It’s official. You’ve decided to buy or sell a house and you’re excited. But as you begin to research agents, read reviews and recommendations of real estate agents and brokerages, and sort through listings, your excitement quickly turns into stress.
This is a huge transaction! Which agent should you work with? Whose recommendations do you trust? Should you just hire your co-worker’s wife’s brother? Or do you consider hiring an entire team of agents? Do they all charge the same? Do I get the same value from all of them?
At HomeLight, we’ve spoken with the top real estate agents throughout the country, and we know real estate teams are a practical and valuable option for many home buyers and sellers. But is it right for you?
In writing this guide, we’ve done the research and have interviewed a variety of high-performing real estate professionals to answer all of your questions about how a real estate team works and whether working with one is right for your situation.
You’ll receive expert guidance from the following professionals:
- Holly Mitchell, a top agent in Yarmouth, Maine, who has completed more sales than the average agent in her area by 11%
- Steven Cohen of the Steven Cohen Real Estate Team, who ranks #4 for homes sold in Boston, Massachusetts
- Elizabeth Weintraub, a top agent in Sacramento, California, who works with over 70% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area
- Dylan Snyder, a top agent in Jupiter, Florida, who sells home 55% quicker than the average agent in his area
- Jay Groccia, a professional real estate photographer in Massachusetts, who works with real estate teams
What is a real estate team?
A real estate team is a collection of real estate professionals who work together to help clients list, sell, and/or purchase real estate. Teams can consist of both licensed real estate agents and non-licensed professionals who work in a more specialized way, such as transaction coordinators, home stagers, and photographers.
It’s an increasingly common option for buyers and sellers who want an entire posse of agents and other home-selling professions by their side.
“Teams come in different models,” explains Mitchell, “They are part of, but independent from, the brokerage and come together as independent contractors under a business entity.”
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 28% of Realtors® work on teams, and of those that weren’t currently on a team, 16% had previously worked on a team
Sometimes, real estate teams are also referred to as groups. “My team is technically called a group in its name, but here there’s no difference. There may be some state regulations about that, but typically the terms are interchangeable” states Mitchell.
How do real estate teams work?
Real estate teams operate for the purpose of making real estate transactions smoother by having people on the team who specialize in individual aspects of the transaction.
A more experienced agent or multiple experienced agents serve as listing agents and lead generators. You can think of them as the rainmakers. They are supported by other agents, operations staff, and marketers who are tasked with other responsibilities, including transaction coordination, hosting open houses, managing the office, promoting listings, and working with buyers.
For the most part, real estate teams are pretty small, with an average number of four on a team and 30% of teams consisting of only two agents, according to the same NAR report referenced above. But they can be much larger.
Does it cost more to hire a real estate team?
If you hire a team, you do not pay more commission.
It’s the same amount of money for you, just split among more people. Depending on the team, some non-agent staff may be on salary while agents likely earn a percentage of each sale or divide each commission based on each team member’s role in the sale.
Here’s a breakdown of potential real estate team commission structures.
There are different types of teams and different structures of teams. Many teams start with a successful but busy agent who no longer has the time to do it all. They are at a growth tipping point and unable to keep juggling additional responsibilities such as marketing, paperwork, lead generation, maintaining databases, and hosting open houses.
They often start by hiring an assistant or administrative staff member to help with the workload. Then, they may add another agent to free up time to work with a particular type of client. Or they may hire a transaction coordinator to help with documents and paperwork as well as inputting listings on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS).
How do real estate teams typically set responsibilities?
Key to the success of any functioning team is a clear division and understanding of each team member’s roles and responsibilities.
Most real estate teams have the following roles:
- Primary or head agent(s) – the “CEO”
- Internal sales agent – sometimes specializing in either listings or purchases
- Transaction coordinator – the “project manager” for the contract/transaction
- Listing specialist – handles the logistics for listings, such as putting up signs and coordinating staging and photography
- Operations specialist – helps with inter-team coordination and logistics
- Marketing specialist – helps with advertising, design, and listing promotion
One aspect of the composition of real estate teams that may be changing is whether agents within the team specialize on either listings or purchases.
Mitchell explains, “In the early stages of teams, there were agents that were just focused on buyers or listings, but it’s much more common now for agents that work with both. That way they can work with the same client when they are a seller, and then right afterward a buyer for a new home.”
In some cases, teams will have a whole bevy of brokers, a long list of buyers and seller’s agents. And in other cases, it may just be a couple of agents and an administrative assistant. It just depends on the size and structure of the team.
There are some additional roles and responsibilities in larger teams that specialize even further.
