RTRE 51 – What do Real Estate Agents Want?

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There are so many different needs that individual real estate agents have for their business. Many agents need detailed support and guidance in building and operating their business. Others need a framework that they can operate their business within that will lead to greater predictability in their income. Each agent is different within the real estate space and Brokers should understand how they can tailor their model to match different needs of agents.

What do agents want from their broker?

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Real Estate Podcast Transcription

Audio length 29:39

RTRE 51 – What Do Real Estate Agents Want?

[music] [Chris] Welcome to re:Think Real Estate, your educational and hopefully entertaining source for all things real estate, business, news and tech. 

[Christian]: I am Christian Harris in Seattle, Washington.

[Nathan]: Hi, I am Nathan White in Columbus, Ohio.

[Chris]: And I am Chris Lazarus in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks for tuning in. 

[music] [Chris]: Everybody and welcome back to re:Think Real Estate. I am Chris Lazarus here with Christian Harris and Nathan White and we’re so glad to have you along for the next 30 minutes. Guys what is going on?

[Christian]: Just trying to stay warm. It’s snowing again in 2019 in Seattle. It’s actually pretty bad so it’s like adages of snow and lots of hill lots of nice…

[Nathan]: Yeah I guess…It’s tougher for you guys in Seattle with your skinny jeans that come up past your ankles and getting wet and you not knowing what to do.

[Chris]: It was hard tracking to the local coffee shop this morning right?

[Christian]: Yeah. I am a steady guy in the eye. [laughter].

[Nathan]: My Fedora blue is off in the heavy snow and I didn’t know what to do.

[Christian]: I got my flannel and my…down.

[Chris]: I don’t know if I can make it to the grocery store for more almond milk. 

[Christian]: You can come here and try to drive down in the 18% grade in the ice and see how you do.

[Nathan]: When I went to pick a granola for the day care it was really challenging. [crossover talking] [Christian]: It must have been really nice living in the woods and having…

[Nathan]: It was a great episode. Guys I gotta go [laughter]. 

[Christian]: That’s a little [inaudible] I get it.

[Chris]: Thanks for tuning in to re:Think Real Estate. We’ll catch you…No I am just kidding. So no what are we talking about this week Christian?

[Christian]: Let’s talk about what agents want or what we think agents want. Or what agents think they want but then they find out they don’t really want that.

[Nathan]: This is great since I am an agent and I can’t wait to think what 2 brokers think we want or at leats…[laughter].

[Christian]: Well we’re also agents. I mean technically we’re brokers in Washington but…you know I know there’s things that I want which is why I set up my brokerage the way I did. But then you also have the…

In my experience you kind of have like what agents say they want, what they think they want and then you actually find out what they want. Because you provide them all the things they say they want and they don’t use them. Or they still go somewhere else because they’re lured by something else sexy and shiny. And then realize the grass isn’t actually greener. So I think it’s actually interesting conversation to have. What do you guys think?

[Chris]: Well I think that you know…for that is gonna depend on where the agent is in their career. 

[Christian]: Correct and what they want.

[Chris]: You’re got all new agents. You’ve got all different types of brokerages. You know your new agent is gonna need a lot more than your experienced agent so where do you want to start first?

[Christian]: Yeah I mean yeah I would say there is probably you know on the spectrum 3 major groups of agents I would say. There’s the agent who doesn’t need the help, doesn’t want the help, just wants a low fee, low cost structure to do their own thing. 

[Chris]: OK.

[Christian]: That’s fine that’s gonna be like Nathan, you know, what you’re doing. You know you started at KW you got your feet under you and kind of went out to do your own thing. You know, after you figured it out. 

And I think there is the bulk of agents which is kind of in the middle of. They want some support of some sort whether that’s access to the broker for questions or marketing or CRM or systems or something. They’re gonna want some sort of support and they’re willing to pay up a higher split for that. 

And I guess you could say maybe like Redfin or something is kind of the other, I don’t know if I would say other end of the extreme, where it’s employee based. It’s not independent contractor based you know. So you’re got no anonymity because you’re not an independent contractor. You’re playing your part in the cog as a cog and a corporation.

[Chris]: I think…I think those are on the grand scheme of things. Because most offices don’t operate on employee bases. I think we can probably categories those like team members. Those that don’t want to build their own business, just want leads provided to them, go out close to sale, be a sales agent. 

[Christian]: there you go so their value that they’re looking for is being part of a team. 

[Chris]: OK.

[Christian]: Yep.

[Chris]: Well let’s start with the…with the bulk of the agent. What do you think most agents want in a brokerage Christian? I am putting you in the hot seat first.

