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This June, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — we’re going to go deep on what it takes to grow your team amid this intense seller’s market. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.
For many real estate professionals, the choice of operating as an independent agent or operating as part of a team can involve a host of considerations, including commission splits, individual control, loss of identity that individuals may fear as a team member.
However, according to Renee Funk, co-founder of Windermere, Florida’s The Funk Collection brokered by eXp Realty, real estate teams are no longer one-size-fits-all.
The Funk Collection’s 10 team members maintain relationships and leverage the brand while solidifying their professional reputations as individuals, Funk said. Her hybrid-model team offers solutions that “allow team members to build their own businesses while offering a pipeline that they can use to build their position in their community.”
Whether you’re considering a role on an existing team or wondering whether it’s time to start one of your own, we’re here to provide you with some possible models and their pros and cons.
It’s difficult to put a label on most teams today, as so many have become a hybrid; however, this should give you an idea of what team life might look like.
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- Team leader
- Lead team
- Expansion teams
Mentor-mentee teams are designed to help newer agents or agents who are switching to a new market or niche to build their skills and reputation under the guidance and supervision of a team lead.
In return, the team lead earns a percentage of the mentee’s commission during the time that he or she is affiliated with the team.
The goal in a mentor-mentee model is for mentees to develop their own sphere of influence and gain the ability to operate independently.
Turnover is not a bug in this model, it’s a feature and is an expected part of each agent’s progression.
For brokerages with a strong focus on downlines and recruitment such as Keller Williams, EXIT and eXp, the mentor-mentee relationship offers the opportunity to bring in newer agents and help them to develop their own downlines over time, providing another potential revenue source to the mentor.
Unlike some other models, the mentor-mentee team does not provide services or leads to team members. Instead, the mentor teaches lead generation strategies and habits that lead to success. This makes it a low-cost model for team-building if the mentor has a proven track record of successful lead generation strategies.
This model can work well not just for newer agents but for those who are transitioning to a new type of real estate service, especially one that is highly specialized. In addition, it may offer struggling agents the opportunity to work on their skills and develop new models for success.
The team leader model focuses on a single top-producing agent in the market who becomes a vector for lead generation, operational management and development of the team members they recruit.
Ultimately, the team leader is responsible for generating leads and ensuring that the team is working together seamlessly to provide superior client services and to build brand awareness throughout the market they serve.
For team members, one advantage of this model is the ability to obtain leads and operational support, such as transaction coordination and marketing management.
One disadvantage, however, is that the team member is promoting the leader’s brand, rather than an individual brand.
Turnover might be lower with this model because team members are not getting their names out into the local market. In addition, because all leads belong to the team, agents generally are not able to leave with a book of past clients to draw on as the foundation of a career as an independent agent.
Because everything that happens in this team model reflects on the team leader, consistent client service is a top priority.
“Last year when the pandemic started, we had 60 agents, and a year later, we have over 400. That’s in one year. This year we’re on pace for over 4,000 transactions. We operate 100 percent as a team model where the company delivers a consistent experience every single time,” said Kris Lindahl, founder of Minnesota’s Kris Lindahl Real Estate.
“We’ve created a streamlined process that’s consistent for our consumers. A lot of real estate companies claim to be a team, but to work as a team is very difficult. What we’re looking for is a consistent, world-class experience for the consumer.”
Funk agreed, emphasizing that working with a team offers huge benefits to both the customer and the agent.
“As an agent, you have to wear an incredible number of hats to accomplish great service,” she said. “With a team, there are specialized departments for each stage of the transaction and the relationship — lead nurturing, transaction concierge and post-closing.”
Funk finds that post-closing is particularly important “so that agents don’t have to stay on the hamster wheel of finding the next client.” Her hybrid-model brokerage helps agents stay in touch after the sale. “Because retention is critical. Acquisition is challenging and expensive,” she said.
Because client service is so essential to the reputation of the team, operational management and support is a big part of this model. In addition, marketing comes from the top down and is provided to team members so that it is consistent and effective.
In exchange for this level of support, team members generally have strict productivity goals that are evaluated on a consistent basis. In addition, they should be bringing in some of their own leads through referrals and networking, especially after their first year.
According to Lindahl, the greater marketing reach that team leaders enjoy can make them particularly sought after during times of market uncertainty or instability. And that may allow them to better weather the ups and downs of the real estate market.
“People go to who they trust,” Lindahl said. “In a time when everything’s transacting, you see homeowners reaching out to someone they know. When times get tough, they reach out to someone they trust who can get it done.”
The lead team model relies on a high volume business based on advertising designed to bring in consistently large numbers of leads. Teams in this model are divided into inside and outside sales.
