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How to Build a Real Estate Team: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring, Managing, & Retaining the Best Talent

Team of young workers during a stand-up meeting

Building a great real estate team is no small feat, but the payoff can be rewarding for everyone involved. With the right team members in place, you're closer to becoming one of the top brokerages in town.

However, bringing in the right people isn’t as easy as selecting the first resume that hits the stack. You need a plan of action to address pressing questions, such as what roles you need to fill and how different team members will be compensated. If you’re not sure how to get started, don’t worry: we’ve created a step-by-step guide that will help you put together the most successful team for your brokerage.

The 7 Steps to Building a Winning Real Estate Team

From recruiting talent to determining compensation, the process can seem overwhelming to say the least. However, there are seven key steps you can take to ensure that you’re bringing the right people onto your team to help you grow your business. They are:

  1. Identify the ideal team structure.
  2. Establish compensation for different roles.
  3. Create a team agreement.
  4. Recruit, interview, and hire your talent.
  5. Create goals for your team.
  6. Manage your team (without being a micromanager).
  7. Develop a strategy for retaining your talent.

Let’s get into it.

Step #1: Identify the ideal structure for your team.

When building a real estate team from scratch, the first thing you’ll want to do is determine the specific roles you’ll need to keep your business running. But this doesn’t mean that you should just go out and hire a bunch of agents. If you truly want to create a brokerage that’s built for success, you should consider bringing on teammates who can help you manage all the other tasks that help keep a business running smoothly (think: administrative and marketing people).

To help you get a better understanding of how to do this, we spoke to Dani Blain, founder and broker at Dani Blain Real Estate. Blain oversees her entire team of roughly 30 agents and five support staff. Some of her agents have individual teams, which, as the broker, she also supervises.

Key Real Estate Roles to Fill

Each team member fulfills a specific role. Before you put out a call for candidates, you need to determine which positions need to be filled and the order in which they should be hired. Blain suggested starting with a showing agent or buyer’s assistant and then adding a listing coordinator and a transaction coordinator.

Typically, however, brokerages try to hire people to fill the following roles – and in this order:

1. Agents

  • Listing Agent: This person is responsible for listing and marketing properties for sellers. As owner and operator of your brokerage, you may think you can take on the role of listing agent by yourself. However, if you have more properties than you can manage, having a dedicated teammate to handle these tasks can clear work off your plate so you can focus on managing the other aspects of your business.
  • Buyer’s Agent: Usually, this is the second role that a broker tries to fill when building their team. This person is responsible for working with clients to determine what they’re looking for in a property, as well as their ideal budget. Once those details have been ironed out, the buyer's agent identifies properties that match the client's wishes and arranges showings for them. This agent can also help buyers negotiate an offer with the seller's agent.

2. Listing Coordinator

The listing coordinator is responsible for identifying business opportunities — including, but not limited to, client referrals — maintaining the listing database for agents, and working with the marketing team to execute and monitor the listing strategies. They may also help answer phones, greet visitors, and create sales and listing packets.

3. Transaction Coordinator

This person oversees everything involved in a real estate transaction, including getting all the paperwork in order at every stage of the process. Blain recommends hiring a transaction coordinator who also functions as an administrative assistant.

As your firm grows, you may want to bring on a separate administrative assistant if the transaction coordinator becomes busy with assisting agents.

4. Inside Sales Agent

Hiring an inside sales agent can help increase your business’s gross commission income. As a licensed salesperson with extensive industry knowledge, this person is responsible for maintaining contact with possible business leads and responding to inquiries within a certain timeframe. They might keep these leads for themselves or pass them along to a buyer’s agent.

5. Real Estate Marketing Coordinator or Manager

Once you have a solid team built and new leads start flowing in, you may want to consider hiring a marketing professional to help boost business. This person is responsible for developing your brand and growing its presence within your community. They’ll do this through traditional marketing efforts, such as buying ads that appear on billboards and on local TV stations. They may also grow awareness of your brand by managing your team’s website, sending out press releases for any big announcements that involve your brokerage, and managing your team’s social media accounts.

Step #2: Figure out compensation for the different roles.

Now that you know who you need on your team, it’s time to plan out how you’ll pay everyone.

Compensating Non-Commission Employees

Just like any other office setting, members of the real estate team who aren’t responsible for selling homes, such as marketing and administrative professionals, are typically paid on a bi-weekly basis. At Dani Blain Real Estate, most of the support staff are independent 1099 contractors who work under the brokerage.

