’t make me work for it again.

Stay out of My way

If a brokerage can’t offer me anything that is going to help me sell real estate they should stay out of my way. Don’t set up cumbersome systems and make me use them to get paid. I honestly just want to sell real estate. If I say no to some product or service offered by the brokerage I have a business reason for doing so. Don’t try to cram it down my throat becasue it brands your business. I will brand your business with every for sale sign I have out there and your logo will appear in my ads, on my business cards, web site and blog. That should be enough advertising for you from me.

Let me create, and innovate. Stay out of my way, don’t slow me down and don’t discourage me. When I fail, I’ll just try again. I am motivated, creative and intelligent. Don’t try to stifle it, harness it, encourage it. Brain storm with me. Talk to me. Stop preaching to me. I can’t be converted, it isn’t worth your time and energy to try.

Contracts

Even though I have a brokers license myself and take classes to keep up on legal forms I would like your help. Go over my contracts with a fine tooth comb. If there is a way I can write a better contract I want to know about it and I also want to know the reasons so I can explain it to my clients. I can make a mistake. I appreciate having someone review my contracts. One brokerage I worked with didn’t really seem to have an interest in contracts. I asked how I was doing and was told they were perfect. After I got my brokers license I learned that my contracts were not all that great.

Respect my paperwork. refrain from losing it or messing it up. Take care with that earnest money check. I am the one that gets to explain to the client that it was lost.

Listen to me

I am open to new ideas, but I would like to be listened to. I have ideas and I know what my business needs. There are many ways to run a successful real estate practice. Maybe I have an idea that could help all of the agents in the office. I am the one on the front lines with the direct connection with consumers. I can bring you information that you don’t have. I also like information. Be my source, alert me to changes in the market but leave out the editorial comments about how wonderful everything is. Just give me the information without the spin.

Networking

I can help other agents and they can help me. Introduce us. I sometimes need another agent to help with property showing for safety reasons. I am always happy to help that agent in return. There are like minded agents out there that I could meet with and we could brainstorm and share ideas, and come up with new ideas. I do that now with agents from all over the metro area and the country who represent many different brands. A brokerage could harness some of the synergy by connecting agents and helping us organize meetings and discussions. Brown bag lunches, or continental breakfasts. A group with-in a group. Help us get organized so we can help each other and share ideas. For more valuable than a bar-b-que in the parking lot. If you want to pay for food and beverages that is always OK.

Your office

I need little from an office. A copy machine is about it. Paper clips would be wonderful so would staples. I know they cost money but I am worth it. Sales meeting are usually pretty boring and I am tried of outside vendors coming in. You call it education I call it a sales pitch. I hate being sold to. Lets be creative.

Don’t expect me to teach my classes or give presentations for free. You might not have to pay me, you could just reduce a fee or two, or we could work something out. I have a business to run. It takes time to teach a class, and the handouts cost money. Agents will pay for my classes and presentations. If you want to give it to them for free you can pay for it, don’t expect me to. I don’t expect you to work for free either.

The technology used by many of the brokerages is designed to help the brokerage, not the agent. There are exceptions but often the technical training is about using in house products that are cumbersome and may be of limited value. There are some things that we all need, like client data bases and transaction management systems. I would never get my email through a brokerage but some people seem to need it. I don’t have any specific suggestions when it comes to technology. I gravitate toward simple to use inexpensive or free products that I can be tailored to meet my needs and that I can take with me if I leave a brokerage. I protect my data and won’t allow it to be stored on company servers. It is my data.

Money

I don’t want to pay for a bunch of stuff that I don’t use. Give me some options and choices instead of charging me for everything. I can’t even use a real estate office if it isn’t within five miles of my home. I simply don’t have time, and I don’t want to pay for the office.

Where is the value proposition? I can opne a brokerage anytime I want to. Keep your split low and add value to my business. Help me justify our relationship, from a business point of view. My leads come from my own web presence. Your internet leads are worthless. You either make them sign in to search. You slow the process down by processing each lead before it is sent to me. Consumers want a quick response and I am much quicker than you are.

When the brokerage is closed the leads sit out there and get old. When someone comes directly to me through the internet the email comes to my blackberry which is almost always in my hand, or six inches away from it. I respond and I get business. You slow me down. Don’t charge me for a web presence through you, unless you can add value.

One size doesn’t fit all

My ideas in this post will not fit the needs of all agents. Not all agents are the same and it would be difficult to have a system that works for everyone. Brokerages need to make decisions about what type of agent they want, and stop using the one size fits all approach becasue it breeds mediocrity. Maybe recruiting anyone who has a license and can fog a mirror just to get the head count up isn’t the best way to run a brokerage. A smaller group of happy, smart, cutting edge, creative, innovative totally engaged agents might just work better than a larger group of agents. To consumers a brokerage is only as good as it’s worst agent. Set some high standards and insist that they be met. Never forget that the brokerage should support the agents who in turn are should always be focused on their clients.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Ken Smith

    June 26, 2008 at 9:24 am

    “Keep your split low and add value to my business.”

    What do you consider “low”? Been doing more brainstorming on open an office and am looking for some feedback.

    “Don’t charge me for a web presence through you, unless you can add value.”

