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Your New Brokerage Business Model Sucks!

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Your New Brokerage Business Model Sucks!

This is the basic message I got from my broker when I told him the lovely bride and I were leaving the Century 21 Mothership to start our own brokerage.

When we told him we were opening a “virtual office” brokerage, he shook his head and launched into why we were doomed for failure.

This from the man whose usual greeting for me was, “Still doing that blogging thing Thompson?”

This from the man who set up his office firewall to block Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and every other social network/web 2.0 thingy you can name. (What he should have done was uninstall the Solitaire game on the floor desk PC. God only knows how much office productivity would have increased.)

His reasons for our impending demise?

1) People expect a successful agent to have a physical office.

2) You’ll never be able to recruit agents without providing them something tangible, “like a desk”.

3) “The Internet is not all it’s cracked up to be”.

4) And most importantly, “You need the Century 21 name. Or at least the backing of a major brand.

Huh.

My responses:

1) I guess some people do expect a successful agent to have a physical office. Just like some expect a successful agent to drive a new Lexus. Personally, I can’t recall the last time I met a client in the office. And if someone is going to judge me by my office or the car I drive, then they can just scoot right along to the guy in the Armani suit or the lady with the bouffant hairdo. More power to ’em.

2) Something tangible. LIKE A DESK? I don’t even know where to start with this one. Our business model doesn’t including hiring every being that walks thorough the front door with a license and a pulse. We plan to hire a very limited number of experienced, tech savvy agents that place value in growing the business together and have the same attitude that we do when it comes to what is most important to us — superior customer service. That’s just a wee bit more important than a desk.

“But how will you charge desk fees without desks?” That’s easy, we won’t. I can’t seem to explain to the man that we don’t want to fleece agents with desk fees and ridiculous commission splits. We’ll have minimal splits, just enough to cover overhead costs (which, ahem, are greatly reduced due to the fact that we don’t have a physical office and all the expense that entails). The money is to be made through organic growth of an extremely satisfied customer base. A customer base that all the agents in the brokerage will work toward building.

3) The Internet is not all it’s cracked up to be… oh dear God… is he serious? He knows we’ve gotten 80% of all our business straight from the web — be that in the form of a traditional static site or the blog. 10% of our business comes from agent referrals. How did we meet those agents? “Social networking” — ie The Internet. And the remaining 10% of our business is repeat business and client referrals, all of which originated from — The Internet.

But maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

4) Big brand? OK, maybe being associated with a major brand is important for a new agent. We have web and blog pages that are high on page 1 of Google for search terms like, “Century 21 Phoenix”, “Phoenix Century 21 agent” and dozens of such terms. So what. The number of visits from those terms is less than 20/week. And I could count the number of clients we’ve received from them on less than one hand.

What did I get from being a C21 agent? 6% franchise fees extracted from my checks, an overbearing relocation department with arcane rules, the right to use the logo and gold colored sign posts. What a deal.

So where am I going with this ridiculously long diatribe?

I’m not writing this to gloat, or to imply that I’m better than some major franchise. Nor am I saying that any agent working for a franchise or in a traditional office is inferior. Far from it. There are some fabulous traditional offices and brokers out there and there are incredibly progressive agents wearing balloons and gold jackets (though not likely at the same time).

Where I’m going with this is there is an alternative to the traditional brokerage business model. One does not need to hire dozens of agents, provide half-assed training and hope enough of them squeeze out a transaction or two all-the-while with enough sense to not get you sued.

Personally, I think a successful brokerage (or individual agent) can be made by going back to a very traditional thought and practice…

Provide superior customer service. Period. Focus on that. Live that. Worry about little else. Use technology to provide you the efficiency to dare I say — pamper — your clients. And I don’t mean pamper them with a warm Corinthian leather seat in your Lexus. I mean pamper them with the education, tools, advice and counsel they need to make their real estate transaction not just smooth as a baby’s buttocks, but also fun and exciting.

Do that, and watch your business go viral with word-of-mouth buzz and endorsements.

That’s not really all that “high tech” now, is it?

Jay is the Broker / Owner of Thompson's Realty in Phoenix, Arizona. A self-professed "Man with a blogging problem" he can be found across the Interweb, including at the Phoenix Real Estate Guy blog where he opines on all things real estate and tosses out random musings.