If a team has enough listings, it may hire a specialist within the team to stage homes instead of contracting with a third party. Weintraub argues that home stagers are an essential part of a team, stating “Home staging is…magical… the art of creating moods. Professional stagers are highly skilled artists…”
Similarly, some large teams hire an in-house photographer to take professional photos for each website listing to make sure they give prospective buyers the best vision of the value of the home. Groccia calls great real estate photos “inspirational.” And necessary: “That was it – right there – that was your opportunity to grab that buyer’s attention, and if they clicked back, you’ve lost them forever.”
When you have an agent who’s part of a team, you get people who specialize in all parts of the transaction. Each person is where they need to be, in their lane.
- Holly Mitchell
Real Estate Agent
Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Realty
Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience
- Average Price Point
- Single Family Homes
What are the benefits of hiring a real estate team over a solo agent?
The main benefit of hiring a real estate team is the synergy and specialized care of a collection of highly skilled individuals to ensure your transaction goes smoothly.
1. Better outcomes due to specialized roles and effective delegation
Real estate team leaders delegate a specific subset of responsibilities in a real estate transaction to individual roles within the team. This means that each aspect of the transaction is handled by a specialist that is more highly skilled in that area than a professional who is more of a “jack of all trades.”
Mitchell explains, “When you have an agent who’s part of a team, you get people who specialize in all parts of the transaction. Each person is where they need to be, in their lane.”
Individual agents wear a ton of different hats, and in some cases, an agent may be exceptional at marketing and negotiating, but miserable at “crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s.” Within a team structure, there is someone detail-oriented who specializes in handling the particulars of a listing, the transaction, and the contract.
Cohen hires team members based on their skills as well as how they fit in with the team and if they can see the vision. “I need people who are obsessed with making sure that not one red paperclip makes its way into the blue paperclip bin,” he says. “They are the kind of people who read the terms and conditions of any contract.”
2. Access to more resources for more availability – at the same cost
The agents work in their areas of specialty, but they also work together to handle a client’s every need. If a buyer wants to see a home “as soon as possible!” and the agent is on vacation, another agent or team member will step in.
“You win more when you have more resources,” described Mitchell. “If you are a buyer, there will always be an agent who is available to step in to not lose out on an opportunity.”
Additionally, when things go wrong, a team has the bandwidth to provide better support for less-than-ideal situations.
What are the drawbacks of hiring a real estate team over a solo agent?
1. The team may struggle with teamwork
A recent study called “Real Estate Team Risks and Rewards” surveyed nearly a thousand agents asking about real estate teams. While there are some positive outcomes from this research, 61% of respondents reported, “Confusion about who does what is the biggest issue clients face while working with a team.”
Here are other ways that agents reported team dynamics negatively impacting the client experience:
- Not knowing who to contact (64%)
- Being bounced between team members (63%)
- Preconceived expectations about dealing with the team leader (61%)
- Poor communication (56%)
- Lack of personalized service (48%)
If the team is not put together carefully, and if the team does not have a strong leader and strong members, the transaction process can get messy.
So, how do you get a feel for how well the team is functioning? Cohen suggests asking a lot of questions during the interview, such as the functions of each member of the team, their experience, and their track record. “There is always the power of questions,” he says. “Ask questions that allow you to discover how intentionally the team has been created.”
2. You won’t have one person’s sole attention
People range on a spectrum in terms of the type of personalization and care they prefer when going through a real estate transaction. If you are someone who doesn’t value personalization or the relational aspects of these types of transactions over getting the best value with a streamlined, efficient process, then a team may be for you.
But if you are someone who appreciates and values the relational nature of working with an agent who understands you, your context and situation, and is your single point of contact throughout the entire transaction, you may be disappointed with the type of service that a team can provide you.
“Some people prefer to know who they can call to thank, or yell at,” says Mitchell. “When you work with a solo agent, their entire focus is on you, one-on-one, and they have context of the entire transaction and not just one part of it.”
How to find top teams and agents near you
In summary, here are a few of the questions that you can ask yourself to determine whether a real estate team or a solo agent is the right type of representation for you:
|Question||Real estate team||Solo agent|
|Which is more important to you in a real estate transaction?||Best value & efficient process||Attention & personal touch|
|How do you prefer to communicate during a transaction?||Fastest response times||Single point of contact|
|Which type of person do you prefer to help with your transaction?||Someone with specialized skills||Someone with the full context|
Now that you’ve digested all of this information from our research and tips from the experts, you are ready to find an agent or a team of agents who will best match your wants, needs, and expectations.
And we can help! HomeLight’s Agent Match tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agents or teams in your area are best for you based on your needs. Whether you want to find an efficient team to streamline the process, or a solo agent to give you the personal touch, start with HomeLight.
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