A major key to success in real estate—besides implementing lucrative professional skills and strategies—is choosing the best real estate broker to work for or affiliate with. Making this decision takes time and research. But it is one of the most important choices you’ll make at the advent of your real estate career.
Find a broker who shares your work ethic, professionalism, and approach to the business. This will result in a comfortable and compatible work environment, whether you stay with that broker for life or eventually branch out on your own. If you jump at the first broker who offers you a place to hang your license, you risk just the opposite.
Because the market is consistently wide open for new licensees, you will not have to search long for a compatible broker or firm. Assume the roles of “researcher” and “interviewer” to find the best real estate broker to work for and discover your ideal professional home.
Find a local broker or company
Just as consumers shop around for the best property, you should do the same when pursuing the best real estate broker to work for. Examine and evaluate the brokerage firm’s:
- Interior and exterior amenities
- Advertising and other marketing efforts
- Qualifying broker
As you explore each aspect of the brokerage, jot down your thoughts and impressions. These notes will help you weigh the pros and cons of each firm you evaluate and, ultimately, make a final decision.
Interior and exterior amenities
Although you cannot always judge a book by its cover, you should not disregard the first impression created by the physical exterior and interior of each real estate brokerage firm. If the aesthetics and atmosphere of a facility do not attract you or make you feel comfortable, it is likely that consumers will feel the same way.
Outside, inspect the firm’s signs, entrances, parking options, and overall appearance. Also consider the location and neighborhood. What is the size of the firm? There are advantages and disadvantages to affiliating with small one-man shops, large establishments, and every size in between.
Inside, examine the level of cleanliness and arrangement of work spaces and offices. Is the foyer welcoming, uncluttered, and comfortable? Are there easily accessible private or semi-private areas in which to discuss customer needs and/or explain and sign contracts? What is the noise level like? Are you greeted immediately upon walking in the door? Imagine you are a consumer walking in for the first time; if nobody takes the time to greet you, imagine how potential clients will be treated.
Advertising and marketing efforts
Check out the way the brokerage promotes itself around town through real estate publications, local newspapers, billboards, and even radio and television spots. This will give you a preliminary glimpse into the:
- Broker’s professional policies
- Firm’s reputation
- Company’s ability and efforts to attract quality clientele
- Nature of your fellow real estate salespersons when they are feature
The real estate company’s online presence is also significant. Websites provide you with more in-depth information about the brokerage, including its history, professional affiliations, mission statement, awards, sponsorships, and staff. In addition to examining the information available, you’ll also want to determine if the site is user-friendly. A well-organized site with an appealing design will attract the public. Listings with current data, quality photos, and an option for virtual tours will keep them there. More importantly, the best real estate websites encourage consumers to contact the firm and establish business relationships with its licensees, including you if you decide to affiliate with them.
If you have an overall positive impression of the company’s location, office building, marketing efforts, and website, you should also schedule an interview with the qualifying broker before making a final decision. A one-on-one interview will allow you to:
- Get to know the professional you may one day work under
- Evaluate the broker’s work ethic, business approach, and professionalism to see how compatible they are with yours
- Obtain responses to any unanswered questions you have about the company
- Establish rapport with a fellow real estate licensee, even if you do not choose his or her brokerage
Evaluate a real estate brokerage
Note-taking is especially important when interviewing the broker. Either from the handouts the broker provides you, or from your conversation, determine the answers to these questions:
- What is the company’s market share and affiliate income range?
- What are the office policies and code of ethics? Are they fair and easy to understand?
- Will you be a regular employee or an independent contractor?
- What do the initiation and training programs consist of?
- Is there any cost involved?
- How will you be compensated (commission split, salary, retainer fees, bonuses, etc.)?
- What additional benefits are provided, if any?
- What is the firm’s errors and omissions insurance policy?
- What are the broker/company’s professional affiliations in terms of local boards, multiple listing services, and real estate organizations?
- What resources will you be provided to perform your duties?
- Which of those resources must you pay for?
- What other professional activities is the firm involved in, such as construction, property appraisal, and managing rentals?
- What are the firm’s policies on part-time work and relocation?
Choose the best real estate broker to work for
Let’s examine a few of the more significant questions in-depth. Your discoveries will be the key to determining the best real estate broker to work for and deciding on your professional home.
What is the company’s market share and affiliate income range?
