Choosing the Right Broker – The Interview

December 9, 2019 | Written by Kelby Haven

Interviewing with Brokers is truly a two-way street. As much as the broker is determining if you are the right fit for their organization; you are also deciding if that particular firm is the right fit for you.Once you have selected your initial 3-4 brokerages based on your preliminary research, be sure to get answers to all of your questions. Below you will find key categories of questions for this line of work.

It’s important to be prepared and ask the broker all your questions upfront, before you sign an Independent Contractor’s Agreement and pay start-up fees that may not be transferrable to another brokerage.

Your Career Path(s) and Availability

  • I’m interested in _______________ (Residential Resale, Property Management, Commercial… fill in the blank with your chosen career path). Does your brokerage allow agents to pursue this type of business? What are my opportunities in these areas with your company?
  • I’m getting dual licensed in NJ and PA. Can your firm support me in both states?

Helpful Hint: Although you cannot work for more than one real estate brokerage in New Jersey at the same time, it IS legal to work for one brokerage company in NJ and a different brokerage company in PA. However, you would need the approval of the brokerage companies hiring you.

  • What is your company policy on Agents investing in real estate? How are commissions handled?
  • Do you hire only full-time agents, or agents starting part time but transitioning to full time? Do you accept part time agents? Do you have an option for Referral Agents?
  • Are you a member of _____________MLS? (list all Multiple Listing Services you will need to serve your target markets) Bright MLS, Paragon MLS, Garden State MLS, NJ MLS, etc.

Company information

  • Is your brokerage company independent, corporate-owned or a franchise?
  • How many offices does your brokerage have and where are they located?
  • How many agents does your brokerage have in total? How many in each office?
  • What kind of agent turnover does your company experience?
  • What is your company culture? (This is personal preference!) Are they a small or mid-sized firm with a family feel? Or a larger firm with a corporate atmosphere? You may ask to speak with other agents in the office or even attend a meeting or company function.
  • What is your market share in _______________ ? (fill in the geographic area you are targeting)
  • How is your brand recognition in ______________ ? (fill in the areas you are targeting)
  • Do you have a niche in the market? Do you consider yourself a boutique firm specializing in certain areas or are you more generalized?
  • Are there any new agents you’ve hired in the last year I could speak to about their experience?

Compensation and Costs to Agent

Would I be paid as an independent contractor or employee?

Helpful Hint: You will need to have a written Independent Contractor’s Agreement or Employment Contract signed by you and by the broker before you start working. You should read over that contract VERY carefully. It establishes your rights and obligations as an agent of the brokerage.

  • Are there any salaried positions available that require a license?
  • Are there open positions on any of your teams or any teams looking to add another agent? How is compensation handled within the team?
  • Are there any top agents in the office looking for a Licensed Assistant?
  • What commission splits are offered to new agents?
  • Are there multiple compensation plans to choose from? If so, what are the commission splits and fees associated with each?
  • Are there any franchise fees?
  • Do you offer graduated compensation plans? (your commission split increases as you close more deals but typically resets to the original commission split at the beginning of every year)
  • Can agents “cap” out after a certain sales volume? (after you hit a certain dollar amount in closings, the brokerage takes no further commissions on your deals; caps reset every year)
  • When are agents paid their commission after a closing? (often within 10 days)
  • What start-up costs will I need to pay? When do I have to pay these fees? Is there a fee for the upfront training? Are there any other fees I will need to pay in order to start working here?

Helpful Hint: At most brokerage companies the agent is responsible for paying certain costs, including your initial licensing fee, Errors & Omissions (E&O) insurance premium, Multiple Listing Service (MLS) access fees and Board of Realtors® dues. There may be additional fees that are charged by some brokerage companies and not others – that’s what you need to ask about! Be very clear about what you are expected to pay and what you are receiving in return.

  • What do you charge for E&O insurance? What are the deductibles and policy limits? What activities are covered? (E&O generally ranges from $200 to $800 annually.)
  • Are there upfront fees for my training &/or mentoring?
  • Are there monthly or annual desk fees, technology fees, advertising fees or franchise fees? If so, do these fees vary based on which compensation plan I choose?
  • Is your brokerage a member of the Board of Realtors®? If so, what are my annual dues?

Helpful Hint: If the brokerage company is a member of this industry association, then all of their licensees must be members as well. You will have to pay dues on an annual basis.

  • What costs are covered by the brokerage, if any? What other expenses will I be responsible for? Expenses may include:
  • Business cards
  • Marketing materials
  • Lockboxes/ electronic keys to lockboxes
  • Yard signs & riders
  • Fees for website, if provided by broker (Is it stand alone or a page on the broker’s website?)
  • Costs related to marketing, advertising and lead generation activities

Training & Support

  • What type of training and support do you offer new agents? Is there a standard training program in place? How is it structured? Is there a training calendar for new agents?
  • Is there a follow up, career-launch type program to get me started? How long is that program? What types of activities are expected of me? (Cold calling, FSBOs, floor time, sitting open houses, etc.)
  • Are the training classes taught in a classroom or online? Are they mandatory? Who teaches?
  • What costs are associated with my training?
  • What topics are covered: office policy & procedure, compliance, sales training?
  • Does the brokerage have a Policy & Procedure Manual? Will I be thoroughly trained on that policy? (It’s a red flag if the brokerage does not have a Policy & Procedure manual.)
  • Who would be personally responsible for my initial training and support? How many agents is that person responsible for training? Is that person in a dedicated management/ training role or do they actively sell real estate? (This can be a factor if their own business is taking all of their time.) Can I meet with him/her prior to getting hired?