[Christian]: Yeah that…It’s…As I figured out or trying to figure out this independent brokerage thing you know and discovered things as you know agents have come and gone…I think what they want or what they realize that they want or need…I don’t know. You cut that out [laughter]. 

I think what agents come to value is some sort of system in the organization because they realize very quickly that most of them are not organized. And so they’re gonna have that provided to them without them having to figure out technology and CRM and that kind of stuff. But I think it’s something that a lot of agents have to discover. It’s probably not something that they value up front. 

You know they have to discover “OK I am getting business and I am bringing it with my head cut off you know and I cannot really handle so much because I am scattered, you know.” I mean that’s…That was kind of my idea. I mean that’s what I saw was agents want to be in front of people. There’s not necessarily systems, processes organized. You know, that kind of stuff. So the whole idea is you come here, we provide that so you can go out and be in front of people and not have to worry about thinking you know the back end stuff.

[Chris]: So basically all the behind the scenes taken care of so they can focus on selling.

[Christian]: Yes and no. Actually I think it’s not initially valued until they realize that they’re not good at it. And they need it. So…It’s not sexy so…but I think some things are sexy, they’re a little more obvious. Would be like marketing. Like you know are there options for me to have a listing that I don’t have to create from scratch. You know. 

Whether that’s internal marketing team or some sort of template platform. You know that they provide it for you. Or social media post of something. Something that makes it easy to get in front of potential clients or you know marketing stuff for your…for your buyers, for your sellers. That sort of thing. 

I think a big one which is…seems pretty universal is access to the broker when they have questions. You know so…because I have had people come here say “I can’t…it takes 3 days for my broker to get back to me”. You know and I am like “That’s kind of ridiculous you know, you have one job as a broker. You know”. Technically I mean that’s kind of the big thing it’s like supporting the agents when they have legal questions. Contract questions [laughter]. You know if you’re not doing that what the hell are you doing? You know. 

[Chris]: Nate what do you think?

[Nathan]: There’s is many things here. Like you know me. I am the bear bonds. I don’t moat, I don’t need all the fluff. You know…

[Christian]: Oh fluff huh?

[Nathan]: You know what I mean with it [laughter].

[Christian]: I know what you’re saying.

[Nathan]: But you talk about like we go back to this you know agents being so busy, right. So you know an agent says “Well I need all this, right…Or…”. But than they don’t actually use it. And so I…I…like I was in that box. Like I had all the stuff but I didn’t use it. So why am I paying for it. So…

[Christian]: Sure.

[Nathan]: There are so many different directions you can go. You’re right on the types of people I think that the sharks like myself that you know or hunter killers, whatever you wanna call us that you know we’re happy going out and hunting and eating what we kill and that’s…We really enjoy that. 

And then there’s that middle of the pack you know I call it your dad bought group, right. You know they’re just happy standing in lane [laughter] and not doing anything. And that belly is gonna appear and they’re not gonna be much about it. They’re comfortable. That’s what we are as a society. Were a [censored] comfortable. So they’re not gonna challenge anything at all right. They’re just gonna say “Yeah I don’t mind giving out 60-40 split. I am good I am getting my CRM that I am not using.” All this [censored] that they’re not really using but they’re telling themselves they’re happy. What they are they’re just comfortable and they’re not truly uncomfortable and I think to be a hunter killer or shark you’ve gotta be comfortable being uncomfortable. 

And then you’ve got that far end of the spectrum of that person who’s got really no ambition to me or they just…they don’t know what the [censored] they’re doing and they’re on that employee you know plan. So go for it. You know that’s happy. And that’s fine. I…I love the middle of the road pack. There’s you know they’re great and they do a great job and people have different circumstances right. And I don’t want to feel like I am bashing that middle of the road pack. Why? If you’re a mum or a father, a single parent whatever it may be, you may need all those things to support you. Maybe you can’t get out and you know be the hunter killer that you really want to be. Which I would challenge and say you could. But maybe that is just what works for you at this given time. 

So you know I could…Again I could talk about a lot of different things. When I started I wanted leads. I wanted leads and I wanted to know how to talk to them. Converse to them. And become more educated and knowledgeable. That’s what I wanted. So than once you get past that phase I think than there’s the evolution. You kind of have that fork on the road to go down this path and you stay there. 

And then you’re just happy in your zone and you go “Well I wanna go this way”. And you go the opposite direction. So I think it depends on the type of individual or personality you are and I think it depends on where you are in your career. I mean hack, I might get to the later stages of this and go “Man I am good you know what”. And join a team and get comfortable and take a 60-40 split and be happy, right. I don’t know. 