“They contract with the agents who are under the brokerage so they are in a position where they can make more money,” said Blain.

However, because these team members support your brokerage’s overall sales efforts, you may opt to pay them through a hybrid model. This means that, in addition to their regular stipend, these roles may receive a special bonus at the end of the year as recognition for their contributions to the team. Giving non-commission employees bonuses is optional but can help keep morale high in the office, encourage them to continue excelling in their position, and keep them professionally satisfied.

Typical Salary for a Real Estate Administrative Assistant

Typically, real estate administrative assistants are paid about $14.49/hour, on average, but this number will vary depending on your brokerage’s location.

Typical Salary for a Transaction Coordinator

According to Payscale.com, transaction coordinators make an average of $16.70 per hour or $40,238 annually.

Typical Salary for Real Estate Marketers

Marketing professionals in the real estate industry typically make an average of $54,582 per year, according to PayScale.com.

A marketing director makes an average yearly salary of $119,750. This position oversees all of the brokerage’s marketing efforts, which includes developing and executing a marketing strategy.

A marketing coordinator, who is supervised by the marketing manager, makes an average of $43,690 annually.

Commission Splits for Commission-Based Employees

Unsurprisingly, your agents will likely work entirely on commission. Agents are often 1099 employees working as independent contractors. However, in return for the services you offer them as a managing broker, these agents give part of their commission to your brokerage. And figuring out how to divvy up commission between you and your agents can be a fine line to walk. Clearly, you want to compensate your top performers well, while making sure that you’re offering a fair portion of the commission to lower-ranking members.

Some of your agents might have their own teams, which means that they have separate splits within those teams. Blain said her brokerage is set up this way: “At our brokerage, the agents are independent contractors so they (work) based upon splits that are under the brokerage...Then they set the splits for their own team.”

There's no overarching rule about how to split up the commission, but there are three popular commission split models to consider:

  • Fixed Commission Split: According to a 2018 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a fixed commission split model is most commonly used by brokerages. Under this arrangement, a percentage split is decided between you and your agent and remains fixed (i.e., does not change) based on production or sales. There's a lot of variety here, but a typical commission split might be something like 50/50 or 60/40, with higher-performing agents often receiving higher percentages in the range of 70/30 or 80/20.
  • Graduated Commission Split: As the name suggests, this commission split model changes over time, usually based on how productive an agent is. These types of splits encourage agents to work harder, with the incentive of earning higher profit margins with the more deals they close.
  • 100% Commission Split: In this scenario, brokers collect monthly fees from agents for space rental, as well as other services your company might offer — this could include things like administrative services, marketing and advertising services, errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, or the use of computers, phones, and copiers.

After paying this monthly retainer fee, the agents keep 100% of their commission. Though this isn’t a very popular approach, it does work for many brokers — particularly those whose businesses are more well-established.

Step #3: Create a team agreement.

Before you begin the hiring process, you should have a team agreement in place that details the expected relationship between you and other team members. According to the Arizona Association of Realtors, agreements typically outline office policies and procedures, as well as how those terms apply to each member of the team. The document also outlines reasons for termination, such as unlawful or dishonest behavior, actions that negatively impact the business’s reputation, and violations of the agreement itself.

When creating your team agreement, you should consider covering the following topics:

  • Each teammate’s job responsibilities and duties
  • Job performance expectations
  • Number of hours members need to work per week
  • Number of meetings to attend
  • Open house requirements
  • How they will be paid (include information about splits, bonuses, etc.)
  • Detailed outline of what happens if an agent leaves
  • Who pays for what (i.e., team member or team leader)
  • Benefits you’ll provide your team

Step #4: Recruit, interview, & hire your talent.

Recruiting Your Talent

You've already determined what positions you need to fill, how much you’re going to compensate each role, and the rules by which you’ll all operate. Now you’re ready to start recruiting the right people for the job.

“A lot of the agents who come here are experienced agents who want to be under our same model where they see, ‘OK, you’re not out to get each other,’” Blain said. “We have friendly competitions under the brokerage but we aren’t like ‘Who’s better’ or ‘Who can do this or that.’ We aren’t ego driven, we are more servant driven.”

So, how do you find top talent? Blain said that the majority of the people they have under their brokerage come to them. This is in part because of the reputation her real estate team has in the community. They participate in community events, which she says is important for team building because “everyone has the same mind set for giving back — it’s just that group of like-minded people that come together and have the same vision that really makes us successful.”

