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RISMEDIA, October 27, 2009—It’s amazing how much can change in just two short years. Two years ago I wrote an article titled “Is the End in Sight for Brick and Mortar?”

I just went back and read the article and it was like reading ancient history. The pace at which technology is changing this industry is awe inspiring. In those two years, even the term virtual culture has gone from being a negative term to being regarded as cutting-edge. Now, among the top professionals in the industry, the term brick and mortar is becoming the negative term.

Not only do 80% of the Realtors not see any benefit to an office environment, but many of today’s Realtors believe that a Realtor who works out of a brick and mortar environment is contributing to the pollution of our planet. This war chant will only increase in intensity in the years ahead, with the continuing green movement.

The 20% of the Realtors who still need or want an office environment are the old timers for the most part. We grew up with getting up, putting on a tie and going to the office and putting in an 8 hour day. With the younger culture, that’s old fashion, we might as well be driving a horse and buggy to work. And it gets even worse for the broker who is tied to a brick and mortar environment. More often than not, he or she has a long term, very expensive lease, plus the costs of telephone systems, copiers, toner, long distance calling, utilities, etc. Realtors working in this setting are independent contractors and while they appreciate having that status, they don’t care to share their commission with the broker. As time goes on, it’s becoming even scarier for the broker of the brick and mortar environment. The “100% Genie” has escaped his bottle permanently. We all see 100% real estate brokerages opening on every street corner in America, every day of the week now. What is a broker of a brick and mortar office going to do, when even brand new Realtors straight out of school can now get 100% of their commission?

In my wildest dreams I did not imagine the demise of the brick and mortar environment as fast as I believe we will see it take place. The brick and mortar brokers who have leases expiring should let them expire, and then start their own 100% company, or associate with a current virtual national company like ours. What I’m finding very curious, however, is the fact that many of these 100% models are still tied to brick and mortar environments. I know from operating a true virtual culture real estate brokerage for two years now that the majority of Realtors don’t care about working in an office environment. It’s not like it was just a few short years ago. What Realtor in today’s world doesn’t have a home computer, scanner, and copier and probably better equipment than most brick and mortar environments?

The need for a brick and mortar environment has by and large disappeared. The productive Realtors no longer have to go to the office to do their work. If I may, I’d like to offer up a solution that may turn out to be a win-win-win. A win for our company, a win for all the brokers out there that are struggling with losing Realtors to the 100% business model and a win for the Realtor.

You have to look at our business model as an annuity. We don’t share in the Realtors’ commission. We only collect a small fee for the Realtor to belong to our company and then the Realtor keeps 100% of their commission. Therefore, our profit comes from the number of Realtors we have paying that small fee. With that said, to every broker out there in this country, I’m going to make this offer. Every time you face the prospect of losing a Realtor to a 100% company, send them to Allison James Estates and Homes, and we will pay you 20% of our gross on that Realtor for as long as that Realtor remains with Allison James Estates and Homes. That way you will be creating an annuity for yourself every time you lose a Realtor, rather than the old way of doing business and just losing all the income from that Realtor when they leave you. We will also extend our referral fees to the broker for every Realtor that joins us, and those referral fees are quite attractive.

James A. Crumbaugh III is CEO of Allison James Estates and Homes and can be reached at jcrumbaugh@allisonjames.net.