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58 Comments

58 Comments

  1. Matthew Rathbun

    March 12, 2008 at 4:53 am

    Jay….welcome to my world. Before moving to association staff, I was with a franchise, not because of the name; but because of the broker. When I left there to move closer to home and church, the only surviving company in our rural area was a franchise with NO tendency to technology. Literally…the broker had NEVER touched a computer and didn’t get the importance of technology.

    NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers reported that of the 79% (I think it’s higher) of consumers that go online to start their real estate search, only 5% are looking for a specific company name and 3% for an agent… they are looking for properties and knowledge.

    I laughed when I read the issue of games on the PC for two reason. First I did this very thing while managing and seriously the agents refused to do floor duty. Which was ok, because I have no faith in floor duty. But it also put into context what the agents valued at floor duty. It was a social opportunity and not productive. I rarely saw floor duty (mandated by the owner) agents using the time to market or research.

    Lastly, my rant about some franchise rules, boils down to this illustration. While many other companies and franchises were showing commericals featuring the ease in which you could find properties on your laptop, my particular franchise was nealy demanding that you wore a certain colored jacket – as if that would make you more money than meeting the client where they are.

    Personally, my happiest moments in the industry were with a good friend at a small independant office, where he cared about me as a person and the other agents in the office. I also made the most money there….

    Sorry for the long post!

  2. Heather Elias

    March 12, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Congrats!!! I have been mulling over how to recreate the traditional brokerage to a virtual brokerage; I’ve realized that the vast, vast majority of my business is self generated from the internet and referrals from social networking…easy then to question the need for the typical brokerage ‘features’. I’d love to pick your brain about how you are setting everything up. I know you will be a huge success!

  3. Jim

    March 12, 2008 at 5:16 am

    Darn it, Jay. I had a post similar to this and you went and wrote it for me. (you seem to do that a lot, how’d you get in my brain?)

    I was at a listing “conversation” the other night and they asked why they should use my company (also a Century 21 franchise). My answer was simple – I have complete autonomy to run my business, innovate as I see fit and do whatever is right for my clients.

    Autonomy is a good thing; I have a bit of an anti-authoritarian streak. 🙂

  4. Brian Block

    March 12, 2008 at 5:24 am

    Jay, your broker probably also thinks that Amazon.com was wasting its time by trying to sell books (and other stuff) online. You don’t hear much about WaldenBooks or any other independent booksellers these days who are eating or have already suffocated on Amazon’s kicked up dust.

  5. jeremy Hart

    March 12, 2008 at 6:35 am

    wow – when I saw the post title I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve now read the post three times and have gotten something new each time.

    Like so many others, I’m at a franchise. Starting out, it was the right decision to make – be a small dish in a big pond. When you’re getting started, I think that can be a very good thing. And it worked! My first year was a success, with half my business that first year coming from floor duty. Each year since, that number has dropped to the point I don’t need to do floor duty anymore. I hear the argument all the time, “you should be at ABC brokerage ’cause there’s no franchise fee, etc.” and it’s true that I could make a little more at another place. But in the end, I like where I work. I like the people who are there, it’s the only brokerage in our area where people actually seem to like each other. And they’re actually trying to understand this social media thing … Look for the blog soon.

    All of those things are fine and dandy, but Jim’s point – for me – is the key. It’s not the office environs, or the attempt at a blog, or the catered parties (which are also a nice addition). It’s the autonomy, the freedom to adjust and “innovate” as I see fit. I’m blessed to work with a brokerage that’s been at this for 30 years and who trusts it’s agents to make independent decisions based on what they think is best for the brokerage. It becomes a communal effort … So that’s the deciding factor for me, and is likely one of the reasons many of us are where we’re at. If that autonomy ever changed, I’d be setting up shop at home in a heartbeat – and calling Jay on my way home for advice!

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jay. This one’s getting bookmarked and read many more times.

  6. Michelle DeRepentigny

    March 12, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Congrats from a former C21 broker who made the move back to independent 4 years ago and guess what – I’m surving without them, although I still have many friends in the system. The only thing I really missed were conventions and I’ve found plenty of fun new ways to network with my peers.

  7. Kevin Sharkey - IBR Broker

    March 12, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Hi Jay,
    Great post as usual. Your bottom line remarks about providing outstanding customer service is the essence of what good agents are all about, whether they are virtual or traditional.