The inside sales team is responsible for lead nurturing and pre-qualification, while outside sales agents are responsible for showings, negotiations and contracts.
Although the lead team model is more expensive, if it is running well, it’s also the easiest to scale into new markets. Because the cost associated with this type of model is so high, the expectations for members are equally lofty. Team members may have daily and weekly productivity goals that they are responsible for meeting.
Generally, the team will cover basic expenses for the individual agent. In return, compensation may be lower, with inside sales agents paid hourly and through a bonus structure and outside sales agents paid a flat fee or a reduced split. This can be a good model for agents who are just starting out and who are willing to trade high energy for consistent lead-generation volume.
Like the team leader model, leads remain the property of the team after an individual agent leaves. However, because of the higher volume, it might be difficult to keep track of whether or not former team members are marketing to your leads.
One of the drawbacks of the lead team model is the inconsistency of some online platforms. Because the team’s success is dependent on the success of lead generating portals, any changes in cost, conversion or effectiveness can have a significant impact on the team’s bottom line.
The teamerage model might operate as a small boutique brokerage within a brokerage. There you’ll find agents working together with a common brand and a common team culture but without the expense and risk of brokerage ownership.
In addition, the teamerage model provides individual agents with the opportunity to promote their own business with the support of the team’s operational resources and support.
Ryan Rodenbeck, broker-owner of Austin’s Spyglass Realty, views his team as a hybrid that is part team, part brokerage. He sees this as a particularly good fit for the current real estate climate.
“The problem with teams is that when agents start doing their own deals consistently, there’s usually not a place for them to ‘graduate.’ With a brokerage model, there are not opportunities for agents to dip into lead opportunities,” he said.
With a hybrid model, Spyglass helps agents build their pipeline with their leads program, and “when it’s full, they become top-producing solo agents who don’t require much maintenance,” he said.
In a teamerage, marketing may also be a hybrid between common marketing endeavors and individual agents marketing to their SOI.
“We have a social media strategist that comes in each month and coaches proper social media techniques,” Rodenbeck said. “We also deploy a monthly newsletter for each of our agents.”
Rodenbeck believes SOI marketing should be done both by the agent and by the organization. “We provide automated SOI outreach but also believe in coaching agents on how to do it effectively themselves,” he said.
In terms of cash flow, the teamerage might offer more flexibility than a brokerage. Rodenbeck’s brokerage doesn’t have commission caps, which allows Spyglass to operate and employ better technology because it’s not limited by the thin margins that other brokerages are.
“The reason that teams typically have better systems is that they are operating on higher margins and can invest those back in the organization,” he said.
According to Funk, teams are evolving just as the industry evolves. “Teams should not be stifling. They should be a place where agents can accelerate their growth, plug in, and say ‘Hop on. Let’s go.’”
“It’s about building the individual so that the unit grows together. We’re all elevated because we’re all headed in the same direction.”
In a “New Normal” piece that posits that teams are the future of the brokerage, Russ Cofano, president and COO of NexTile, calls “interjurisdictional teams” the current growing trend.
As Adam Hergenrother, Inman contributor and leader of 35 teams in 22 states under the Keller Williams banner, says, they are akin to expansion teams.
“They are real estate teams without borders, though usually they’re still tied to one brokerage,” he wrote in a piece on Inman.
“They operate much like a traditional real estate team, focused on sales and customers, they just happen to operate with agents in multiple markets or even multiple states. Their suite of services usually center around increasing real estate sales and creating a more streamlined process for their clients.”
Hergenrother singles out a new more all-encompassing team trend that he calls a real estate platform. Think: “Expansion teams that have moved beyond the real estate transaction to offer a suite of services for both agents and clients, often through new business divisions or complementary companies.”
Likening his model to Redfin and Place, Hergenrother believes these platforms are the “next level of expansion teams.”
Hergenrother added in an interview with Inman, “In addition to systems and support, we also have human resources, a board of directors, health care for agents and employees, affiliated companies that are value-adds to our clients, technology, a nutritionist on staff, and employee profit-sharing pool systems.”
Find out more on what platforms are offering and the upsides and downsides of joining one here.
Finding ways to provide clients with world-class customer service is no doubt the new normal for teams. Panelists at June’s Inman Connect echoed the need to strive beyond the typical offerings of real estate teams to provide best-in-class service as well as to scale to achieve this.
To the point that it’s difficult to put most teams into just one of these four buckets, we’re seeing more and more hybrid teams who are growing and bolting on the pieces of the business that they need to offer their clients top-notch service. As teams continue to evolve, we’ll be here for it.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.