How to Interview a Real Estate Brokerage

As a real estate coach, I often answer all sorts of questions for agents on how they can become their best and what sorts of business practices will help improve their business. Recently, I’ve received a lot of questions from agents regarding which real estate brokerage is right for them. Here are some of my suggestions on the best ways that you can interview brokerages to make sure you find the best fit for yourself:

Ask a Ton of Questions & Be an Active Listener

This is basically like a job interview, but backwards. You’re interviewing potential brokerages the way businesses would be interviewing potential job candidates. This may feel a little weird at first, but asking the right questions will give you a much better chance of selecting the firm that has the right fit for you. Any good brokerage will welcome this professional approach and be impressed that you’re exercising due diligence.

You also want to be aware of the company’s position. They should be considering your value verses their cost, if any, to bring you into their company. An agent, on the other hand, needs to evaluate what they need from a brokerage to succeed.

Here are some questions that you should be prepared to ask potential brokerages:

Some Interview Points to Consider

* Ask them what they are looking for in an agent. This is an important question. Some “assembly-line” brokerages don’t really care who they acquire, and just want lots of numbers, with the thought that every single person they recruit will have at least one family member or friend who will use their services. Conversely, brokerages that look for agents with specialties, a minimum sales volume, a broker’s license, or other unique qualities and traits can be favorable for some agents. It’s best for you if they are a bit picky.

* Many managing brokers are out selling homes, and not necessarily in the office. If that is the case, you need to find out if there is an alternative person available to help the agents. A leader that sells may not be a good environment for you, if you are looking for guidance. Be sure to ask what the turnaround time is if an agent calls with a question or needs to submit something for review.

* Most offices have some kind of weekly or bi-weekly in-office trainings, regular sales meetings, and house tours of the new listings acquired by agents in that office. Find out how often these meetings, trainings, and house tours occur and if it is part of what they do. This is important to some agents while not for others.

* Find out if there is an organized mentorship program. If so, under what circumstances will an agent have to participate or volunteer? Will participation be based on time in the business or sales volume? In addition, find out what the financial arrangement for mentors and mentees is.

If there isn’t an organized mentorship program, find out if there is anyone available to help a new agent learn the real estate business.

* Find out what the commission schedule is, and ask for a copy of it. Make sure you understand it because you will be paid based on this schedule. Also find out if there are tiers in that commission schedule based on your sales performance. Find out how this office deals with sales bonuses.

* When considering costs for your business, it is important to find out what kinds of marketing materials are available from the brokerage for an agent to use. Some brokerages have marketing departments that will help you develop your brand, assist you in creating your own pieces, or at the very least personalize what the company already has, while other brokerages leave you completely on your own in terms of marketing. Asking about reimbursement for your marketing materials, including business cards, is also important.

* The number of agents isn’t as important as the support for them. It could also be a possible indication of the quality of the office based on how many agents are full-time or dual career. Find out how long agents have stayed in this office and why they leave or stay. If this brokerage is 20-years-old, but the average agent has only been here for 2 years and also has another full-time job, this may be a huge red flag that the office lacks the atmosphere of a productive office.

* E&O coverage stands for “Errors and Omissions”. This is insurance coverage that the agent has to pay for annually. This protects the agents against any unintentional errors or omissions they may make in working with a consumer. Some companies pay this insurance for the agent, but it’s rare. Find out what the policy is of the brokerage.

* If a brick-and-mortar office environment is important to you, find out if there is a space for you to go into the office and use as a work area. Depending on the firm, office space can be available for rent or for top producers only. The conference and meeting rooms should be available to everyone for meeting clients. Find out what office equipment is available for agent use in the office. Today with cloud based and internet systems, you can do your business from anywhere, but some agents prefer to work in an office environment rather than working from a home office. Essentially, it’s up to you. You will just need to consider where you’d prefer to meet your clients and what type of environment works best for you.

* If you prefer an office that is brick and mortar, the more professional it is the better. Check to see if there a receptionist, and if any phone duty (from you) is required. If it is, check to see if there are any statistics about results from the phone duty concept in that office or are you really just a replacement for a paid receptionist.

* Office listings and percentage of share in the marketplace will tell you how productive an office is. A busy office is a good one for phone duty, open houses, and synergy. Having top agents in the office with well-earned designations like Lifetime Top Producer, CRS or CRB, and others that took some time to earn and are respected in their field is a mark of a good office keeping top quality people. Ask what the average yearly income of an agent in the office. A top agent is traditionally defined as someone who produces a certain amount of money per year (Example: a minimum of $100,000 income or someone who has more than 15 listings in a calendar year). An office market share of over 70% is excellent. To be the best real estate agent, you need to be surrounded by quality. If your brokerage has 100 agents, only 30 listings, and ranks 10 out of 10 in brokerages in your area, this may be a place for part-time agents or people exploring real estate as a hobby.

* Every state mandates a certain amount of CE, or continuing education. Does the company provide that online, in-office, or not at all? Many brokerages now offer online training with free CE available to its agents.

* It is required that every brokerage and office have an office manual and that every agent has a copy of it, in either paper or electronic format. Make sure you know what the important policies are, such as the procedure for compensation split on transactions that haven’t closed yet, should you decide to leave.

* Most real estate agents are Independent Contracts and not Employees. What is the makeup of your brokerage?