    Would ranking in the top 3 for all the cities (for all major keywords) that you work in be enough value. This site wouldn’t provide direct leads except from your listings that are posted on the site, but more allow you to walk into every listing presentation and show that your web presence is great. It would help most agents conversion rate.

    On the same note, would paying for a single property site for each listing make sense to you? Most agents don’t have the time or skills to be creating these.

    Thanks for the feedback and really I am asking everyone, not just Teresa. More opinions the better.

  2. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Ken

    No ranking in the top 3 for keywords is not enough. I rank number one in the kwywords that drive my business. When a consumer gets to the high ranked brokerage site it looks like and ad or an obituary page. it isn’t enough to rank high, the content has to be outstanding.

    As for low splits I guess I don’t know. You are a business person and need to make a profit and so do I. Focus first on what you can give agents and then figure out how much it will cost, figure a profit for the brokerage and set the splits. if you take too big of a cut you will have trouble recruiting agents, if you take too small of a cut you can not make a profit. I know that wasn’t much of a help and I di understand your end of it.

  3. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Ken I missed an important point about web presence. Not only does the content have to be outstanding but those “leads” don’t do me or the consumer any good unless I can respond immediatly which is hard to do when they come in through your site.

  4. Denver Real Estate Bob

    June 26, 2008 at 9:53 am

    T- You are an example of what all agents should strive for!

    Unfortunately most brokers must cater to the lowest common denominator. The old 80/20 rule (80% of the business is done by 20% of the agents) is quickly moving to 90/10. Unfortunately, the 90% are looking for something very different than you or I. They are looking for leads and business, and unfortunately for them, the 10% doing the business won’t readily let go.

    The bottom line is, running a real estate company is a tough balancing act. You either have to focus on hiring only top performers, which very few companies are able to accomplish. Or, you have to become proficient at making the new or struggling agents productive. Another, not so easy, task!

  5. Jay Thompson

    June 26, 2008 at 9:57 am

    I’d like to get reprint rights and convert this piece into a poster for my brokerage. It is *exactly* what we are trying to do with our office.

    “A smaller group of happy, smart, cutting edge, creative, innovative totally engaged agents might just work better than a larger group of agents”

    My thoughts exactly. Can I steal that?

    I dunno. It really doesn’t seem all that innovative or difficult, yet I don’t see many brokers doing it. The bulk of the problem, I think, is old school broker attitude. I had a conversation just a couple of days ago with a long time broker. He asked me how the new brokerage start-up was going. We chatted at length. When I told him what we charge for E&O ($25/month – less if paid annually up front. NO per transaction charge) he freaked out. What he said summed up, for me, the whole problem.

    He said, “Do you know how much money you can make from E&O?!”

    Uhm, last time I checked, I’m in the real estate business, not the insurance business or the fleece-the-agent business.

    I’d rather have my agents out there working with clients, selling real estate than worrying about making their next E&O payment.

  6. Bill Lublin

    June 26, 2008 at 10:06 am

    We always pay promptly – and if anyone needs to fight with another broker about compensation – its me or my managers

    Sales meetings never consist of vendor presentations – They are a waste of time and a lazy manager’s answer to content – I always feel that you diminish the company’s messages if you do that

    Paper Clips and staples are definitely on the table for you.

    I would never expect you to teach classes or give presentations for free – unless you were a principal –

    Our internet leads aren’t worthless and can be pushed directly to our agents for quick response.

    Our Internet lead center will incubate those leads that have contacted us prematurely
    We have tons of technology and the aget isn’t charged for it (appts scheduled on line, listing activity reports, email notifications of showings, automatic feedback requests, company resource center with marketing materials, cma programs, e-newsletters, e-greetings, business planning software, website builders, lead management software, etc.etc)

    Splits and Fees are the two sides to the mirror- if the services provided are the same in most companies, HIgh split= higher fees Lower split=lower fees. It amazes me that agents have become convinced that splits are more important then dollars- But the flip side of that coin is that the brokerage needs to add value to the associates efforts, or no split is really appropriate.

    So if you ran the world/office what would your answer to be to your value package?

    And after reading this post, I’m ready to open an office in St Paul if you’re ready to partner up and run it

    😉

  7. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Bill – like I said, I just want to sell real estate. Would love to partner with you or work with you and would even consider starting an office but running one is not for me, I sell real estate, write teach and am not a bad photographer.

    As for splits VS. dollars, it is all dollars to me. Paying a flat fee instead of a split would be just fine too.

    I don’t understand what “So if you ran the world/office what would your answer to be to your value package?” means or I would take a stab at answering it.

  8. Matt Wilkins

    June 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Well said Teresa.

    The backwards attitude, inefficiencies, and lack of RIO is what pushed me to be an independent broker. I have my own SOI/vendors/contacts to produce revenue. However, I chose the path of not hiring agents since there are very few like-minded real estate professionals in my area (that I am aware of) and I did not want to become known as a babysitter/bill collector.

    As brokerages have to make hard choices to survie articles like these will become more valuable to brokers/owners.

