Updated: Jul 12
Real estate teams dominate the market. A few decades ago, when teams were a small 2-3 person organization, the landscape was very different. Teams use to grow very slowly and were primarily designed to serve the owner when they became overwhelmed with listings.
Todays teams are different. Most often they aren’t built to serve the owner but are built to combine efforts in pursuit of growth. Economies of scale, combined with the power of so many people all carrying one brand, can be extremely disruptive to smaller businesses. With larger teams being so focused on recruiting, it creates a landscape where agents are often asking themselves if they should join a team.
So, as an agent, why would someone join a team? If you join a team, what would you get? And, are real estate teams even a good deal?
If we are going to answer that question, the first thing we should understand is how teams work.
Why would someone join a team?
As long as the business of selling real estate has existed, realtors have experimented with different ways of doing the business. This has led to innovation in every part of the business, including team structures and the value they can bring.
My perspective is that value a team brings is almost always based on the key skillsets of the founder. The founder will have certain skills which brought them to be successful in their business as a solo agent. Typically these translate into their leadership style and are the basis for why people join them and the value they bring in return. Some agents are exceptional at generating leads, and agents join their team to get leads. Some are talented salespeople and teachers, and others join them to learn. Some agents are just great leaders and business people, and their team grows through their skill at finding and nurturing talent.
So why would someone join a team? Most often because the team fills a gap in their skillset. Behaviourally, you are a blend of characteristics which either help or hinder you in pursuit of what you want in your business. As an agent, you might have exceptional presentation skills but weaker lead generation skills. Perhaps you have the work ethic, but you need someone to help fine tune your sales skills, or maybe you need someone to motivate you and keep an eye on you so you don’t fall off on your commitments.
Ultimately, real estate is a lonely game. The opportunity to be part of something bigger and work along side talented people towards a larger goal is something that a lot of people gravitate towards. If the group you join also brings support you need to the table, it’s a compelling option.
If you join a team, what do you get?
Real estate teams essentially provide three things to their agents:
The most important thing a team provides is leadership. Many agents first consider teams because they want to have leads to work and they are struggling to get good ones on their own. I’m not saying that leads aren't part of the deal but the reality is that a truly great opportunity has less to do with something as immediate as leads. The big opportunity in real estate is to partner with someone who can not only show you how to sell real estate, but to develop yourself as a business person as well.
Remember that even on a team you are still a business owner. The way you manage your money, time and personal growth is a much larger opportunity than leads. Because real estate is such a challenging business to become successful in, the people who are highly successful have incredible perspective to share. Having the opportunity to learn from them is far more valuable than anything as immediate as leads.
Starting in real estate is like jumping off a cliff and starting to assemble your airplane on the way down. There is a lot to get done and very little time before the whole thing ends poorly.
Long before a successful team ever hires an agent, they should have taken the time to build an administrative team to support the founder of the business. There are many reasons for this which I’m not digging into here, but suffice to say that you should beware of joining a team that doesn’ have a strong team steering the ship behind the scenes.
The services which allowed the founder of the business to grow to the level which attracted you to them are the same ones you get to use in serving your clients. Don’t underestimate the time, money and challenge involved in finding the people and creating the systems to run a business. Getting to hop behind the wheel of a well tuned machine means you jump in and can focus on what you came here to actually do: sell real estate.
One of the long term plays in joining a team is to consider where you can grow to over the years you spend with them. Many teams have a few key players who receive the founders clients when they are unavailable or unable to help. What does the future look like for the owner? Real estate teams often fizzle into oblivion when the leader steps out, leaving a database of clients uncared for, which is a significant lost opportunity. Even in the short term, a growing team will often have players change seats in the lineup supporting the team as it grows: Stepping into agent mentoring, sales management or leading a new division like a specialized team are very common opportunities.
Hopefully, you plan to be in real estate for a long time. While you might be excited by the current challenges you face, you may want a different role in a decade or two. Contributing to leadership of the team, even if in only a small way, can be incredibly valuable experience down the road.
So, are real estate teams even a good deal?
There are a lot of reasons joining a team might be a great idea. That said, there are an equal number of stories of agents who were set back significantly by joining the WRONG team. Consider carefully what would help you to be the best version of yourself both personally and in your career.
Reasons joining a team is a great idea:
Teams can be an incredible income opportunity: They represent the opportunity to get a fast start into business and they cover most of the expenses so you run a very profitable business
Trying to do it yourself is hard: Creating the systems to run a business is challenging, and frankly some people are just bad at it. Selecting and leading people is even more challenging, learning how to motivate and lead people effectively is not for everyone. Joining a team brings you the value of the services people bring without you having to figure it all out.
Long term partnerships are rewarding: Working on a team creates a longer arc in the relationship you have with the people you are in business with. Real estate deals are transactional so sometimes they lack the long term fulfilment which comes from a more significant partnership. Getting to be part of something bigger than just yourself is one of the most rewarding parts.
Reasons joining a team might not be a good idea:
The wrong team can really set you back: Choosing a team should be a two way interview. If they don't bring a lot to the table, you are losing some of the most valuable asset you have: Your time. Working for a few years before realizing you are in the wrong place can seriously set back your career.
You need to write more deals: Almost invariably, the team model involves them covering the expenses up front and your commission being split between you and the team. Often this is a great deal but it definitely means you need to work more clients. On a good team, the amount of administrative work and marketing support should offset the additional time spent with clients.
You don’t get to do it all yourself: Some people really love doing everything themselves. They want to envision something and see it through to creation. If this is you, being part of a team might not scratch the itch you have and you may end up deciding to do it all on your own anyways.
At the end of the day, the ultimate decision comes down to your gut. Where will you be more fulfilled? Which will challenge and grow you more as an individual? Which excites you? What would be more fun?
Work hard and the money will follow. Ultimately, joining a team will either be the best or the worst decision that you make in your career. Don’t focus on being handed leads or clients, these things come and go. Ask yourself if you feel like the team is a fit with your values and vision for your life. Ask yourself if you are a cultural fit with the founder of the business and the people inside of it. Ask yourself if you want to be there in 5 years or 10 years. If the answer is no, you’re better off getting started where you’ll end up and just figuring it out. If it is yes, go for it and don’t look back!
As always, thanks for your time.