* Does your brokerage give back to the community or support agents who are in need? Some brokerages will provide financial, emotional, and physical assistance to agents who are going through disaster, illness, or catastrophe. If something happens where you’re out of work for a few months is your brokerage going to step in and help you pick up the pieces? Will they assist your family? It might be important to you to find a company that has a good reputation among the community and one that has a high regard for their agents personally.

* Interview the office agents and find out the answers to some of your questions. This is where you may get the real picture of the office climate and what is going on there that may not or may fit you.

Make the Decision that Works Best for You

In addition to the suggestions provided, think about the working environment you thrive in. You should also consider your strengths and which brokerages will make use of your talents or just pigeon hole you into their protocol. For example, if cold calls are not your thing, it would not be the best use of your time to go to a “cold calling” pizza night in the office.

The most valuable piece of information I can leave you with is to make the decision that works best for you. Every agent is different and has unique requirements.

The Final Decision

Make a pro/con list for the top three agencies you’ve selected. Ask yourself these important questions… ” What company provides the support I need for me?” and “Which of the companies can I build a lasting relationship and why?” Talk to the important people in your life that can help you make a professional decision based on the facts. Family and friends are wonderful if you are going to a barbecue, but this is a decision that needs to be made based on what is best for your business. I use my CPA and business planner as well as a few professional relationships to help with vital decisions for my business.

This article was originally posted through the Cindy Bishop Worldwide blog site.

Real Estate Agent Contracts In Israel – The Do’s & Do-Not’s & Brokerage Fees

Representation:

In Israel, (as in many states in the United States), a real estate agent, may represent both the buyer/renter and seller/leaser. Please bear in mind that this does not free one or the other party from payment. If both sides are represented by the agent, then each side independently of the other, must pay the agent the agreed upon fee (unless of course it was stipulated and agreed upon otherwise).

When you decide to sell, purchase, rent or lease a property, we will usually ask you to sign a form, (which is a binding legal document), in regard to the specific property.

It is wise for you to read this document, which is basically used, in one configuration or another, by all licensed agents in Israel. The form clearly states the agent’s fee (in case of a deal) and stipulates that if one attempts to circumvent the agent by asking a father, mother, sister or brother to purchase the property, you are still obligated to pay the agents fee. It is also important to note that the basic agreement stipulates that once you have signed to purchase, sale, rent or lease the property, from that moment you are obligated to pay the agents fee.

It should be noted that Real Estate Brokers and Agents MUST be licensed. If you demand to see the license of a broker that is up to date (either a piece of paper or a card issued by the Real Estate office which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice) and the Broker cannot produce it, there is no legal binding between you and the broker – no matter how many documents you sign.

Fees:

All fees listed here are the basic fees that agents in Israel charge in regard to properties. There are certainly some cases where we will take more than 2% or less. However, these are rare and very specific cases, and usually if not stipulated otherwise you are looking at a normative fee scale, practiced by most Brokers and licensed agents in Israel.

1. Purchase or sale – 2% of the amount Plus VAT (VAT=Value Added Tax and currently it is 16.5%. This is a tax that is added by the government on to any sale of goods or services. This is NOT given to the discretion of the agent to charge or not to charge. No matter what the final price paid, the agent must pay VAT to the VAT authorities.) VAT however, is not added on to the price of the property sale, unless it is a commercial property.

2. Rental or Leasing – is usually one month of rent. Thus if you decide to rent an apartment for $1500 per month, then you will owe twelve months worth of rent to the owner for one year, and $1500 + VAT to the agent. Again VAT is not added on to the actual rental (except in commercial properties), but only to the agents fee as this is considered a “service industry”.

3. Short Term Rentals – Fees for this can vary drastically, depending upon the length of the rental and the actual rental fee. Normal policy is to take between 10-15% of the overall deal.

Can you negotiate?

Most reputable real estate agents have strict policies of non-negotiation in terms of fees. They will, of course, for returning clients, or for those who use our agency for more than one property, discuss a reduction in fees. However, please do not expect them to negotiate a fee before they have any idea about what it is you wish them to do. Also, just because you decided to take the first property you were shown, does not mean the agent should go down in his fee. Actually, in such a case, you should be more than willing to pay the agents fee, as due to their ability and knowledge, they were able to take you to exactly the place that met with your description! You took an agent to save you time and frustration, and that is exactly what they did.

Exclusivity:

If you are familiar with agents in Israel, they love the term “exclusivity”. In essence what it means, is that you contract with a specific agent for a term of 3 or 6 months to be the sole representative to either sell or lease out your property. The advantages of this type of relationship are many-fold. The agent will not hesitate to advertise the property or work together with other agents who may have clients for your property. The agency will also fully advertise the property both in print and on the Internet. In Jerusalem, the apartment will also be listed in Shiran, the multiple listing for Jerusalem properties.

So yes, exclusivity will pay off in many cases. However, and this is critical, agents cannot demand exclusivity nor try to talk you into it. It is the owner’s decision to go that route. You should want to do it if the agency is reputable in the real estate and land investment market and thus you will want to sign exclusivity with more than the agency wants you to sign it! However, not signing exclusivity also works well and most agencies maintain working relationships with many reputable agents on the market, and deal with them on a constant basis.