  9. Jim Gatos

    June 26, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Although you may not even believe it, Teresa, I get a lot of value (pretty much what you are looking for), I’d say, from the Coldwell Banker office I am affiliated with. I took a brief “break” from Coldwell Banker between 2004 and 2006 and joined a Keller Williams office. To this day, I still can’t figure out what VALUE I got for the 30 PLUS % they got from my commissions (until they collected at the time, somewhere in the neighborhood of $24,000 to $30,000…) Almost every meeting they had was an avoidance of what it takes to sell homes (the market was booming then too, in their fairness) and all geared towards “some great new product” that one of the agents or a manager found that was supposed to be “nirvana”! Blah Blah Blah, and more Blah Blah Blah..

    I really felt I was in a “mind control” session every time I went to one of their seminars.. And get a load of how they answer their phones! The following is an actual occurance…

    “Good morning, It’s a great day at Keller Williams Realty”!

    Me – “oh, yeah?” “It’s an EVEN BETTER DAY at Coldwell Banker!

    And yes, I was a “free” trainer.. Most of the times when I held a “daily” training session (They put us on a voluntary training monthly schedule…) a good amount of “students” would show up due to my blunt attitude..

    However, looking back at all this, I would say today;s agent should take the “beginning” office training, and then read this blog, especially Russell Shaw’s posts (no kidding), and that will be more than enough to get your fingers wet, and save yourselves thousands of dollars on useless “vendor sponsored” training..

    Internet presence on google, yahoo, etc? I’m satisfied. Signs (company installs them) … Check.. Voicemail? (not really needed, but there.. ) Check.. Quick payments? Could be a little better but not bad, really.. Check.. A strong manager who gives great and smart advice, and WILL STAND UP FOR THE AGENT IF THE AGENT’S RIGHT? YES! And that is important, and believe me, very hard to find… Compensation? Very fair. Could it be better? Probably, but I’m very happy.

    I see our practice as becoming a very “boutique”, “mom & pop”, small operation, with the internet being “the great equalizer”.. Independent agents and agents in franchises can become nationally well known by writing a smart blog and expressing themselves and their opinions on a national forum, if albeit by the internet. I also see less need for assistants and support staff due to the internet and the “instant” ability to get the information out at the click of a mouse. All the while, our expenses are actually going up. What an agent used to spend on print marketing (newspaper ads, for example) now is being spent on monthly subscriptions on the internet. Still, you can waste your money on newspapers or you can waste your money on the internet. Ask Russell Shaw how you can waste your money on the internet and I “think” he’ll be able to answer that LOL…

    The whole industry is becoming very “virtual”.. What do I need an office for? I STILL NEED TO BUY AND OWN My own computer, my own printer, my own fax, (all in one), my own cell phone, and so on and so forth.. I hang my head when I say I don’t go to ALL the meetings, which are all pretty interesting and very very informative with discussions on how to circumvent the present market situation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vendor (only one, and it was more of a necessity than a sales pitch).. Hell, my equipment is sometimes better than the office equipment. What can I say? Of course, conference rooms are needed, and I do use the ones at my office.

    You should all ask, “WHAT DO I GET FOR THE MONEY I GIVE YOU?”, and see the reaction. In today’s real estate 2.0 world, “it’d better be a good answer”..

    Thanks
    Jim

  10. Bill Lublin

    June 26, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    @Jim Gatos – Wow – I would like to paste that up on the office wall (But can I make it C21 instead of CB? )
    🙂

    Teresa; I guess I was asking what you would have as your Value Proposition if you were the operator of the company in a Perfect World. I look at ours at it seems to me to be as good or better then anyone else’s, but I always try to be conscious that my perspective might be skewing my vision. After asking it however. I guess it was just the obverse of your post – 😉

  11. Broker Bryant

    June 26, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Teresa,

    I have enjoyed your posts on this topic and the comments that have followed. I am in the process of hiring REALTORS(R) myself and will be running my busines completely virtual. I’m setting up my “office” as a social network (I think) and plan on providing direct broker support for my agents. I do plan on reviewing ALL contracts personally. In fact, that will be a requirement. I will also provide advanced personalized training (coaching) as needed. I’m only hiring experienced fulltime REALTORS(R) that are capable of working from their homes. They must be Internet savy.

    I’m still debating on how to structure commissions but I’m leaning towards a monthly fee. All commission checks will be cut directly to the agents at closing (we can do that in Florida).

    Ideally, the agents will be working outside of Poinciana(my market) so that I am not competing, with the exception of a couple of buyer agents that will be assisting me. These will definately be on a split since I will be providing the bulk of their leads.

    Free E&O and free blogs on my company site. What am I missing?

  12. Jim Gatos

    June 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    @Broker Bryant… You’re system sounds a lot like “Connect Realty”.. Google them..
    Jim

  13. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Bill I think this post is my value proposition, but you get that. 🙂
    Jim – I worked with Coldwell Banker for about four years, and am with Keller Williams. My only comment is that these franchises are independently owned and operated and not every office is the same.

    Denver – I think I put that in my post. Brokerages could be selective instead of trying to get as many bodies in the door as they can.

    BB, and Jay too, I would work with either of you in a heart beat but i am not going to leave Minnesota and move right now.

    BB I am not sure what you are missing, maybe nothing, ask your agents they will tell you. You can grow and evolve with them as the industry continues to change. Thanks so much for the comment.

  14. Marc Grossman

    June 26, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Teresa, AMEN!! I think that sums it up enough. It’s also the reason that I’m finally getting my broker’s license and going out on my own in the next several months.

