Are you interested in becoming a real estate agent? Or maybe you’re already in the process of getting your real estate license. One of the most important decisions you will face is choosing a broker to align yourself with. Real estate agents are independent contractors, but state laws require that real estate agents work under licensed real estate brokers. Brokers can be affiliated with national agencies such as Century 21 and RE/MAX, or smaller agencies which cover local geographic areas within states. Some brokers can also be independent. Who you choose to align yourself with will make a difference to your future success as a real estate agent.
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You can start researching real estate agencies and brokers at any point on your path to becoming a licensed real estate agent, but you don’t need to make your final choice until you have your license in hand. “Waiting may actually put you in a better bargaining position with brokers,” says Alison Brown, a Century 21 REALTOR® in Massachusetts. Since many aspiring real estate agents have to take their state’s licensing exams more than once before they pass, having your license shows that you are sharp and have skills to bring to the table. Remember, you are generating income for the broker who gets a percentage of the commission on every home you sell. The broker is your partner, not your employer, and should offer you support in return so that you both benefit from the arrangement.
A good way to begin researching brokers is to drive through your local neighborhoods to see which real estate agency’s signs are posted on properties for sale. This will give you an idea of who the major players in your market are. Aligning yourself with the most active real estate agency can help you make contacts with seasoned agents that you can learn from as you develop your own business. You may even be able to help out busy agents by hosting their open houses for them. You won’t get paid for this, but you will meet potential clients, and real estate is all about networking.
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The one thing you shouldn’t expect from working at a busy office, however, is to score walk-in clients. According to Brown, “People rarely walk in to real estate offices anymore. They do their research on the internet instead.” Today’s clients are often tech-savvy shoppers who will come to you armed with information, so choosing a broker who can help you with websites and tech support might be an important consideration for you.
Once you are ready to commit to a broker, schedule meetings to see what each office has to offer you. Dress professionally and be prepared to ask questions. Remember, large agencies may have more resources available to support you as you grow your business, but smaller brokers may be more willing to negotiate your split. You must weigh all these factors together before making the best decision for you.
One scenario that Brown cautions new real estate agents to avoid is signing a non-compete contract with any broker. A non-compete would prevent you from working in the same market for a number of years after leaving a broker, and it is not considered standard. Successful agents are good negotiators, so be sure to meet with a number of brokers before you choose one, and start negotiating!