    I have owned and operated a virtual agency for more than 15 years and feel it offers a great alternative to the franchised experience. Our model is to have a modest physical presence, but no agents housed there. We have four work stations for our 300 agents and they are never full. Our commission splits are high and we offer 30 hours of continuing ed for free. Our two trainers emphasize cutting edge technologies and creating a superior experience for our clients.

    The money not spent on big offices and non-essential staff can be used for better purposes. Like helping agents become better agents

  8. Greg Cremia

    March 12, 2008 at 7:36 am

    In July of 06 my wife and I got tired of paying the remax fees for no service and started working out of the house. I already had a strong internet presence and none of our business came from the franchise so the decision wasn’t that hard.

    We meet sellers at their house and pick buyers up at theirs. We do not meet people at houses until we have worked with them for a while.

    No one has questioned this arrangement except other agents. Our production has increased and our overhead has decreased. Our biggest problem right now is with working too much. My only regret is not doing it sooner.

  9. Teresa Boardman

    March 12, 2008 at 8:13 am

    I am totally “virtual”, some people expect me to have an office but welcome the idea of meeting at a local coffee shop. I think that real estate companies own too much real estate and as a result they need to raise fees to agents to make a profit. Those costs get passed onto the consumer. Is the consumer really served by supporting our offices? Almost none of the sellers who’s homes I have listed over the years ever saw my office. Showings go through showing solutions so now they don’t even talk to anyone in my office, yet they all pay an extra $300 or so tacked onto their fees because there is an office.

  10. Jody McLeod

    March 12, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Here, here! Some really great points here. The company I work for also gives us great autonomy and I don’t think I would want it any other way. I have a home office and I meet my clients out in the real world – a coffee shop or their home – and I have never had any ask me if we could meet at my office. The only drawback is less day-to-day social interaction. On slower days I find myself at my computer the whole day, blogging or researching. It just means that you have to find other ways to get out there and connect with you peers such as classes or luncheons!

  11. Matt Scoggins

    March 12, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I know there are a lot of old school brokers out there, but to say, “The Internet is not all it’s cracked up to be” is just to funny.

    Jay, you will be around long after that old dinosaur is gone!

  12. Ines

    March 12, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Hey Jay – I had to do a double take on the author here!! 🙂

    I think Rick and I go to our office once every 2 weeks oly to show our face at meetings (and we take turns, which means they see me once a month). – as for the physical meeting place, what is Starbucks for? Duh!

    And the big brand – google “Coldwell Banker Miami Shores” and miamism appears ahead of the company’s multi-million dollar monster…… not bad for a couple of peons. (sp?)

    Congratulations!! again…..it’s all about relationships and of course Jeff Turner comes to mind every time I say that.

  13. Anthony Longo

    March 12, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Heard this before….
    Keep rocking it out! We are feeling pain…but witnessing the traction!

  14. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    March 12, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Jay,

    Now you know what I know. The reasons you list above are precisely the reasons we started our own brokerage (although we do have a physical office). More power to you!

    Jim,

    Thanks for the gentle prodding reminding me to write that listing “conversation” post. Once I get out from under this pile of, uhhhh, real work, I shall finish that draft.

  15. Jay Thompson

    March 12, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Thanks for all the insightful comments folks, what a warm welcome to Agent Genius!

    @Matthew — “NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers reported that of the 79% (I think it’s higher) of consumers that go online to start their real estate search”

    I think it’s higher too.

    @Heather — “I’d love to pick your brain about how you are setting everything up.”

    Any time!

    @Jim — “Darn it, Jay. I had a post similar to this and you went and wrote it for me. (you seem to do that a lot, how’d you get in my brain?)”

    Dalton does that to me all the time. (And you do too). It’s weird.

    @Jeremy — “But in the end, I like where I work. I like the people who are there, it’s the only brokerage in our area where people actually seem to like each other.”

    THAT is a big deal. It’s not all about the split. Happy agents are productive agents.

    @Brain — I loved my former broker. He taught me a lot and I owe him a lot. But he’s stuck in the 1970s.

    @Michelle — “The only thing I really missed were conventions…”

    There are always places like the NAR convention and Inman Connect. (Think REBarCamp just prior to Inman SF 08!!)