  15. Jay Thompson

    June 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Teresa – it is truly an honor to hear “I would work with either of you in a heart beat” from you. Let’s talk in January 😉

  16. Broker Bryant

    June 26, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks Jim. I have checked out Connect before. I don’t think their ideas or mine are anything new. In fact, I believe a lot of companies will be going virtual over the next few years. The overhead costs of having a brick and mortar office haven’t made since for quite awhile now.

    Teresa, Are you sure you don’t want to move to Florida? I have another question for you. I’ve never worked in a real estate office before so bare with my ignorance 🙂 In companies like ReMax, do the agents pay for their own signs and lock boxes? And at what split lever would an agent expect these things to be provided?

    Jay, I think I’m older than you so do I get to pull rank with hiring Teresa?

  17. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    BB – I don’t work in a real estate office but I get your question. Never worked with remax so I can’t comment. In general yes I won all my own lock boxes. I own my sign panels. some compnaies give their agents branded sign pannels but the agents still have to rent the post. As for expecting them to be provided, the last company did provide signs but I had to hang a rider with my name on it. I actually like having my ownb signs with my own name. Never heard of lock boxes being provided. They are not all that expensive. I have had to buy many in the last few months and I am OK with it.

  18. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    BB – have never been with remax. every company I have been with requires that I pay for my own lock boxes. Some provide signs, the office I am with right now does not. I own them. In all cases I rent the post. Worked from a real estate office for a time but not long. It isn’t about offices for me I am virtual and self employed too, I don’t work for the bokerage.

    Jay – No moving to AZ. 🙂

  19. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    BB – I have never worked with remax and have never worked for any brokerage. In most cases the company provides signs. where I am now I own them. In all cases I rent the sign post. I like owning my onw signs they have my name and phone number on them. have always bought my own lock boxes. Never heard of a company that provides them but i suppose some do.

    Not moving to Florida or AZ. I have always been virtual, and am a broker but do not have my own company.

    Honest I just want to sell real estate. 🙂

    By the way I am banned from commenting on this blog and all of the blogs using akismet. Not sure I have the patience to get unbanned. Think I’ll just stop leaving a link so I can keep commenting and do not have to worry about being banned again. I am lucky that I have spam blockers on my blog that I can control so my friends don’t get blocked and if they do for some reason I can fix it.

  20. Jim Gatos

    June 26, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    @BB. Actually, I consider Connect’s model a little more stronger than KW’s. They haven’t kicked in yet and frankly some of the agents they have are real jerks (but I’m sure no company’s immune there),,, I think they pass all your listings on Google, Trulia, and the other big search engines for no extra charge. Plus they are supposed to give you an online transaction mgmt system (if you wanna use it) and Realtor Showcase for free… Just a suggestion for you. I think eventually some company out there will be the national leader for virtual real estate..Question is who?

    Teresa – Here at RE/Max and KW agents pay their own unless they get “Bribe Bonuses” to leave the company they were with first. I used to have full sized signs with my picture and everything. Guess what? Didn’t do a thing for me (am I ugly?)…. and for me the sign riders are just as good. If the house is overpriced advertising that house on the “Tonight Show” won’t help.. I know they look nice. The post signs get installed by the company and I just put the rider. Why complicate things? The riders are easy to store. Now if I had to carry my own signs I would, but I don’t think just having a big sign will help the house. A smartly designed rider can be just as good..

  21. Teresa Boardman

    June 26, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I am with KW. I don’t carry my signs around, the sign company stores them and put them on posts, I just order the work. Would never put my face on a sign and like having one that doesn’t need a rider with my name. all my signs have a rider with the domain name for the property. I list a lot of condos and they don’t get signs at all so I don’t need so many.

    As for offering from real estate brokerages I can have my listings in all those places. it is not unusual for brokerages to take things anyone can do and say they are providing them to you for free. In addition I don’t have any evidence and my personal experience doesn’t indicate that the web sites help sell my properties. A good price helps for sure. i use all the sites because and for no other reason.

  22. Jim Gatos

    June 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    @… Things are different where you operate, I suppose… When I was at KW they had a temporary place to put my signs (I had a team) but soon I winded up moving the signs to my mother’s house. I don’t know what their situation is now. I used to either install ALL my own signs or pay someone..

    I know you’re with KW and I didn’t let that influence my comment either way. My big question about “What do I get for my 30%?”, can be justified by myself. In your office, I suppose you can justify your 30% being taken from your split… You make an interesting point about the internet to which I agree with. The internet doesn’t sell homes but 70+ % of buyers start their search their, I suppose they eventually may find their agent there, or is it by recommedation?

    Some companies may offer incentives in my area just to get the agents to switch. Usually, however, the agents stay with the companies for a long time. Eventually, I do intend to move to either Caifornia or Arizona. Maybe I’ll go knockin’ on Jay;s door.. Who knows?

    I can see that in a lot of areas in the country the independents rule. In my area, most of the successful companies are franchised. I’m in one of them. What can I say..?

  23. Joe Manausa

    June 27, 2008 at 6:56 am

    “Where is the value proposition? I can opne a brokerage anytime I want to. Keep your split low and add value to my business.”

