A critical decision all new real estate professionals must make when they join the business is whether they want to establish themselves as an individual agent or as part of a team. Neither choice necessarily presents a smoother road to success than the other. It depends on what’s most important to you. If you crave a strong support system to help you get up and running, you probably want to join a team. But if you thrive on being independent—and you want to keep as much of your commission as possible—you may want to fly solo. Two agents who chose opposite paths explain the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Toni Carone, SFR
Long & Foster Real Estate
I fell into real estate during college. While studying business and marketing, I started working part-time for a REALTOR® association. After graduation, I decided to obtain my real estate license, and then the real estate boom hit. I started getting recruited by all of the top-producing teams in my area, just as the concept of real estate teams was taking off. I finally chose a team and have been with them for 12 years.
- Some expenses are paid for you. This can include association dues, license, company, and MLS fees, marketing expenses, educational courses, and business cards. As a new agent, these costs can add up quickly, and having a team to help offset some of the expenses is helpful.
- You don’t have to generate all your own leads. Teams usually have a lead generation system already in place, and the leads are simply assigned to you. This saves you time and money digging up more business.
- You can collaborate to solve issues or assist clients. With a team, you have a variety of people working with you, and because of their different backgrounds and experiences, they can help you approach challenges during a transaction in multiple ways.
- Marketing is done for you. You don’t have to focus your time on becoming a professional-grade listing photographer or designing the best brochures. Teams usually have support staff to do these tasks for you.
- You can specialize in one aspect of the transaction. What if you only want to work with buyers, or maybe just sellers, or be more like help behind the scenes in more of an admin support role?
- You don’t control your own branding. You will always be associated with your team and will have to market yourself under the team name and logo.
- You get a lesser portion of the commission. The splits are usually lower because you have to share earnings with your team members and support staff.
- You’re only as strong as your weakest team member. Perhaps one of your team members is known for being too aggressive with their sales pitch, or maybe they’re lazy and make a lot of mistakes. That’s eventually going to reflect on you and the rest of the team. You’re no longer responsible only for yourself.
- You don’t have autonomy to implement your ideas. If you have an idea for a new way to sell or a new system to use, it must fit the team’s business model or it won’t work. In other words, you lose your voice on how the business should be run.
- Not fitting into the team culture is a deal-breaker. You’ll have to deal with your team members’ personalities on a daily basis and adjust to them. You can’t let conflicts arise over who is getting which leads and who appears to be more successful. If you’re not in it for the good of the team as a whole, you’ll be asked to leave.
Peter Murray, ABR, PSA
I got into real estate because I wanted to be an entrepreneur, not someone’s employee. So I decided to go it alone as an individual agent, and I believe I’m a stronger practitioner for it. I’ve learned so much about myself, including that I have the drive to succeed on my own—a sense of pride I’m not sure I would have gotten as a member of a team.
- You can market with your own flair. You’re in charge of your brand and can craft your messaging exactly the way you want it instead of having to get approval from your team.
- You can serve clients the way you want. Think you can provide a higher level of personalized service than your colleagues? On a team, you have to accept the way your teammates work, even if you have higher standards. As an individual agent, I can give my clients extra-special attention, and I have more time to educate them on the buying or selling process.
- You can set your own schedule. You’re not being assigned to certain client meetings or showings at certain times by a team leader. You can decide for yourself when you want to work, and because of that, I’ve devised a schedule that gives me more time with my family.
- You make more in commission. I split my commission with only one person: my broker.
- You have more career options. Because I’m not already locked into a team, I can decide to start my own team with my own rules, become a broker, or continue to grow my business as an individual agent.
- It takes longer to get started. You have to find your own resources, which means it may be a while before your business grows large enough to sustain itself. Joining a team provides a jumpstart you don’t get as an individual agent.
- No one can cover for you when you’re unavailable. If you want to take a vacation, have an unexpected family emergency, or need to unplug for a while, you’ll have to work it out with clients who are expecting you to be on call.
- You’re responsible for your own education. Teams often have their own training curriculum for new hires. Brokerages do, too, but individual agents often have to fit education into their schedule when they can, whereas teams often create the schedule for you.
- No one helps you with fees. You are responsible for covering all of your business expenses, membership dues, and licensing fees.
- You have to be self-motivating. It’s easy to fall into a rut, and if you’re not the kind of person who can bounce back easily, you’ll stay in that rut for a while. Without teammates to push me and encourage me, I have to try even harder to stay structured and focused and to continue to have the desire to serve my clients.