Real estate agent teams started over a decade ago, and they are stronger than ever. When done right, they can be a win-win-win for all parties. Clients are provided with immediate information, accessibility and service. Brokers see high-quality business growth. Agents are able to work in their areas of expertise, feel empowered by being part of a group and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“Teams are a way for agents to leverage each other’s skill sets and to assist each other to have a healthy work-life balance,” says Scott MacDonald, president of RE/MAX Gateway in Chantilly, Va.
MacDonald should know. Among his 200 agents in five offices, only 53 work as individuals. That leaves the majority of his brokers paired off in all kinds of teams—everything from husband and wife duos to mega teams of more than 10 people. Whatever the structure, teams are typically headed by a team leader, usually the agent with the most seniority in terms of sales and clients.
For top agents, recruiting and growing a team is part of an impactful growth plan for successful agents, says Tracy Hutton, president of Century 21 Scheetz, which has six offices and 330 agents in Indiana.
One benefit is that the team structure supports every member.
“We found that teams are a really fantastic way for younger agents to learn and a good way for successful agents with a lot of business to get some help,” says Thaddeus Wong, co-founder of @properties, the largest independently owned residential real estate brokerage firm in Illinois and one of the 25 largest brokerage firms in the U.S. by sales volume.
Many teams also offer a safe space for people to develop new skills. For example, younger and newer agents often feel comfortable working on generating leads as part of a team, knowing that the lion’s share of the business development falls upon the team leader.
The rise of agent teams directly reflects a changing real estate landscape, one in which instant communication is not just the norm, but the expectation.
“Brokers today have to work much harder than they did 10 years ago, so a broker doing the same amount of volume needs a lot more help,” explains Wong. In the ’90s, for example, no one was expected to answer every question or to respond immediately to any and every query, but in today’s technological age, brokers are expected to provide instantaneous feedback and to be on call 24/7.
This is where teams can come to the rescue. Having more than one person on board means tasks can be broken down according to people’s skill sets. Some agents can work on everything from marketing to scheduling, while others, often the leaders, are out interacting with the clients. One of RE/MAX Gateway’s teams in Chantilly, for example, has one person devoted solely to handling all the leads generated online.
Supporting the Team
Another challenge is a frequent disconnect between what the team leaders are looking for and how the brokerage supports its teams, says Hutton. “Team leaders need to hire right, train and develop their people. They need to build a sustainable business model.” Hutton explains that this is where the brokerage plays an important role—helping team leaders develop their business plan and providing support as they hire, train and develop team members.
In fact, a concern shared by many brokers is that successful teams may leave the brokerage, taking with them a great deal of production. “We support teams to operate their business within our policies. We don’t put stumbling blocks in the way of their growth. If the team leaves us, we have dropped the ball somewhere,” says Rei Mesa, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty, which has 1,600 agents in Florida.
According to Mesa, his company asks every team to have a formal written agreement between team members to clarify expectations (i.e., who will do what?). Along with that agreement, Mesa asks teams to have a dissolution agreement in case things don’t work out (i.e., what happens to listings, pending deals, etc.?).
“When things go badly, the broker often gets caught in the middle and has to make decisions,” says Mesa. “Having formal agreements helps us provide guidance.”
Teaming (or Not) for Success
Agent teams aren’t foolproof.
“If it is not done properly, it can be a big problem,” says MacDonald. The challenges can ripple out to frustrated clients and disgruntled agents.