Four of the top five most productive brokerages, determined by average closed transaction sides per agent, are RE/MAX offices. The other is an independent. What’s the secret to per-agent productivity? Brokers share their secrets.
In the 2021 RealTrends 500 top brokerage rankings, Colorado-based RE/MAX 4000, a firm with 82 agents at the time of our interview, had an astounding 29.5 closed sides per agent. They were the No. 1 most productive office in the RT500.* The Real Estate Group, a Springfield, Illinois-based independent with 164 agents (at the time of interview), ranked No. 3 with 26.5 closed sides per agent.
Rounding out the top five brokerages with the highest per-agent productivity are No. 2 RE/MAX Professionals, another Springfield, Illinois-based firm at 28.3 closed sides per agent, No. 4 RE/MAX Universal, based in Cypress, Texas and No. 5 RE/MAX Preferred Group, based in Toledo, Ohio.
According to Nick Bailey, chief customer officer of RE/MAX International, “RE/MAX Professionals is the only RE/MAX office in the area. Over the years, the owners have built a strong culture of collaboration and continuous development. They run a very forward-looking office.” As for RE/MAX Universal, Bailey says, “There are two keys to Owner Matthew Guzman’s success—new construction sales and real estate teams. In this extremely low inventory market, Guzman’s office has seized on new construction as an opportunity for continued growth. He’ll often ride along with newer agents as they meet with developers to personally teach them strategies for winning new construction business.”
“Brokers are always looking for something mystical. I look for the brilliant basics,” says Tom Ferry, brokerage coach and CEO of Ferry International. “When you give [agents] an opportunity to perform, and you track, measure and reward them, and you make it fun and exciting, you level the playing field. With contests around leading indicators, a brand new agent can come in and book 25 or 30 appointments with potential buyers and sellers.” But, there’s more than one way to drive per-agent productivity, as evidenced by two of the top five RealTrends 500 brokerages with the highest per-agent productivity.
The challenge of increasing per-agent productivity
Increasing per-agent productivity is a constant battle for real estate brokerage leaders. So, how are these firms able to do it so well? After all, the average closed sides per agent in the RT500 were 10.5 transactions. How are they getting double the production from their agents? It turns out, they’re increasing per-agent productivity in multiple ways, including using accountability measures, building close ties with the community and offering agents a chance to buy into the brokerage. Ironically, neither of the two brokers we interviewed use contests to encourage per-agent productivity. But, they both hold agents accountable for the actions that lead to listings and sales.
Accountability and culture
For RE/MAX 4000, we spoke with Managing Broker Joe Tripoli and Owner Toni Charlesworth. “I was a franchise development consultant in 2001,” says Bailey. “I watched how she [Charlesworth] built the company. She was very selective on who they were recruiting.” Charlesworth notes that some of those same agents she recruited early on are still with the brokerage. “Many of our agents are seasoned veterans, but we’re not afraid of hiring new agents,” she says.
“We made a strategic move to maintain the largest marketshare of anyone in our market, and that means a focus on per-agent productivity. We now have a lot of repeat and referral business as our agents are well-known.” She also credits Tripoli with “keeping staff motivated, especially this year. He came into the office every day even if he was just making phone calls to agents. When we recruit, we let them know that we take care of the business side.” More than that, she says, “We care about our agents. Some agents went through a tough mental time with COVID, so we worked with them and changed their structure. We want them to know we’re not after a check every day.”
Tripoli notes that, “From an agent development standpoint, we focus a lot on accountability and tracking, which leads to high per-agent productivity. I meet with agents each year to help them look through their business plan, and focus on life goals.” The brokerage also implements the Buffini & Company 100 Days to Greatness and Peak Producers programs. Tripoli is a certified facilitator through Buffini. “I have individual accountability meetings. Pre-COVID-19, they were face-to-face, then we transitioned to phone meetings. Some weekly and some monthly,” he says.
However, if Tripoli was to pinpoint the brokerage’s successful agents, it would be because of that ever-elusive culture. “When you surround yourself with success, it breeds success,” he notes.
Agent Buy In
The Real Estate Group’s broker/owner Josh Kruse and Managing Broker Mike Buscher say that their business model where agents have the opportunity to be part-owners in the company “drives the desire to keep the motions moving forward.” That, in turn, boosts per-agent productivity.
“We’re locally owned,” says Kruse. “And, while profits are, of course, important, we’re not a strictly profit-driven company. We strive to take care of the agents. We work hard to keep our agents happy and moving forward with a positive mindset.”
The company started 21 years ago as a co-op, according to Buscher. “There were seven agents who got together and said they had a better way. They shared expenses and kept their commissions. While the size of the company has ballooned, the philosophy hasn’t. Right now, there are 38 stockholders who own the company, of which 37 make a living selling real estate. I am not actively productive,” he says. In fact, they added seven stockholders since July 2020. “This opportunity is a big draw for us to attract quality agents from other companies,” says Buscher. In fact, he says, “We picked up the No. 4 team from our competitor and eight new agents came over just since the beginning of the year. A lot of the lure was that fact that they could have some ownership in the company.
Plus, with that agent buy-in comes a sense of responsibility for the success of the brokerage, according to Kruse, who notes that’s huge for driving per-agent productivity. Plus, says Buscher, “We’re extremely supportive of the team concept.”
The brokerage is also flexible in a way that many franchises can’t be, says Kruse. “The traditional companies struggle with things that we haven’t had problems with because of our model,” says Buscher. “We have two compensation plans, a capped split plan and a 100% concept,” says Kruse. “Shareholders are on the same plan as everyone else.” They also have a nine-member board that makes decisions that impact the company. “Because the board is made up of agents, they’re always looking out for what’s in the best interest of the agents. They’re not making rules that apply to the agents but not to them,” says Buscher.
Multiple ways to build brokerage productivity
There are many different ways to boost per-agent productivity, as evidenced by RE/MAX 4000 and The Real Estate Group. “When I look at the most successful CEOs, broker-managers and team leaders that I work with, they all take a much more thoughtful approach to the individual,” says Ferry. “The challenge though is that once you get beyond 25 or 30 agents in an office, how do you scale that? At the end of the day, it’s about what’s going to inspire agents to get out and do something.” And, that takes time and effort from the brokerage leadership.
*RealTrends does not verify agent count, but, according to Scott Wright and Steve Murray, architects of the report, they feel the agent counts of these brokerages were accurate for 2020 when submitted.