[Christian]: Yeah I mean I’ll push back a little bit on the characterization of the middle. Because to me it’s such a broad…I think most agents would wall into that as far as agents are gonna line in franchise or whatever. 

There is a good size group of them that are comfortable that aren’t doing anything, that don’t have a sense of urgency. You know I would say that’s probably the same group that you know brings industry down as far as you know ill trained, ill experienced. Those are always gonna be there you know until we radically change, you know, where the bar is in the industry. Training or something. You know. 

But I would say that I think there is a mischaracterization just because you’re kind of in that middle, that you’re not hungry. It doesn’t mean it. Yeah I know plenty of agents who are killing it because they’re hungry and because they’re using…Because they’re organized or you know have a team or whatever you know. I think you can be successful kind of doing that alone like you know not having a CRM or being an organized or refusing…

[Nathan]: I am organized. [laughter] [Christian]: Not having a CRM and that sort of thing. But…Because I think if you’re driven you’re gonna be successful. Just a matter of you know kind of that quality of life or that you know…running with your head cut off. How much business can you handle. How much do you want to handle versus kind of having it…it systematized whatever so. 

I think you can do it like you’re doing it or be in the middle so to speak. And have that stuff provided to you. But I think you also hit an interesting point about leads. You know a lot of agents are willing to give up you know, splits because they want leads handed to them. And I am kind of divided on that because I mean in general my thinking is “Well if you as an agent can’t figure out how to get your own business, what good are you? Like that’s your job, is to figure out the business. What the broker is handing to you, the leads, the business, what do you need agents for? Like they did the hard work for you, you know.” The contract once you’ve been through the process is easy. 

So I mean that’s just kind of me. So that’s not something we do and theoretically it’s something that maybe we’ll try to figure out or whatever but it’s kind of ideologically speaking you know I don’t want lazy agents that just want the business handed to them. You know I want sharks like yourself [laughter]. I want people that are motivated that are gonna go figure it out you know.

[Nathan]: So than what would you provide to me as a shark? Like you know I do good business. So you’re here in the Ohio market. You want me. You’re like “Man I need Nathan on my team”. Or “How do I make this happen?” What are you gonna give me or what are you gonna provide me that’s gonna change…

[Christian]: I don’t think that you would find value in the things that we provide so I don’t know if that would be a good fit. Because for us is you know you come here, we give you your email, your CRM training. Back office stuff. If you’re like “I don’t need that I have my own thing.” well you’re probably not gonna see the value in this let’s give the culture we provide. You just want to go your own thing. 

And I have had agents that said “Hey I don’t think you’re a good fit because all you want to do is do your own thing and you don’t want any part in like the Sea-Town culture or what we give you. You don’t find value in that so you want to negotiate a different split. Like it’s not how we do it. You know it’s not what we’re looking for”. So it comes down to you know, what the agent values and what the brokerage’s strength is. 

[Nathan]: But you didn’t pitch. You didn’t pitch me. You didn’t say…

[Christian]: No I am not pitching you. I want agents that see the value that we bring. I am not gonna settle to an agent. I don’t. I don’t…I don’t settle. I don’t do pitches. I mean like this is what we do. This is what we’re about. If you want to be part of it great. If you don’t you know there’s just no brokerage down there that won’t give you anything. Wont charge anything either.

[Chris]: So I think you both hit on some good points. But what are the key things that for…I think you both missed is humans are…We have a pack mentality. We want to belong to something that is bigger than ourselves. It helps with motivation. It gives us a sense of purpose in our lives. And I think the majority of agents choose their brokerage based off of how they…how it aligns with who they are personally. Yeah you have people that go out and do their own thing. But even the people that are…are attending you know their meetings in a video game are still a part of something that they feel aligns with their core values. 

Another thing that I think is extremely valuable in the brokerage stand point is that a lot of agents don’t know what they don’t know. Their…their job is to make a living. Their job is to serve their clients and to go out and to make sure that the client is getting the best experience, that they are generating a referral and repeat business, that they’re able to be the shark and to go out and get new business. Their job is not to follow industry trends. It’s hard to do that stuff when you’re doing a full time sales job. To be able to see what’s on the horizon and look at the industry from you know, 30 thousand feet or 100 thousand feet versus being on the ground in the business are 2 completely different skill sets.

And you know there are agents that don’t see value in that. There are a lot of agents that they don’t care one way or another because they just want some leads and they want to go out and sell. But then I think a vast majority of the agents really want to know what’s going on and to have all the data that is collected really put into a form that is presentable and easily understood so that they can relate that to their clients and reinforce that they are a true expert. 

