Are Big Corporations or Teams Driving the Future of Real Estate?

By Jonathan Moerbe, CEO and Master Coach, Rialto Academy

Real estate teams are growing

Every day in Inman News, Realtor Magazine, Notorious R.O.B., and your favorite real estate blogs, there’s another story about big corporations battling like monsters in  the movie “Pacific Rim.” They’re fighting over prestige and influence, but often the battle centers on technology. For example, this week Realogy announced Agent X, their competitor for Keller Williams’ Kelle, stating: “Realogy is not about to let other real estate brokerages claim technological supremacy—at least not without a fight.”

Are corporations fighting to grow the industry — or just fighting?

They throw out announcement after announcement about being the future of real estate, and about being “No. 1” in this or that. Meanwhile, humming in the background, real estate teams have been growing immensely in production and influence. Why?

More and more, teams are driving production and controlling their own future with team branding, private learning platforms like Your Agent University, and unique value and recruiting propositions.  There is high-level corporate awareness that teams are beginning to drive more production income than corporations. In fact, team movement from corporation to corporation makes headlines nearly every week.

There is high-level corporate awareness that teams are beginning to drive more production income than corporations.
In fact, team movement from corporation to corporation makes headlines nearly every week.

Closings by the top 250 teams grew robustly from 61,000 in 2011 to 133,000 in 2017—a 115% increase and a continuing trend. This is in comparison to a mere 13% growth in transactions for the top 250 agents in the same time period—45,000 to 51,000, according to Russ Cofano’s analysis of REAL Trends numbers.

There’s also a constant tension between brokers and their top agents. As top agents grow their business, they add to their team—growing their administration, marketing, and prospecting systems. Some develop their own technology, or at least their own curated list of outside tech. They start to develop their own culture and even their own training. Corporations love the production of the teams, yet worry they’re going to outgrow what the corporation can provide.

The result? At some point, team leads do the math on what they’re paying and what they’re getting, and the value proposition starts getting fuzzy. Independence—or at least a better split—starts to look more appealing. And yes, the corporations are ready to wheel-and-deal with team splits for powerful teams.

Big brands aren’t blind to this, and they’ve made efforts to keep teams happy—or at least keep them contained. Keller Williams launched its expansion program to give top teams a greater runway of success and help delay the ceiling that some agents hit. Real estate giant eXp offers revenue shares as an additional retention tool. And some brokerages try and control lead flow or make a transition difficult—the “carrot and stick” approach to retaining teams.

At Rialto Academy, we’re a big fan of teams. We help to brand them, give them an independent learning platform to grow their agents, and support their unique recruiting values.

We love that teams are essentially classic small businesses. Each team is led by an entrepreneur (or two) and has to struggle through the classic dilemmas facing all small businesses: What’s our identity? What makes us different and unique, and how will that help us prospect? How should we grow, and when do we add more help?

As you’re growing a strong team—whether it’s within a brokerage or on a path to your own thing—there are several rules to live by as you’re building your foundation.

Rule #1: Set Expectations and Train to Them

There’s an old leadership saying that goes, “If there is a mist in your mind, there will be a fog in your organization.” If you’re expecting people to provide clarity for themselves, or clarity for you, that’s setting yourself up for disappointment. We work with some agents who are on their fifth “first assistant,” and helping them right that ship starts with clearly laying out job duties and performance expectations.

People are joining your team for the chance to connect to your systems and structure. They need the chance to know what success looks like, and then obtain a roadmap to that success.

Rule #2: Develop a Culture of Opportunity

It’s not enough to raise the floor—you have to raise the ceiling of your organization. You’re the snowplow, clearing the way for others to flourish, excel, and maybe even pass you by. By developing paths that people can follow, you’ll have happier people—and leaders when you need them.

Rule #3: Highlight and Lean into Your Unique Value Proposition

Brand-level recruiting can often be messy, petty, and political. For a team, recruiting can also share these characteristics—but it doesn’t have to. At the team level, you can focus on what helps you serve clients best. What makes your team different? What makes it worth it for someone to join? Your unique value proposition (UVP) is central to your growth and the growth of your team members. By turning yourself into a launchpad for agents of all levels, you can give them something to identify with that’s real, tangible, and affects the bottom line of their future.

How We Can Help

At Rialto, we offer a suite of services to help teams grow. One of our favorite team products is Your Agent University—a custom digital learning platform that leverages your branding and our content to help get agents into production quickly. Whether you need coaching for all levels of your team or a flagship course to carry your unique voice and message out into the world, Rialto is here to support your team aspirations. Get noticed and get respected, one new agent a time. Find out more here.