You may be uneasy about asking for such financial information upfront. But it is imperative that you know how your potential broker and staff perform against the competition. Ethical brokers will not disclose specific names and annual compensation amounts. However, it is perfectly reasonable for you to request a general income range and the firm’s market share percentage, which fiscally responsible businesses keep on file.
Will you be a regular employee or an independent contractor?
Real estate salespersons and associate brokers can affiliate with a broker as either an employee or independent contractor, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service Code. There are pros and cons to each.
Employees usually receive regular salaries, share the Medicare/Social Security tax burden with their employers, and are provided benefits—such as health insurance and perhaps stock options and retirement funds. However, their employers have more direct control of how, when, and where these affiliates perform their professional duties.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, ninety percent of licensees are independent contractors. Brokers prefer to hire independent contractors because compensation and tax requirements are simpler, and because they save money on benefits. Although contractors are fully responsible for their income taxes and receive no benefits, they are able to claim business deductions that regular employees cannot. There is also increased flexibility regarding the “when” and “where” aspects of their professional tasks. For example, floor duty is required of employees, but is technically an option for independent contractors.
Despite this flexibility, affiliates in this role are not their own bosses. Under state license law, qualifying brokers are still directly liable for the actions of their salespersons, branch managers, and associate brokers.
How will you be compensated?
This question is directly related to how you affiliate with your qualifying broker. Usually, employees receive regular weekly, biweekly, or monthly salary checks, while independent contractors are paid through commission splits whenever they close a real estate transaction. All brokers have distinct policies on how commissions will be divided between the broker and participating affiliate. Ask for a copy of this policy during your interview. If the figures seem lower than other brokers, keep in mind that:
- This split may increase in your favor as you advance and become more successful.
- The broker may pay for a larger share of your affiliate expenses and supplies.
- You may benefit from incentive and bonus pay based on your performance. Retainer fees—funds paid to licensees to secure (or retain) their real estate services in advance—are another, less common option.
What do initiation and training programs consist of?
Knowing how brokers recruit, initiate, and train their licensed salespeople is also important. For example, do they hire more affiliates than they need, rush their training, and throw them into the marketplace with a “survival of the fittest” mentality? Or is their approach more professional? Marks of a good initiation and training curriculum include:
- Partnering you with a mentor licensee
- Giving you adequate access to the broker in case questions or sticky situations arise
- Providing training sessions designed to help new licensees succeed
What resources will you receive to perform your professional duties?
Find out what tools the broker will provide. Do you merely get a shared work space and phone? Or are you also provided your own desk and administrative support? Some brokers offer different levels of work space, from a shared desk to a private office, for different licensees. This may depend on such factors as annual sales, seniority, and license type (salesperson or broker). Are these and other resources spelled out in the office policy manual? If so, ask for a copy of it.
If you are an independent contractor, expect to pay for all or most of your office expenses. This includes desk/cubicle/office rental, individual publicity, postage costs, long distance phone charges, and more.
What are the broker’s affiliations?
The firm’s current memberships and affiliations affect its professional reputation and standing, and therefore yours if you choose to join the team. The majority of brokers are part of a local real estate board and multiple listing service (MLS). An MLS is a cooperative effort between brokers in a specific geographic region who combine their listings for mutual financial and marketing benefits. The MLS allows them to expand their presence and sphere of influence throughout their area.
It is also a point in the broker’s favor if he or she belongs to a professional real estate organization, such as the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) or the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, Inc. NAR, for example, boasts nearly 1.1 billion members and is renowned for its high professional and ethical standards.
What is the firm’s errors and omissions insurance policy?
Does the real estate firm carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance? Although most states require this liability protection, some companies still do not have it. In some states, licensees who work as independent contractors are required to obtain and pay for their own E&O insurance policies.
Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance protects real estate firms, escrow businesses, and their staff members from liability in cases of negligence or incidents in which errors are made in spite of all effort to act in a legal, ethical, and appropriate manner. E&O insurance does not cover fraudulent acts, and most policies also exclude transactions involving property owned personally by licensees or the company. However, it does cover honest mistakes that may be made in the course of day-to-day business.
The answers to these questions will help you choose the best real estate broker to work for as you begin your new and exciting career in real estate. Remember to shop around and carefully weigh the pros and cons of each real estate brokerage firm you interview. This will help ensure that you select the professional home that is truly the best fit for your needs and goals.
Free Worksheet: Real Estate Broker Comparison Chart
Download our free broker comparison worksheet for a simple way to take notes as you weigh the pros and cons of each real estate broker you explore.