    Teresa, don’t you think the value proposition goes both ways? You want added value (which makes perfect sense) but you want it with low splits. How can one broker bring more value than another but operate and less capital? This does not seem likely, though I am sure you will have many people offer a solution.

  24. Teresa Boardman

    June 27, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Joe – a broker an bring more value and take a lower cut. My point is that the things that are being provided by most brokerages are not what I need or want. A broker can add value to my business in many ways for not much money. I don’t need a building, that saves money, I don’t need an office that saves money. The value is added through the more intangibles like advice, and training and helping me network with other agents so we can brain storm. I can think of all sorts of ways a brokerage could save money on overhead and end up doing a better job supporting agents than they do today.

  25. Kevin Sharkey - IBR Broker

    June 27, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Good morning Teresa,
    I’m jumping in kind of late on this one, but love what you said. You’ve perfectly outlined what I am trying to do with my brokerage and have re-affirmed my high value/high split business model.

    It is possible to provide a stimulating environment without having to charge agents an arm and a leg. It is possible to provide same day paychecks to agents as a normal business practice. It is possible to provide agents with sophisticated technologies for low costs, if not for free. It is even possible for the brokerage to stay the hell out of the way of it’s agents until they need help.

    All this is possible if the broker wants to run his/her business that way. As a benevolent dictator it is easy for me to create the kind of culture that believes in agent promotion over company branding. The struggle continues to be to find agents like yourself who thrive on independence and demand an environment like the one you have so eloquently portrayed.

    So thanks again for the affirmation.

    PS. I still have the other red mitten. It’s lonely.

  26. Ken Smith

    June 27, 2008 at 9:15 am

    @ BB – Office to office will vary a little so this is just my experience.

    Remax provides nothing, you pay a monthly fee for the “brand” and a desk but you keep 100%. Pay your own E&O at an inflated price. Misc office fees, per page of fax, per copy, phone bill….everything is charged.

    KW provided general office signs that new agents could use to get started, but hey only had a few and naturally they had the brokerages phone number. KW also has some of the best training on a national level, not talking about what is in the office as that will depend on the agents that are willing to teach it. KW was 70/30 with a 18k cap in my office, so I was 100% within a couple months each year. Had to pay E&O, was really close to actual expense, payed for copies and long distance.

    Talked with CB and C21 when they attempted to recruit me and they both offered signs (would need a rider with my name and phone number so no value to me) and some advertising, but a much lower split 60/40 with no cap (even with production at the time of $10 million plus).

  27. Jay Thompson

    June 27, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Let’s see…

    Monthly office fee + inflated E&O + misc office fees + per page fax fees + copy fees + phone bill = 100% ???

    I’ve never understood that math.

    Plus, you get to pay those monthly office fees even if you have no transaction or use/need the desk. So be sure to deduct that from your “100%” commission too….

  28. Jay Thompson

    June 27, 2008 at 9:41 am

    @BB – “Jay, I think I’m older than you so do I get to pull rank with hiring Teresa?”

    Uhm… no.

    And I ain’t no spring chicken…. 😉

    We should chat sometime Bryant about the trials and tribulations of opening a brokerage. I’ve got 4 whole months of experience now.

  29. BawldGuy Talking

    June 27, 2008 at 11:57 am

    My broker pays me upon closing via immediate wire to my account.

    I’d like to hear the motivation of broker/owners who play the delay game. What’s the motivation?

  30. Paula Henry

    June 27, 2008 at 11:58 am

    T- I’m not sure there is a perfect brokerage or broker, but I am still in pursuit of something which resembles such a place. If I decided to go back to Arizona – I would call Jay, though.

    I don’t begrudge my brokerage a fee – just make it reasonble. I don’t want to pay for things I don’t use or do not find beneficial to my business.

    Office supply fees when I don’t use the office supplies. I am rarely in the office and have everything I need at home.

    Home books which I have never recived a call from – okay -one call for over $600. a year.

    I don’t need the fancy office so don’t tell me how much it takes to pay your bills. I’m interested in paying my bills and making a living.

    Like you, I want a broker who is available to answer questions and guide me when I need it; someone who supports me and my business.

    I create my own business, I want my number (only) on the sign. I’m not about feeding floor time agents and my time is too valuable to work floor time.

    I don’t take a lot of time from my broker or the office, only when I talk about making a change, then they want to listen and help.

    I believe there is a lot of talented broker/agents out there who will be providing agents what many of the big brokerages are missing.

  31. Broker Bryant

    June 27, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Great responses. It sounds like having a knowledgable and accessable broker is a big plus. That’s a good thing since that is what I enjoy doing the most. I LOVE talking real estate and solving problems. And I’m a fanatic about good communications. I’ve always thought that the intangibles is where I can create the most value for my agents. Ok you guys have givem me lots of food for thought. Thanks!!!

    Jay I’m going to call you next week so we can share ideas. Thanks for the offer.

  32. Marc Diaz

    June 29, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Great post and comments. Myself and others have been meeting and discussing this question and the broader question of “What will the future brokerage model look like?” (www.rebuildingrealty.com). I’ve concluded (no great insight here), that there will of course be many models just as there are today. But, if each agent will go through the process of understanding the different business models and also what they want from their brokerage, I think both sides will be much happier. As the posts reference, one question each agent needs ask their broker (and clearly understand) is how the brokerage will make a profit – if you don’t see that the broker can make a profit – beware – they may not be in business for long. I’ll post shortly the results of our most recent meeting which was to discuss the monthly expenses for a brokerage. We had almost 100% accuracy on this – the agents underestimated the expenses and overestimated revenue. However, when confronted with the actual expenses – agents were quick to identify ways to cut costs and readily agreed that many items should be shifted to the agent instead of the company.