Helpful Hint: Make sure you meet with the person who is responsible for your training. Get to know the person you may go to work for! It could be the broker, an office supervisor, team leader or mentor. Your success depends on their willingness and ability to support you. They should be experienced, competent and have the time and inclination to help you get started.

Do you have a mentoring program? How does it work? How does the mentor get compensated? May I meet the person who will be my mentor?

Helpful Hint: In a mentoring program, you are often sharing your commissions with your mentor for a certain period of time, or for a certain number of transactions.
What do you see as my income potential in the first year, five years, etc.? Will you help me create and execute a business plan?

Requirements & Expectations

  • Are there any specific requirements? What are your expectations of me?
  • Are there mandatory office meetings or training sessions? If so, when and how often?
  • Do you offer floor time/ phone duty? Is it required? Who gets the leads that come in?
  • Are you looking for a minimum number of transactions per month or per year?

Marketing, Advertising & Lead Generation

Does the brokerage have incoming leads for agents? If so, how are those leads distributed? Is there a fee or lower commission split on those leads? How many leads should I expect? What is the conversion rate on those leads? What is the lead source and quality?

  • Are there referral or relocation leads available?
  • If a call comes into the office on one of my listings, do I get the lead or does another agent get it?
  • Does the company pay for any advertising for agents? Does the company provide “matching” on the advertising dollars I spend?
  • Are there any restrictions on marketing and advertising that I pay for to generate leads?
  • What is the company advertising policy? Must I have broker approval?
  • What marketing resources are available and at what cost? Is there a marketing coordinator?
  • Has the brokerage negotiated any discounts advertising rates for their agents?
  • Can I “farm” my own neighborhood or neighborhoods of my choice? Are there restrictions?
  • Can I have my own website? What restrictions if any would apply?

Brand advertising (promoting Brokerage)

  • How do you promote your brokerage services and build brand recognition?
  • Do you promote our listings and the agents in your office?
  • Do you utilize print advertising (such as real estate publications or local papers), billboards, television or radio ads, community event sponsorship or online advertising?
  • Do you have an online lead generation program in place? What is the cost to the agent?
  • Does the brokerage have a social media presence? If so, what platforms are used?
  • Do you have additional tools available to assist agents in marketing their listings?
  • Do you have branded collateral materials available for agent use?

Technology Solutions

  • What technology tools should I have to be competitive? (laptop, smart phone, software, etc.)
  • What technology do you make available to your agents? What are the costs to the agent?
  • Do you provide agents with a website, secure email, phone/voicemail, etc.?
  • Do you offer tech support for agents?
  • Do you offer electronic signature tools? A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?

Administrative Support

  • How are you staffed administratively? Do you offer any clerical or administrative support?
  • Is there a processor or closing coordinator to help me get my deals to closing?

Physical Location

When you visit the office to interview, consider the accessibility of the location, the parking situation, the appearance of the building… these are factors for you but also for your clients! Are you greeted by someone in the reception area? Does the interior look professional? Would you be happy to have your clients meet you in this setting?

  • Do you offer desk space or shared workspace for new agents?
  • Are there printers or scanners available in the office for agents to use?
  • Are there private meeting or conference rooms I can use to meet with clients?
  • What are your normal business hours?
  • Is there always someone at the reception desk during those hours?
  • Would I have after-hours access?

After you’ve completed your initial interviews, you’ll want to review your notes and follow up on any outstanding questions you have. Maybe you’ll be sitting in on a training session, attending a company function or even speaking with another new agent to help you decide. Take your time, do your research and follow your gut. Have you found your perfect match? If not, keep looking! The right company is out there, just waiting for you to connect.

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Testimonials

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Matthew L
Galloway, New Jersey
July 2013 Graduate

I just wanted to say thank you to Don Haven Sr. and his daughter Kelby for preparing me for the NJ State RE test. I successfully passed the test and I felt like I just sold a million-dollar home! The test was not easy at all, but I was prepared…

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Alissa M
Folsom, Pennsylvania
September 2019 Graduate

The instructors had great stories to help me remember the material and always kept me interested.

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Isabella R
Trenton, New Jersey
September 2019 Graduate

I loved how energized and upbeat Kelby’s teaching style was because she was always in a positive mood and it set the atmosphere for the class.

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John M
Magnolia, New Jersey
September 2018 Graduate

Kelby and Michelle were amazing! To be able to fit so much information into the class in two short weeks was incredible! I highly recommend this class and am looking forward to my new career!”

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Carrie G
Edgewater Park, New Jersey
August 2019 Graduate

Michelle was amazing. Her teaching style is very effective and fun!

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Recel J
Marlton, New Jersey
September 2019 Graduate

I came into the class just for information for investing and I’m leaving with an offer from an investment company that wants me to get my license!

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