The only thing consistent in real estate is change. Agents change firms all the time. Brokerages come and go, offering all sorts of different options for agents. But the main reason why you need to protect your brand in real estate is because our society changes, leaving no company or agent immune from the possibility of a future transition to a different company.
Imagine if Zillow started taking over the front end of the real estate transaction and only those companies who worked within Zillow’s system were able to survive. Imagine if your broker at your boutique firm turned the company over to his son who ran it into the ground. Or imagine that Keller Williams was involved in some major money laundering scheme that totally killed the company’s reputation. Though these things are unlikely to happen, they could. And as a result, you’d probably be forced to move to a new firm and spend a lot of time and money totally rebranding your business.
Here are the the top 5 steps to take to ensure that whatever transition awaits you in the future, you are protected and not dependent on your brokerage firm.
#1 - Don’t use a company email address. This is the biggest mistake I see agents making. First off, most brokerage email totally sucks. If you’re not using Gmail as your email provider (before you freak out, you can host your own domain with Gmail and use all of their awesome tools/apps) then you’re spending probably 20% more time managing your email than I am. Here’s a tutorial: http://www.coffeecup.com/help/articles/set-up-gmail-for-your-own-domain/
#2 - Build your own website. Another huge mistake I see is agents not building their own website but instead relying on a simple profile page within a company website. Please understand how important a professional presence online is when you’re in the real estate industry. You can purchase a 1-pager, mobile responsive Wordpress theme for under $100 and work with someone from India to set it up and customize it for you for $100 through a site called Upwork. Don’t worry about IDX (no one seriously house hunting is going to use your site) and simply focus on being informative, professional and run a weekly blog.
#3 - Develop your own Marketing. To be an agent, you must wear many hats. One of those hats is owning and controlling your marketing materials. Create a cheap logo at 99designs.com and brand it on everything. Create a more custom yard sign (buildasign.com offers small runs for cheap) and make sure you have access to the templates or software that is being used to make and create your signs. If you want to save money on your marketing, hire it out through Upwork.com as well.
#4 - Control your database. Don’t put your most valuable commodity in your business into the hands of your broker. I doubt they would steal it, but I’ve seen a lot of brokers become very unreasonable the moment they find out you’re leaving for a competing firm. Whether it’s a Google Spreadsheet (Free), Zoho CRM (free) or Top Producer (def not free), you want to be sure your list of clients will always remain your list of clients.
#5 - Put in writing that should you leave your brokerage, that you are permitted to take your active listings with you. I’ve heard countless stories about brokers refusing to release listings to a new firm out of spite. With the agent gone, the broker assigns a new agent to the sale and enforces the listing agreement. The sellers are now stuck working with a stranger to sell their home. Whether you are just getting in the business or might consider a move down the road, check in with your broker on their policy regarding active listings to find out what you can expect. Before you actually leave, negotiate in writing that should you ever transfer firms, your broker would release the listings. It may be an awkward conversation but definitely one worth having asap.
I jumped between 4 different real estate firms in 5 years, so I do consider myself a real estate gypsy. Hopefully the lessons I have learned during this time will make your potential transition to a new company so much easier.
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