    Thus, is the case for more transparency!

  33. Michelle B.

    June 30, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Teresa, you’re my hero. I heart you! : )

    Especially the part about training classes…… to put together a really good class, one people will want to come to, takes some serious time and effort! I feel like if an agent has time to put together a good class, then they don’t have enough business to have the most current, relevant information in the class.

    For those that are interested, I am fortunate in that I work with a locally owned brokerage that is pretty no-nonsense when it comes to fees. Just a nice, competitive desk fee (with options even), flexible split, no franchise fees, no tech fees, no transaction fees, and some very low cost, completely optional services (flyer printing, postage, listing syndication, etc.). Managing brokers are always available, I’m on a first name basis with the owners, they keep my paperwork organized, and I get paid right away. They work hard to maintain a solid reputation and market share, and are very selective about the agents they let in. After being there for a couple years, I decided to persue a recruiting call, just to see what I might be missing. Big, nationwide franchise company. The broker interviewing me had never met the owners. He didn’t expect that question, and I was done with the interview after his answer.

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Opinion Editorials

Art meets business: Entrepreneurship tips for creative people

(EDITORIAL) Making your creative hobby into a business is an uphill battle, but hey, many other people have done it. This is how they crested that hill.

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creative artist doodle

If the success of platforms like Etsy has proven anything, it’s that creative people can launch successful businesses, even with relatively few tools at their disposal – and for many hobbyists, this is the dream. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though, and what pushes someone from creator to businessperson can be hard to pin down. In one study, the determining factor was encouragement by family and friends. Others make a slower transition from hobby to side hustle to full-time employment in the arts. Whatever the motivating factors, though, artists interested in becoming entrepreneurs need to hone an additional set of skills.

It’s All In The Plan

From one perspective, artists know how to follow a plan. Whether we’re talking about a knitter who can work through a pattern or a novelist outlining a chapter and building characters, creative thinkers also tend to be very methodical. Just because someone can create or follow a plan, that doesn’t mean they know how to develop a business plan. Luckily, there are plenty of guides to starting a business out there that contain all the basic information you’ll need to get started.

Business development guides are full of valuable technical information – what paperwork you’ll need to file, the cost of licenses, and other similar details – but they can also help you answer questions about your goals. Before you can even start writing a business plan, you’ll need to consider what service or product you want to offer, who your clients will be, and what differentiates your product from others out there. This last question is more important than ever before as more people try to break into creative fields.

Assess Your System

Once you know what your business goals are and what products you’ll be offering, you need to consider whether you have the ability to scale up that operation to fulfill market demand. There aren’t very many art forms that you can pay the bills with fulfilling commissions one at a time. The ability to scale up the artistic process is what made the famous painter Thomas Kinkade so successful during his lifetime when many others have failed. For the modern artist, this might mean asking whether you can mechanize or outsource any of your activities, or if you’ll be doing only exclusive work for high-paying clients.

Find The Right Supports

Every business needs support to thrive, whether in the form of a startup accelerator, a bank loan, a community of fellow professionals, or some other organization or resource. Artists are no different. If you’re going to develop a successful creative business, you need to research and connect with supports for working artists. They may be able to help you access tools or studio space, get loans, market your business, or connect you with a receptive audience. These groups are expert repositories of information and you don’t have to be in a major city to connect with them.

Find Professional Partners

You’re a talented artist. You have a vision and a plan. That doesn’t mean you have to go it alone – or even that you should. To build a successful creative business, you’ll want to partner with people who have different strengths. Not only will these people be able to lend their expertise to your operation, but they’ll make you a better artist and entrepreneur by lending a critical eye to your approach. Just like a major corporation won’t thrive if it’s composed of yes-men who are just along for the ride, your creative undertaking needs internal critics whose ultimate aim is to support you.

Stay Inspired

It’s easy to get bogged down in business logistics and lose your creative spark. In fact, that’s why many artists are reticent to monetize their work, but you shouldn’t let that fear hold you back. Instead, put in the effort to stay inspired. Read books about art and creativity, keep a journal, or go to museums. Experiment with new forms. Be willing to push your own limits and know that it’s okay to fail. Many businesses that aren’t tied to creative output flounder and struggle to find their way, and there’s no reason your business should be any different. Still, the surest path to failure is stagnation and losing your spark. That’s worse for any artist than a sloppy business plan.

Artists are often told that they aren’t meant to be entrepreneurs – but the most successful businesspeople are creative types, even if they aren’t typical artists. Use that outside-the-box thinking to your advantage and make a splash. If you want to do more with your art, you owe it to yourself to try.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen overnight

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything this instant – you can get similar benefits from starting on smaller spaces.

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Minimal desk with laptop, cup, books, and plant.

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in 2019. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1. Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2. Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3. Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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Opinion Editorials

Why tech talent is in the process of abandoning Austin

(AUSTIN TECH) There is no single reason Austin tech talent is packing their bags, but a handful of factors have collided to create a tenuous situation.