I think that there is a lot of value that can be brought by the brokerage on this level and I think that a lot of agents when they realize that that is one of the core focuses of an office can really determine whether or not that is something that fits in line with what they want. 

Now you guys both talked on leads and leads are a funny thing because leads can make a good agent great. Leads can help a new agent increase the size of a database very quickly. And if when they’re done right form a brokerage stand point leads are not about giving handouts because for example our lead team has extremely strict requirements on their metrics and if their metrics aren’t met their leads will be paused until they’re able to complete the metrics that are required. At that time they will be reinstituted. And if they continue not living up to that message I’ve got a waiting list of people that want to be on that team. 

And it’s not to say that everything is done at a higher split. The leads are because we have a cost associated with that. But mostly the agents that are doing the leads they’re only paying a higher split on the leads that we generate. Everything else is on their normal split for performance. So it just gives them an incentive to…if as a broker I can give some of my agents an extra 10 or 15 thousand dollars a year in their pocket that’s business that they otherwise would not have had, and increase their database for future business down the road than I am doing my job well. 

And if I can do that without you know hindering their ability to grow their business and be successful I am doing my job well. And when we’re doing that along with building a culture and giving people that cause that they can believe in and that mentality of belonging than I am doing my job well. Now those are the things that I think a broker needs to do. 

[Christian]: Yeah. I think you’re exactly right. That kind of that culture I mean what we usually lead with as a brokerage is the culture and the experience. You know. And the experience is through technology blah blah blah, and things that we provide but the culture you know is not something that is replicatable. 

[Chris]: No, culture takes years to develop.

[Christian]: Yeah it’s good.

[Chris]: And it can be killed with one bad action.

[Christian]: Right. And it’s something that you know I see you know anecdotally I have seen here as far as…you know I can’t speak about culture per se but definitely that hurt mentality you know I have seen you know form a distance like the brokerage I started off with like it started off…Because they’re some big franchises you know within 2 miles of my office here. And you know I have seen you know the manager team left you know that brokerage, that franchise and went to another franchise and than you started seeing just and exodus of agents from that brokerage to the other brokerage just I mean just huge turn over in agents that had been with this brokerage for you know 10 years, 15 years. 

And it wasn’t because this other brokerage provides something better. It was because they like the people. Everyone is going there. That’s the place to be. You know like it wasn’t a tangible thing it was a more local grasp grip culture and the people you know. And you know and somebody I am trying to hack this. I am like how you know the people we’re been bringing on they come to me already sold. They’re like “We love what you’re doing, the philanthropy, the culture. Innovation. We wouldn’t be part of this.” But they’re new agents and I am fond of that but that takes a lot of work up front to train and mentor and stuff. 

What I am trying to hack you know is like how do I increase my ratio of experienced agents to brand new green agents? If you figure it out let me know [laughter]. Because it comes down to what the Sea-Town have that X, Y franchise doesn’t have or can’t provide. You know why would they leave some place they’re comfortable and then no people as established brand or name whatever to this unknown scrappy indie brokerage? 

[Chris]: Yeah so our focus is primarily on new agents. We…We put a ton of effort and time into training. So we have a lot of experienced agents that came to us back in the day when we were…just starting out. And our costs were so low that people came over. You know I bet back in the day Nate you would have been paying less with us at Sellect than whatever you’re paying now. And we had to go away from that. 

But interestingly as we got away from that we moved towards splits that were more in line with the services that were offering performance increased. Agents were making more now paying us a little bit more than the ever did. When they were paying us hardly little…hardly anything. And you know 100% of nothing is still nothing. And when we focused on production and training and we increased the splits people see a lot more value in what we do and our per person productivity has gone up since 2015. It was around 300.000 per person. Now it’s a little over…Just under 1.1 million per person. So performance is tied to it. Yeah.

[Christian]: Yeah I mean that’s an interesting point because that is something that we’re starting to try to do. Because before it was just kind of me doing 1 on 1. And I am a big believer in training support you know because my experience was you go to a brokerage, the brokerage is like “Welcome aboard. You know you have a heartbeat, good luck. Let us know if you need anything”. 

And maybe would provide some training here and there but nothing systematized. Nothing is priorities. You know there’s no organization to any of it. And as a new agent you don’t know what you’re supposed to ask. I mean like “OK I have a contract question.” “Do you have a specific question to ask me?”. You know that’s not…”Teach me how to…how to business plan and how am I gonna generate you know, build my business”. 

So we’re starting to do more on that. I am very involved in that and since we’re coming again to your point Nathan like agents you know, may say they want one thing but than their action maybe betray that they don’t really value that. So we’ve had you know some agents sign up for you know our new training and stuff but you know there has been push back of “Oh it costs money?” And “Oh I don’t have the time”. 

