Back to Basics: Building Relationships in Your Office and Community

Agents can’t be the only ones building relationships. Doing so is just as important for brokers and can lead to long-term success and stability.
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Over the past few years, building relationships took a backslide for many in the industry. Pandemic-related restrictions and a market frenzy made it difficult to find the time and bandwidth to get to know people. The market is on the other side of that now, but tight inventory and high prices mean industry professionals are back to playing the long game, which requires cultivated and trusted relationships.

“If you are respectful and honest, then everything falls in your lap,” says Michele Harrington, AHWD, CEO of First Team Real Estate in Newport Beach, Calif. She also serves as federal political coordinator for the National Association of REALTORS® and as a director for the California Association of REALTORS®.

Relationships are the cornerstone to long-term success in real estate, which is just as true for brokers as it is for agents. From your community to business partners to your own office, taking the time it requires to build relationships could make the difference in your brokerage’s success.

Your Agents

Your agents are one of your most important assets and building a relationship with them signals that you care about more than their production numbers.

“Real estate is one of the most stressful industries. It’s a roller coaster ride,” says Monet Yarnell, broker-owner of Sell 207 in Belfast, Maine.

At Yarnell’s office, health and wellness are high on the priority list. She lets her agents know that she’s invested in them by supporting their health goals.

Each team member wears a performance monitor that tracks cardiovascular health, sleep and fitness metrics. It analyzes data that to show what them what they can do to feel better daily. Since the profession is stressful, she says, the monitor is a useful way to help mitigate that stress and boost team morale.

“This builds a relationship on a human level. If we aren’t feeling good, we won’t perform well as professionals,” she says. “We try to work out together and go to a fitness class together.”

She also makes it a point to support agents’ individual fitness goals. One of her agents is in the military, so she’s participating in a fitness challenge sponsored by the U.S. Army.

“We encourage her as she trains for that. What’s important to them should be important to you, too, and you need to show up for each other,” Yarnell says.

Harrington has more than 2,000 agents, so it’s hard to build a bond with each of her agents in the same way that Yarnell can, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just looks a little different.

“You want to be available, and you want to respond when they are reaching out to you, even with just a quick reply,” she says. Communication is a key component to creating a cohesive and inviting environment.

Harrington sends out an email each Monday with a motivation for the week. If someone replies to the email, she makes sure to reply to ensure her agents know that she’s an active participant in the communication and that she’s available. “It takes five seconds, and it’s really important to do it,” she says.

It’s also important to have great relationships with your managers, because you might not be able to make contact with every agent, but your managers do. “Your clear vision of what you want for your company should be [communicated] constantly to your managers so you have a united front,” Harrington adds.

She does schedule one-on-one meetings and mastermind meetings with top agents, with free-flowing conversations.

“I get to know them, and they get to know me,” she says.

Office Staff

Agents often look to members of your office staff first, since they’re readily available, Harrington says. These staff members are an integral part of the team and help to ensure everything runs smoothly. They will look to a broker for leadership and support, and they should be treated as a valuable resource.

“They really need to know who you are as the leader of the company. Meet with them in groups. Ask them what’s not working in your company. They will know,” she says. “If they call you, you will answer the phone and be available to them, so they know they are important.”

Culture is another important fundamental in building an office that is cohesive and successful.

“But culture is different to different people,” she says. “Some don’t care about a happy hour or a mastermind meeting. Some just want to go to a baseball game together,” she says, speaking from personal experience. So, in May, a group event allows team members to attend an Angels game together.

If you want your office staff and your agents to be happy and performing well, figure out what culture means to each of them. Ask them what they want, and then be prepared to deliver in a way that makes sense for you.

Industry Partnerships

Symbiotic, professional relationships help lead to a successful career when it comes to real estate. A strong network of industry professionals helps agents succeed, which in turn helps the office prosper.

Working with loan officers, title offices and even carpet cleaners, Yarnell likes to offer value. Relationship building is a long game, she says, especially in business.

“If there’s a way to provide value with no expectation of getting something in return, that’s a way to start a friendship and business relationships,” she adds.

But if she shows up and plays pickleball with her favorite loan officer every Tuesday, then they begin to build that relationship naturally. That way, when a need or a business opportunity arises, the relationship is already established.

The Community

One of the best ways to build relationships in the community is to invest in them. Your agents are already a part of their communities, and many of them are doing work to improve their neighborhoods. As a broker, you can help them make a difference.

“Your agents are an extension of your company. They are the face of your brokerage,” Harrington says. “So, it’s important to make sure you are supporting their efforts in the community.”

That means getting involved in the efforts of your agents. Find out what they’re doing, where they’re volunteering, and ask how you can help.

Another way to get involved is to jump in at the brokerage level. The 2023 Member Profile report found that 67% of NAR members are already volunteering in their communities, and as the broker, you can build giving back into your business model.

Harrington says that her office rallies during the holidays, throwing its support behind neighborhood initiatives like trunk-or-treats and toy drives. But giving back is more than a holiday-season affair. If there’s someone they know working through a tough medical issue or has been affected by a disaster, her office works to help raise funds or rebuild.

Yarnell offers her brokerage’s building to groups or organizations for meetings and events. The building is centrally located downtown with access to parking.

“I’ve found the different organizations that use it really appreciate that they aren’t kicked out by 8 p.m. like most of the meeting places,” she says.

Yarnell’s office has become a central hub for events and meetings happening outside her brokerage, which establishes her office as a central community builder.