    @Kevin — “The money not spent on big offices and non-essential staff can be used for better purposes. Like helping agents become better agents”

    Yep. And passing those savings on to the client isn’t a bad idea either.

    @Greg — “My only regret is not doing it sooner.”

    I’ve only been open just under two weeks and already have the same regret!

    @T — “I think that real estate companies own too much real estate and as a result they need to raise fees to agents to make a profit.”

    My old broker’s biggest concern every month is how to pay for the building and utilities. His biggest concern should be the clients.

    @Jody — “It just means that you have to find other ways to get out there and connect with you peers such as classes or luncheons!”

    Great point. There are always ways to interact. Humans are social animals and need that face-to-face interaction. Of course, I like the sort of interaction we’re doing right now too!

    @Matt – “but to say, “The Internet is not all it’s cracked up to be” is just to funny.”

    Funny. And pathetic. But that’s a direct quote…

    @Ines — “Hey Jay – I had to do a double take on the author here!!”

    I’m not sure why they let me in here. But I’m lovin’ it!

    @Anthony — is may be cliche, but “No pain, no gain”…

  16. Shailesh Ghimire

    March 12, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Jay,

    I have a friend who works for as “Director of Virtual Manufacturing”. They are a “manufacturer” – but all of it is done abroad in China and other places. They sell their products in the United States – with minimal facilities. Their margins are through the roof and they company is very successful.

    With modern communication virtual is as real as anything else. In our industry you are the business. Where you go your business goes with you. Aimee and I work from home half the time and none of our customers/clients would know it. We make accommodations to meet them in coffee shops in different parts of the town if they want – so I’m just glad we don’t get charged a desk fee – otherwise it’s be a tremendous waste!

    I am confident you guys will rock! I am sure more and more brokerage houses will be moving your way.

  17. Cyndee Haydon

    March 12, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Hey Jay couldn’t agree more and gotta say the new avatar matches the new office – “real” not stuffy and corporate – not that that’s bad if it’s what someone wants – the beauty of blogging and Web 2.0 is I find people “choose” the person – not the clothes, car or office – ah, now that’s refreshing – Keep us posted on your successes (because I have no doubt 🙂

  18. Chris Lengquist

    March 12, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve been with a small broker (really small – like tiny) and with a huge broker (third largest in the country, or is it 4th?…either way) and neither has had anything to do with my success or failure. Sure glad I have that desk, though. 😉

  19. Vance Shutes

    March 12, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Jay – Like Chris (#18 comment), I have been with a small brokerage (5 people) and a huge broker (#1 in Michigan). While both brokers have contributed greatly to my education, the money flow has been decidedly TOWARD them (splits, fees, etc.), rather than from them. Our results as agents stem directly from the level of service we provide to our CLIENTS, not to/from our broker. Congratulations on your big step, and much success to you in the future!

  20. Terry Smith

    March 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Amen brother. You aren’t missing that gold jacket, are you? I even think that being with a big brand
    could and does lower the negotiating power of your client. A good broker is suppose to let you go and be nice, guess it’s hard recruiting in this market…Virtual is the only way….

  21. Fort Worth Gal

    March 12, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Great Post Jay!

    Our Broker was with a large Re/MAX franchise and decided to go out on his own a few years ago. We are virtual as well and growing and taking market share rapidly.

  22. Brad Nix

    March 12, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Ditto Daniel Rothamel. I just like separating work and home, so the office is for me and those agents who feel the same. No extra costs to use our desks (or computers or copier or coffee or any other other little fee most brokers’ dream up).

  23. jaybird

    March 12, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Way to go! I totally agree and except for my disdain of anything and everything admin–such as creating a brokerage and paperwork and tax stuff–I would have started my own co. JustNewListings.com awhile ago. The nice thing with remax is you can brand yourself as if you are your own virtual brokerage by making the balloon very minor compared with one’s own brand. They just provide the legal/admin support of checks, etc. 100% is 100% whether I let remax handle the admin or become legally my own brokerage with all its hassles.

    But virtual with only techie agents will be very $$rewwarding$$. You should touch base with Frank Llosa (franklyrealty.com) who did the same thing out here.

    j

  24. loren nason

    March 13, 2008 at 12:31 am

    WOW 24 comments by the evening.