And I am like “Hey listen like you put…you get out of it what you put into it and if you don’t want to put money into it, you don’t want to put time into it you’re obviously not serious you know.” I am willing to work around scheduling stuff but I am not gonna pay for you. Like you know. So that kind of stuff can be difficult. Kind of trying to figure out who is a good fit and who is worth investing in versus they did. You know.

[Chris]: So I’ve got a question for you Nate. So being in the style of brokerage where you’re the hunter killer, you’re the shark. You’re going out and doing everything for your business, where are you getting the insight, the direction? Where do you find time to find that on your own without you know hindering your sales business?

[Nathan]: Insight direction into what?

[Chris]: Future of the industry. Strategy where you need to position yourself in the next few years? 

[Nathan]: Well…

[Christian]: The pivoting.

[Chris]: We did an episode on pivoting.

[Nathan]: I mean there is more than 1 real estate podcast in the world [laughter].

[Chris]: No no.

[Nathan]: I am just kidding.

[Chris]: I mean why would you say something like that?

[Nathan]: It’s amazing what is free out there right? You know again through reading alone and listening to other podcasts or you know you can gain a path of knowledge. The other side is to talk to other agents. You know there’s…I have a few colleagues here you know I am very close with. And they’re not at our brokerage at all but you know if I got an issue, a question “What would you do? What do you think?”. You know I call them. 

You know you play in a playground and, you know, of like people and I think it helps grow. You know, its…You know secret agents don’t make money. Well secret agents aren’t gonna learn. If you don’t go and mix and mingle and network with people that are like you. And it doesn’t have to be a ton but you’re not gonna learn anything right. You have to go to a place that does have a culture of sharing ideas and not the “It’s all out for me”. 

You know I applaud KKW when I was there. I had that culture you know with the people that I at least worked alongside. So I think that’s important. You know there’s plenty of ways. Again I think it’s agents. Sometimes we love to act like we’re so busy but we’re not. I think it’s about prioritizing your day and having a daily work flow and this is a job. 

So many people sometimes you know, how do you do again this is a job but it’s one I love, it’s one I am passionate about. If you’re passionate about something you’re gonna learn more about it. You guys all know I love to run. Right. I know a [censored] lot about running. [laughter] I am not good at it. I am not good at it but I know a lot about it right. So…You’ve loved…

[Chris]: Wait what are you talking about you’re not good at it?

[Nathan]: I don’t know well that’s the good thing about running. You…To be good all you have to do is be able to run right? 

[Chris]: Yeah. You start moving you don’t stop.

[Nathan]: Right exactly. But something you’re passionate about you’re gonna be inclined to learn more about it. So if you’re an agent listening to this and you’re not truly passionate about what you do, if you don’t truly care maybe you need a different occupation.

[Chris]: Or you need to talk to somebody who is passionate about what they’re doing and you see if some of that can rub off on you.

[Nathan]: Yeah that’s a whole episode of “Your why”. 

[Chris]: Yeah you gotta find your why.

[Nathan]: Yeah.

[Chris]: Well I want to give kudos to you because most agents, and I think you’re kind of the out wire there as Christian said earlier. Most agents don’t have the time or the desire or just the energy to go out and do those things, mix and mingle and have discussions with people in the industry. And for those people that’s where a solid broker comes in. 

For the handful that can do it on their own we’re got plenty of brokers that have a solo shop and they’re producing. They own a firm. They do great work, they do great jobs. So it doesn’t always take a brokerage. But they’re…You’ve gotta have some sort of community or pack mentality. You’ve gotta have something you believe in, something you can grow with. And something that you can aim for. 

Alright everybody than you so much for tuning in to this episode of re:Think Real Estate. I think it was a great talk. If you haven’t already, please go to rtrepodcast.com that’s for re:Think Real Estate. So rtrepodcast.com. Sign up for our newsletter. You will be notified every time a new episode drops. Also please, please, please go to iTunes, Google Play and leave us a 5-star review in Spotify or wherever you want to find us so that people know that we’re good. I don’t know. Thanks for tuning everybody. Have a great week. 

[music] [Chris]: Thanks for tuning in this week’s episode of the re:Think Real Estate Podcast. We would love to hear your feedback so please leave us a review on iTunes. Our music is curtesy of Dan Koch K-O-C-H, whose music can be explored and licensed for use at dankoch.net. Thank you Dan. Please like, share and follow. You can find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/rethinkpodcast. Thank you so much for tuning in everyone and have a great week.