How Do Real Estate Teams Work?

Confessions of a Real Estate Team Leader

Real estate teams
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Today, a working with a real estate team is pretty much the norm. When I started selling real estate in the 1970s, it was unusual to see real estate teams within a brokerage. Some"boutique" brokerages operated as a team, with the broker at the head, but running a standard real estate team within the brokerage was pretty much unheard of. In fact, if you had told me back then that I would eventually head a top-producing real estate team in Sacramento, I would have wondered if you were having one of those free acid flashbacks from the 1960s we were promised which, to my knowledge, have never materialized.

It was not my initial intention to form a real estate team. I had moved to Sacramento in 2002 and shortly thereafter ventured back into selling real estate at a major brokerage. Because I didn't know a soul and was new in town, I had considered joining a real estate team. Just to drum up new business. Working independently and trying to build a new business in a new town meant pretty much giving up a personal life. Fortunately, my husband stuck around. I worked with every potential client who came my way, converted those who didn't, and put in long, absurd hours.

My saving grace, the managing broker at my office, steered me away from joining any real estate teams. She quite rightly predicted my personality was not well suited to joining a team, and I should instead focus on my own career. A few years later, I finally yanked my head out of my computer and realized I had morphed into a top agent in Sacramento. I had worked so hard I hadn't really been paying attention to my production results.

I worked with both sellers and buyers, switching my Realtor hats back and forth. Yet, in truth, I began to see that I really preferred to work solely with sellers. My natural abilities aligned better with the duties of a listing agent. Driving buyers around or showing homes is not as enjoyable to me as marketing homes and negotiating for sellers. Well develop our own niche.

In short, if I wanted to grow my business, I needed to assemble a real estate team. I needed smart, experienced and friendly agents to represent buyers and perform the tasks they love more than I such as:

In short, I needed a Mini Me, a real estate agent who enjoyed and excelled at those tasks, and who did not mind not being in the limelight. It takes a certain personality to be a successful team member and especially to operate solely as an exclusive buyer's agent.

How Do Real Estate Teams Work?

While there are no set procedures that all real estate teams follow, the basics still exist within most teams. For starters, the team members tend to pitch in for each other and share the team spirit. The benefits to a client are myriad. It means that if an agent is not available for a client, the client can contact any other member of the team for assistance, even if the client has been assigned to the care of a particular agent. Somebody is always available.

In general, the team leader is the individual who handles the listings. Team leaders list; team members work with buyers. In some team formats, all of the members are encouraged to pursue listings under certain circumstances, but most often the leader is the Rainmaker, the individual who brings in the business. Listings are the lifeline of the real estate industry. For example, I've had potential sellers call to say they might want to represent themselves and would like my team to bring them buyers.

It doesn't work that way. Buyers come from advertising and marketing the listing.

Further, in our fast-paced world, a team leader cannot possibly be in 10 places at the same time without the support of a team. My team members can hold 4 or 5 open houses simultaneously. The open houses attract buyers, which keeps my team members very busy.

Working with a real estate team gives a client at minimum two or more experienced agents working on that client's behalf. It's twice the number of agents for the same price. The client gains collective knowledge and wisdom. Team members often brainstorm offer strategies for clients. In a pinch, any one of the team members can cover for another. In theory, no client should ever feel neglected.

Team leaders compensate team members in various manners. Pay can range from a flat rate for a salaried associate, to receipt of a portion of the team leader's commission to a particular percentage split based on performance, or any combination thereof. All real estate commissions are negotiable.

Fiduciary Relationships and Real Estate Teams

The one aspect I enjoy tremendously as a team leader is the fact I am often able to operate within single agency, meaning I tend to represent only the seller. It makes life simple. I don't have to worry much about whether I am looking out for the buyer because my client is typically the seller. I have fiduciary only to the seller. My entire focus and thought processes are focused on the seller's best interests.

The reason this seems to work so well is because there are different qualities and skillsets needed to represent sellers vs. buyers. It's similar, in a way, to prosecuting attorneys vs defense lawyers.

It makes little difference to many team leaders whether a team member is the procuring cause who produces a buyer or if it's an agent at another company. A team leader's interest is in selling the home for the seller. Now, obviously, if a team member brings a buyer, dual agency applies, just the same as if another agent from another office within the same brokerage represents the buyer.  Not all dual agency is dual representation.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.