    I read this for lunch and almost spit coke on my laptop. Didn’t have time to leave comment so I figured i’d come back later.

    “The internet is not all it’s cracked up to be”

    HMMMMM…..

    I don’t see the point of having an office in most service business. I don’t have an office. I come out to customers houses and fix their problems and teach them new things.

    Anyways I think some brokers will keep and office because some clients expect them, but the number of those that expect an office are dwindling and maybe 10 years from now an RE Brokers office will be a kiosk in the mall that is internet connected 56″ touch screen computer with an interface like the iPhone and then a button to contact REALTOR over VOIP or Text Message or who knows.

  25. Jeremy Hart

    March 13, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Loren – “maybe 10 years from now an RE Brokers office will be a kiosk in the mall”

    That’s assuming this Internet thing takes off! 🙂

  26. Jay Thompson

    March 13, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Good point Jeremy. After all, the Internet, blogging and social networking/media are really just fads. 😉

  27. Jessica Swesey

    March 13, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Great post, Jay. I’m in the market for a condo right now and while considering which agent to use, it never once occurred to me that I should be asking them whether they have a desk. Of course! A desk is an obvious symbol of great service that I seek. I look forward to sitting at an agent’s desk while the listings I want to see are waiting for me on that thing called the Internet and throughout the neighborhoods I’m looking in. A desk. Of course! Is there a designation for that?

  28. Ginger Wilcox

    March 13, 2008 at 11:39 am

    I agree with Jaybird, I don’t want the admin hassle, otherwise I would be on my own probably too. It is not where you are, it is who you are and what you do that makes you successful. LOL at Jessica’s comment. Some agents do have the desk designation (CDE= Certified Desk Expert). Unfortunately, they may have a pretty desk, but they doesn’t mean they have ever sold a house.

  29. Jayson

    March 13, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Great post Jay! – seems like your broker was a little upset about you leaving. I think your business model is right on track and is perfect for tomorrows buyers and sellers.

  30. Marc

    March 13, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Wait, something doesn’t make sense Jay. I thought C21 is the most advanced, web savvy company in real estate. At least that’s the impression I get from their commerical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xzra0Sidp4

    Are you sure you have your facts straight?

  31. Carl Minicucci

    March 13, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Jay,

    What do the following search terms have in common?

    “Century 21 phoenix”
    “C21 phoenix real estate”
    “C21 phoenix homes”
    “C21 phoenix homes for sale”
    “Century 21 phoenix real estate agent”, and my personal favourite…
    “Best Century 21 Aware agent”

    They all represent search terms for which “thompsonsrealty.com” or “phoenixrealestateguy.com” pages rank on page 1 of Google (as at the time of this post)

    Aside from the grin or smirk you’re probably wearing….I bet your mind is probably working a mile a minute right about now…so is mine.

  32. Maureen Francis

    March 13, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Shhhhhh. Please DO NOT tell your broker about the internet. He is right of course. It is completely overrated.

    I worked for an “boutique” got 6 yrs until we were bought by Sotheby’s. I actually do like some of the stuff that comes from the brand. Worth the split/franchise fee? It seems like it right now. We shall see though. As for the office space, I prefer to work there, but it is almost deserted most days. Most agents work from home.

  33. Melbourne Florida Homes For Sale

    March 14, 2008 at 5:22 am

    Thats okay there is a small market for his type of office. Good Luck with you new business, may business be good and google smile upon you on the way up the ranks.

  34. Missy Caulk

    March 14, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Jay, this is great and I know this will be a good move for you. I hope I have the courage to do this someday. Just changed from RE/MAX 11 yrs. to KW. I was very tempted to go on my own and maybe I will someday. Regardless, I work from home, except for team meetings. Don’t do office meetings, don’t do floor time. I can’t wait to follow your journey.

    The internet is the great equalizer….(not all it’s cracked up to me) oh my.

  35. Mark Hendriks

    March 14, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Good luck on opening your brokerage! I too have taken that route and have opened my Real Estate company, virtually, it has helped me to cruise through this uneasy market (atlanta-metro). I takes some marketing strategy to get strangers used to a new name, but it is worth it in the end.

  36. Dena Davis

    March 15, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I think the strenght of the traditional brokerages is in the training they provide for new agents. We have our own brokerage not associated with any franchise. My experience is that people buy from people. Not companies.