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austin tech talent leaving

“Nothing’s keeping me here” is a phrase we keep hearing around town. Being in the center of the tech space, we’ve been able to keep my finger on the pulse, and what we thought was primarily housing that is driving folks out of town turns out to be far more insurmountable than we could have ever imagined.

A perfect storm is brewing as the housing market collides with a dramatically transformed workforce that has become accustomed to working remotely and shifted priorities.

Last time Austin was bleeding talent, the year was 2011 and most investments were focused on early stage startups and there weren’t enough open roles that were senior level, so we started losing people to competitive markets. In response, we built a massive employment hub (the Austin Digital Jobs Group (ADJ)) and volunteered hundreds of hours to help make Austin a magnet for high quality employers.

This time around, we expressed to the Group of over 55K members that we were frustrated that people were confiding in us that they were leaving (or considering it). Some are even people that we all imagined to be part of the very fabric of Austin tech. We feel helpless this time.

Many of these talented people said that the soaring housing prices in Austin had them eyeballing smaller towns in Texas, or worse, their hometowns outside of the state. There are only so many times you can try to buy a house, get rejected, or get outbid on 22 homes before you start looking at other places. Only so many people will accept a billion percent rent increase at renewal time before thinking that going back home to Louisiana’s lookin’ pretty good.

This week, Austin CultureMap reported that Austin now ranks number two among the most overvalued home markets in America.

Tesla is getting ready to open their Gigafactory, Oracle is moving their headquarters to Austin, and Samsung is currently trying to get buy-in from city officials in Taylor so they can build their mega plant near Austin. Home investors and firms from all over are salivating.

It all feels both exciting, yet overwhelming when you’re going to buy a house here, only to get outbid by $150K over asking price from an investor in California. It’s been demoralizing for so many.

Because we also own a massive real estate publication, we’re firmly in touch with that sector, and brokers in Austin are telling us that the summer was out of control and overheated, but they’re already seeing that hyper-activity slow a bit.

Housing alone isn’t enough of a reason for an entire sector to be packing up or dreaming of leaving. So what gives?

At last count, a thread in ADJ on this topic is at 806 comments, and I personally received several hundred more via direct message with people in tech explaining why they’re leaving or considering leaving.

There are challenges within the city limits of Austin that have bubbled over like crime and separately, the contentious issue of houselessness – it’s an ongoing and very serious issue that has people leaving downtown, but not necessarily leaving the surrounding areas.

So if housing isn’t the exclusive driving force, how has that problem combined with the employment market shifts? How has the job market changed in such a way that talent is ready to hit the eject button on this town? It boils down to a changing talent pool, fractures in the hiring process, a shift in priorities, and a lingering brokenness in the entire process that is exacerbating all other conditions.

Let’s dig into that further.

Because of the global pandemic, remote work has become a staple in the tech industry, teams adjusted and realized the office is more of a luxury than a requirement, and many large brands swear that they’ll never require their employees to come into the office again.

For that reason, tech workers’ expectations have been forever changed. Fully remote options will drive the market for years to come, and hybrid options or flex work hours will also be how large tech firms attract and retain talent – ping pong tables and chill vibes will be less of an appealing sales pitch.

The pandemic has also shifted the talent pool to include everyone in America – if all workers are remote, employers no longer have to look just to the local workforce. This talent pool expansion is a double-edged sword – if an Austin tech company can look to Nebraska for workers, then remote workers can look outside of Austin to other budding tech hubs, potentially shifting the entire environment. That’s the main driver for Austin brands continuing to hire in Austin, lest the entire ecosystem fail.

All that said, a disconnect in the job market in Austin tech remains. Holdouts from attitudes and old systems of the past linger on.

A theme we continue to hear from high quality candidates is that employers have increasingly unrealistic expectations. You already know the stereotype of job listings that say they’re entry level but require a decade of work experience. But as budgets tightened in the face of uncertainty, Austin tech companies are becoming phenomenally great at hiring someone to do three jobs that pay less than one. One of our Group members asserted that employers are looking for turnkey employees. It used to be that employer job descriptions were a realistic wish list and that if you hit over 60% of them, you might get an interview. Now people believe that the requirements are becoming unrealistic and if you meet less than 100% of them, there is zero chance of an interview. Many have complained that hiring managers and recruiters continue to not be aligned, slowing the process repeatedly.

The timing of the acceleration of unrealistic expectations has locals feeling like the pandemic created conditions that allowed for employers to take advantage of job seekers who must be desperate since the world is upside down. I don’t personally believe this has anything to do with the pandemic, rather it is a continuation of an ongoing trend.

If you think this is an exaggeration, just this week a job seeker let me know that a recruiter sent them a job description that required the “ability to code in any language.” WTF. The recruiter was serious. Try telling me this isn’t out of control and I will laugh right in your face, friend.

Another serious point of contention in Austin is that salary levels are not increasing anywhere near the skyrocketing living expenses.

Many believe the salary levels are a decade old and simply can’t keep up with the market conditions in Austin and while we’ll leave the “you are a remote worker, you shouldn’t earn as much since you moved to a less expensive locale” debate to another day, we will firmly assert that this problem will hold back the tech innovation and the overall economy in Austin.

