For one real estate professional, becoming less independent was the first step to a better life – and a more profitable business.
By K.K. Snyder
Though the real estate industry can be highly competitive, some professionals are finding great benefit in being part of a well-oiled realty team. As a result, they’re enjoying much greater success than they had on their own.
For a real estate professional who is an industry veteran, juggling dozens of listings and clients can become impossible. But enlisting the help of other agents can pay off for everyone, including agents, sellers and buyers, according to Mary Opfer, a broker associate with RE/MAX Unlimited Northwest in Cary, Ill.
Opfer began her career in 1986 and is well known in her market. She has developed an extensive database and typically carries more than 50 listings in her inventory. When working long hours and weekends took its toll on her family, something had to give. So, she opted to create a realty team to ease her workload while, simultaneously, helping boost the careers of some newer agents.
“When a buyer calls in to see my listing, I am so busy with the marketing end and follow up with my sellers that I have little time to devote to running around and effectively servicing buyers,” says Opfer. “A team allows me the opportunity to have buyers’ agents work with me. They take the excess business that I encounter, yet I don’t lose any business. We have an arrangement that works off a referral with that agent. I give them the leads, they close the deals and everyone benefits.”
Her teammates, Mary Ann Meyer and Mary McDonald, were newer to the industry, and stepped into the business during a down market. With Opfer feeding them leads, their production increased rapidly. She has relieved them of the monthly expenses of operating an office, and they are able to play off her experience and credentials while building their own client bases. Plus, Opfer’s years of experience make her a great resource for advice on topics like how to market themselves as Realtors or how handle a particular challenge with a client.
Collaboration builds business
“My team members can list, sell and generate their own business, but I can provide them with a steady stream of good qualified leads, leads that I may not have been able to keep up with [on my own],” she says. Having a team is also beneficial when Opfer needs days off or when she is unavailable and needs someone to follow up. “Clients never feel that I am too busy to take care of them.”
In addition, when someone wants to see one of Opfer’s listings, she now has the potential to become a dual agent with another member of the team. Because the team members are independent contractors, have no knowledge of the seller’s needs and are not part of the listing, they can represent the buyer without a conflict of interest or without constituting a dual agency.
“We still keep our clients’ personal issues separate and [the client’s] position is never compromised,” she says. “We don’t share private information about pricing or anything else. We’ve been very above board when it comes to that.”
Even among professionals, a team format does present challenges. But there are ways to meet them head on, address the issues and move forward. “We’re always reevaluating,” says Opfer. “Sometimes, tensions and problems come up, but we know each other well enough to know when we need to sit down and address or rethink something. Everyone needs to know what their job is; communication is key. This is new for all of us, but having fresh, enthusiastic people working around you keeps you pumped up.”
Also key is having systems in place with the proper forms and processes, so everyone handles each transaction alike. While a team will obviously reflect different personalities and ways of doing particular tasks, there must be some consistency to keep a smooth flow, adds Opfer. And, it’s important to be fair and not do anything that might negatively affect another team member.
The three team members relate well to one another, being similar in age, place in life and family status. They meet monthly to discuss current business and to allow Opfer an opportunity to hear where her teammates are struggling and determine how she might be of assistance. While she remains the primary agent, all three work independently for RE/MAX and have the opportunity to market themselves as such.
Having individual contracts is beneficial for all team members. Opfer includes incentives for production in her contracts, which she rewrites each year.
“As they start doing better, I make it more enticing for them to stay,” says Opfer. “When you get good people, you don’t want to lose them.”