    I have seen a lot of experienced agents move from the franchise system as they become more accomplished because they want to be assoicated with a more elite group. The very fact that so many of these traditional brokerages accept unexperienced new agents — is the very reason that some of the more experienced ones are leaving.

    Being a small firm — I miss the comradery I would have in a big franchise. I think they have thier place– I always refer new agents to them! After all– we dont have time to train!! They have systems for that.

  37. Jacksonville Real Estate

    March 15, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I operate a small real estate brokerage and handle listings from all over one of the largest (area wise) cities in the continental U.S. I have had very few clients actually come into our office.

    The agents that I have recruited don’t care about having a desk. They just wanted to know their commission split, how many leads I can give them and any other marketing or advertising I could offer them to increase their sales.

    Anyone who believes that the “internet is not all it’s cracked up to be” is going to be left on the side of the road as the industry moves on. You can still make sales by doing the “old school” basics but you need the internet in order to advertise a home for sale properly.

    My partner and I left Re/Max 12 years ago because our broker was charging too much for the buyer agents we were bringing aboard. We haven’t looked back since and have been very happy to do it our own way.

    “Major Brand needed? We don’t need no stinkin major brand.”

    Best of luck to you Jay.

  38. Jay Thompson

    March 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Dena – structured training is indeed a benefit of a “big house” brokerage. I don’t really have the time nor desire to train brand new agents. That said, if the right agent wants to learn from me (assuming I have something to give) then I’m more than willing to work with them.

  39. Marc Diaz

    April 21, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Jay,

    I’m undergoing some of the same challenges as yourself and would like to start to share some ideas around the many opportunities of the brokerage office. I love the business of real estate – is it too much to ask to want to earn a profit? Check us out at http://www.rebuildingrealty.com. I think the current market conditions are presenting an opportunity to push a new model out there! I tried this before when the market was rocketing up but everybody was of the mindset, if it ain’t broke… but now it’s broke! Please join I’d love to hear some of the things you are doing in your new business model.

  40. Robin

    May 23, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Jay wrote “we’ve gotten 80% of all our business straight from the web”

    That’s all I needed to hear. I want to make our virtual business after Jay’s business model!

  41. William Hampton

    May 25, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Good Evening Jay,

    I totally support your decision and views on the virtual office business model. I recently have been working from home. Things have been going OK but I really don’t have a sysem in place to add structure & organization. I would like to hear more about your business model and your success.
    Thanks, Jay,

    I wish you much success!

    William Hampton

  42. Sue

    May 31, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Great post Jay. I’ve been virtual for a long time and was highly criticized early in my career for the way I worked and how I wasted my money on websites and spent too much time on the internet, etc. 🙂 I didn’t pay any attention and now laugh to myself as I watch many trying to play catchup. Congratulations on getting away from that C21office.

  43. Barry Cunningham

    June 14, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Found this old post while searching and was amazed I missed it. Is this something that Jay and I actually agree on? No…couldn’t be but it…love virtuality (if that’s a word)

  44. Jay Thompson

    June 14, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Barry – “virtuality” if it wasn’t a word, it is now! I think you and I may agree on more than you realize. Not everything, that’s for sure, but I bet it’s more than either of us realize (or want to admit!)

  45. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Right on conclusions IMO, Jay. All too often, people get wrapped up about what other agents think they should do. Instead, focus on your clients. They are the ones that you need to make happy. Interestingly enough, whenever I come up with a new idea, I usually go to my office and ask everyone what they think about it. If they say “you can’t do that”, or “that sounds like a bad idea” – then I know I’m on the start of something really good for my customers. 🙂

  46. Natasha Bassova

    July 25, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    What a great post! After being with RE/MAX for a couple of years I am so happy with our new small company. No more ridiculous splits! 90% of my business comes from the web site and I think the website is a very important tool to have nowadays especially in resort market. It shall be informative and very helpful to the buyers and sellers who start their property search online. If they like the web site and the information you provide to them they will definitely contact you when they are ready to buy or sell real estate.

  47. Mike Pannell ( Fort Worth Realtor)

    October 18, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Yeah i have run a virtual brokerage for a while, it is a great system and if you work real hard it will pay off in the end.