In that massive thread in our Group, one member asked, “So I guess a question is: do we accept the idea that Austin is now only for those making 6 figures??”

What is so disheartening about the salary conditions is that changing this couldn’t possibly be done overnight – it requires time and structural changes, and the bigger a company is, the slower it is to turn the proverbial ship.

Meanwhile, numerous people retired early during the pandemic, or began freelancing or consulting full time. Many of these people aren’t likely to return to the workforce under current conditions, and they feel like they have less roots in Austin – they can live anywhere now. See how remote work has caused a ripple effect?

Do you remember when some tech executives in Austin reluctantly sent employees home as the pandemic hit, flippantly warning that it wouldn’t be a coronacation!? Bad behaviors like this and other employee treatment during the pandemic haven’t and will not be forgotten – the memories will remain as fresh as the time you got shoved by that bully in elementary school. You may have forgiven, but you’ll never forget. Trust has been broken.

Trust was also broken during the pandemic when people lost what they believed to be stable jobs. It has created a certain trepidation in the marketplace.

The pandemic has forever altered all of our lives as individuals. Thousands died from COVID-19, and those of us left behind lost loved ones. We were all sent home with no job security. Many of us became homeschool teachers and somehow also had to keep up with our careers. We were forced to share spaces with our partners, our children, our parents, our family.

Some would think all of this is a recipe for resentment, but in the majority of cases, what has happened is a serious shift in priorities to favor the family, to appreciate quality time, to find solace in more quiet time and a less full calendar.

People tell us they don’t intend on going out for drinks after work when they’re called back into the office – it turns out we actually like our kids or partners now that we’ve gotten to know them, or that we value our newfound connection to old hobbies. The priorities aren’t fleeting – this pandemic has changed us.

Because of this fundamental change in who we are, ongoing problems in the employment market are now magnified.

“Isms” still plague the hiring process. Ageism continues to be a very serious problem in Austin tech, for example. People tell us that they’re still experiencing sexism, racism, ableism, and every other sort of discrimination. In 2021. It’s unbelievable. You can say all of that is simply perception, but in this scenario, perception truly is reality. And because our priorities have shifted, our giveashitters are pretty low when it comes to tolerating bad actors.

That same shift has also lowered tolerance levels for burnout. One member in the Group pointed out that after the market crash in 2008, resource levels were depleted – and here we are in 2021, they haven’t been restored. People were burned out before the pandemic, and now they’re moving to the country to work remotely and begin healing this burnout that is coming to a head.

It’s difficult to deal with ghosting (be it computer-aided or overworked recruiters) when you’re already burned out and thinking you’re the only one. It’s giving this sector a terrible reputation that is spreading.

Resources aren’t the only factor here that is stuck in 2008. Companies were so used to getting a flood of applications for every single job listing, their ATS (applicant tracking system) filters were implemented accordingly. The volume of applications has dropped, yet the filters remain overly restrictive. They put their ATS on auto-pilot once upon a time, and it remains that way, yet they continue to reach out to us in confusion, asking us where all the applicants are.

In the eyes of tech talent, the hiring process has deteriorated. Simultaneously, in the eyes of companies hiring, the process has been improved. Enhanced.

The disconnect here is not in the unrealistic expectations previously outlined, or the rising opacity in salaries, but in the actual mechanics of the hiring process. Even smaller companies have added additional rounds of interviews and ridiculous red tape in what is an effort in vain to compete with the Googles of the world. There’s a lot of what I would call “playing office” going on, with non-technical hiring managers hiring for technical roles, or unrelated staff being roped into panel interviews to weigh in on whether or not someone is a “culture fit.”

The process has become lengthy and demanding with endless personality tests, whiteboard tests, Zoom calls, questionnaires, more phone and video calls, aptitude tests, and so forth. Most people have come to accept these as hoops to jump through, but the practice of having job seekers do extensive unpaid projects as part of their job application is creating deep resentment and a growing resistance. No one expects to shake a hand and get a job today, but doing a 12 hour assignment that is due in 24 hours is unreasonable, especially unpaid and with no promise of their intellectual property being protected.

It started off as a way to aide candidates into demonstrating their true skills and it was simple. But over time, the practice has “evolved.” It feels to some like every Austin tech recruiter and hiring manager went to some evil underground conference a few years ago and were brainwashed into thinking that if they ALL assign abusive tasks, no one in the sector will notice because they’ll just accept that it’s “how things are done now.” But that’s not happening and the overly complicated process combined with other market factors is driving seriously qualified tech talent out of Austin.

The hiring process has continued to degrade and for no good reason. We actually built ADJ in a way that would directly connect hiring manager and job seeker, promoting the concept of simplifying the hiring process. Yet here we are.

The final nail in the coffin is that candidates and employers are blaming each other for a power imbalance, and thinking that their situation is unique. A feeling of isolation is growing due to peoples’ inability to openly discuss this process – both hiring folks and job seekers.

The bottom line is that numerous market conditions have converged to create a scenario where people are tired and simply won’t settle anymore. Expectations have changed. And we have changed as people.

We will inevitably get hate mail because of this editorial and folks will say that the very publication of this piece will push people out of town, but we would argue that if no one makes an effort to diagnose the growing illness, it will metastasize.

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