Choosing a Real Estate Office, Part 2: Franchise vs. Independent
By Colin Ryan
About Agent Basics
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed strengths and characteristics new agents should look for in a real estate company. But it’s also worth thinking about a company’s larger context when deciding whether to work there. Real estate firms essentially come in two flavors: franchises of large, corporate firms, and independent companies. Each of these categories has advantages and disadvantages.
Because of their size and relationships with other offices, franchises often provide more support for new agents in the form of referral networks and large listing inventories. Due to their corporate nature, franchises also tend to have more formalized, in-depth training programs, as well as brand recognition to help beginning agents make their start. Corporate rigor also means more up-to-date technology and marketing resources.
On the flip side, franchises usually offer less freedom than independent brokerages. Agents must answer to the corporate culture when it comes to how they conduct their business, from the tools they use internally to the ways they advertise themselves and their properties. This all tends to come at a higher cost as well: in exchange for the brand name, agents often have to pay initiation fees and/or a higher share of their commission.
At worst, franchise offices can be bureaucratic places, where loyalty and camaraderie are low and the corporate dictum trumps new ideas or criticisms.
Independent real estate firms come in all shapes and sizes. Some have only a couple agents, while others have multiple offices. Nevertheless, because they don’t have to answer to tyrannical corporate policy, independent brokers are often more adaptable and give agents more direct input on policies and programs. Since they’re founded locally, independent companies also have a local authority, with a reputation for offering a more personal touch and deep knowledge of the area.
At the same time, local flavor sometimes comes with a traditional mentality. This makes a lot of independent brokers less forward-thinking and less willing to modernize. On the other side, smaller companies usually have fewer resources than franchise firms, meaning that even if they want to update their technology or approach, they don’t have the cash to do it. This same lack of resources also tends to mean less advertising support, fewer training opportunities, and less guidance.
Of course, none of this is absolute. Indeed, some franchise firms are more agent-centric than others, and there are plenty of independents with more power and prestige than the chains they compete with. If, for instance, everyone in town knows Beverly Johnson, you might get more visibility by working for her than you would by donning that gold blazer.
Published on June 26, 2013