  48. Karen Goodman

    November 21, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Jay – Would love your opinion on if there is a model between the big shiny office traditional model and the totally virtual office that could work. I work for a medium indep broker (70 active agents with about 10-15 producing agents/80 inactive licenses). He gives us total autonomy with minimal paperwork requirements. He is getting ready to get out of his expensive office space and take over a corner of the financial group across the hall to cut expenses.

    The broker wants to get out of being a broker and start a national training company. So he is offering an opportunity to me (top producer in the company) and the top operations person to become owners without putting in any cash now…just eventually paying him for his assets, being able to use current staff time to help him start up his training company for awhile and getting 100% on his referral fees to the brokerage.

    But everything I read is that the traditional model is doomed to failure. Going totally virtual wouldn’t work…we would lose our best agents. Any suggestions?

  49. Arlington real estate guy

    November 21, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Karen, this is a different Jay replying to you. Why would going virtual cause you to lose agents? Are they that addicted to wasting time at the office instead of working from home more efficiently?

    j

  50. A Coffey

    January 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Love the pamper comment. I fdo this by trying to do much more than is expected of me with every form of contact with my client. Thx for the reminder

  51. RE/MAX Missouri

    February 4, 2009 at 11:18 am

    “Personally, I think a successful brokerage (or individual agent) can be made by going back to a very traditional thought and practice…”

    This is exactly what I believe. The traditional thought applied to today technology will bring us greater success and results in the long run. And hopefully we will have a ton of fun doing it along the way!!!

  52. Natasha

    October 13, 2009 at 12:25 am

    After being with RE/MAX for a couple of years I am so happy with our new small company. No more ridiculous splits! 90% of my business comes from the web site and I think the website is a very important tool to have nowadays especially in resort market. It shall be informative and very helpful to the buyers and sellers who start their property search online. If they like the web site and the information you provide to them they will definitely contact you when they are ready to buy or sell real estate.

  53. Amanda Wernick

    October 13, 2009 at 1:43 am

    WOW! WOW! WOW! Kudos to you for being forward thinking, for doing away with the “tradition” of Real Estate, and actually focusing on what matters…YOUR CLIENTS EXPERIENCE! I wish you extreme amounts of success! Please keep me posted on how you’re doing! And just in case I didn’t say it….WOW! 🙂

    @FUNomenalRealtr

  54. Ted Amenta

    October 22, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I think that the days of the “desks are us” business model are over. The only question is who will be the first in each market to realize it. Home office based companies are growing around the country and I look forward to a good one arriving in my area.

  55. SCRE

    March 11, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I ran into someone at the supermarket yesterday who used to be with the biggest “desks are us” company in my market. She was 1 of 9 to leave that company going into 2010 and that is about 1/3rd of the office. The same company closed down one of their 4 offices in the area in 2009.

    • Jay Thompson

      March 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      Funny you should mention office closings SCRE. In the two years since I wrote this post, my old C21 broker who poo-poo’d our brokerage model has closed his office. We have grown to 18 agents and recently opened a branch office in Tucson…

  56. melody

    February 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    great post

  57. Janice

    October 5, 2016 at 1:35 am

    I found this out years ago (2003) when I sold my first listing with C21 and I only got $18K out of a $32K commission. I left then for an independent broker who charged $25/mo and $300 per transaction that covered E&O. Smartest move I ever made. Between the Internet and referrals I got for giving stellar service, my business was meteoric for a long time till the down market hit. Then I had to conform to market conditions and all was good again. However the past couple years I’ve been on sabbatical caring for my elderly folks who both passed away this year. Now my sister and I want to move into another rental home for a while to regroup and we can’t find a decent realtor in the area. The service and courtesy are deplorable especially from Lisa G. at Coldwell Banker where we’ve been paying rent for the past 4 years, on time every month. She is so bad that it’s difficult to believe. My sister called her on a Friday morning because she wanted to see a property on Sunday. We did not hear from her until Sunday 2 hours after the time we wanted to see the property and she left a voicemail stating that her firm is not opened on weekends. Neither was mine, but I worked weekends or I wouldn’t have made much money. We’ve tried at least 5 other agents at other firms and they are all the same. With this kind of competition, I can’t lose. I’m going back into real estate to dominate this market. They will never exceed my service. You can’t “wow” others when you only think about serving yourself. I will probably have to activate my license and pay MLS fees so I can find a rental.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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