Blain recommended that you should look for people who are like you.

“We focus on community and culture,” Blain explained. “So what that means is we look for people who are like minded — and that doesn't mean they have to be the same, but that they strive to take the knowledge and information they have and share it with others and create a really good support group for the whole team.”

For her team, there are three important traits that she seeks in every person she hires; specifically, she looks for someone who is:

  • “Hungry, humble, and smart”
  • Interested in teaching and building up the rest of their teammates
  • Not ego-driven

Blain said that you should start out by identifying the two or three characteristics that make an ideal teammate, then look for them in the candidates you recruit.

On top of that, the Society for Human Resource Management provides the following tips for how to attract and recruit top talent to join your growing real estate team:

  1. Create a job post. List the personal and professional attributes you're seeking for your team. Starting out, you might want to create one post for each level of experience you're seeking to hire.
  2. Post and spread the word. Once you have the job opening, you’ll need to get it out in the world. Your first step should be to post it on the traditional career websites like Indeed, Monster.com, and SimplyHired. If there are any industry-specific websites you know of, feel free to post them there. (If you’re a member of the NAR, they should have some directories of hiring websites you can use.) Your next step should be social media – but don’t just stop at LinkedIn. Blain said that she posts her firm’s job opportunities to Facebook and Instagram, too, so that she has a larger audience looking at the open positions. This, in turn, gives her a greater chance of finding candidates who are the right fit for those positions.
  3. Network. If you’re looking for fresh faces and new ideas, try networking with other real estate professionals at local and/or national industry events and conferences. Make a point to exchange contact information with them. Better yet, connect with them on social media. If you can — and have the bandwidth to do so — try to keep in touch with them on a regular basis; this will help you and your brokerage stay top of mind if and when they decide they’re ready for a change of scenery in their career.
  4. Market your brand, not just your brokerage. Remember that when you post anything about your brokerage on social media, you’re reaching more people than just buyers and sellers. Agents are watching, too. In fact, this is how Blain said she’s reached most of her talent.

“The majority of the people that we have under our brokerage come to us because they see what we put out there. We offer support to each other, community service, and training opportunities, which really attracts people to our firm,” she said.

Interviewing Your Top Prospects

The interview is your chance to get a sense of the candidate’s personality, work ethic, and previous real estate experience. This is also a great opportunity to get to know the potential employee better and see how well they’ll mesh with you and the rest of your team.

“I think some agents can have big egos, and they feel like it’s all about them,” Blain said. She adds that she makes a point of not hiring those types of personalities. Instead, she looks for people who are team leaders with a “servant’s heart.”

That said, asking the right questions can make a huge difference. According to Kaplan Real Estate Education, there are typically three questions that hiring managers ask new agents during the interview process:

  1. Why do you want to get into the real estate business?
  2. How much money do you want to make in your first year?
  3. How much time are you prepared to invest in order to make that amount of money?

These questions can be modified, depending on the experience level of the agent. However, these basic questions will give you a good sense of how hard the agent is willing to work to help the company succeed and what drives them to do good work.

The Balance has shared a list of topics you should consider asking when interviewing agents. Here are some key questions to consider asking:

  • “What is your previous sales experience?”
  • “How well do you work with your clients?”
  • “Have you ever had any issues come up? If so, how did you handle them?”
  • “How do you attract new clients?"
  • “What sets you apart from other agents?”

Questions for non-real estate positions, such as office managers, administrative assistants, and marketing professionals, may include topics like previous work history, education, salary requirements, work ethic, and organizational skills.

The first round of interviews are usually meant to screen candidates, so it’s up to you whether you want to do these in person, on the phone, or via video conferencing software like Google Hangouts or Skype. However, as you narrow your search to just a few candidates, it’s best to conduct those interviews in person to get a better idea of who the candidate is and whether they could be a good fit for your team.

As you move through the interview process, here are nine red flags to watch out for:

  • The agent bad-mouths previous jobs or clients.
  • They have too much confidence.
  • The agent exaggerates or embellishes the truth.
  • They have unrealistic sales goals.
  • The agent appears disorganized.
  • They lack enthusiasm.
  • The agent came unprepared to the interview.
  • They give clients the “one and done” treatment.
  • The agent’s only goal seems to be getting rich.

Hiring Your Talent

If you’re handling the hiring all by yourself, staying organized is key. Make sure to keep detailed notes about the interviewees’ answers; that way, you can quickly review why you want to hire (or don’t want to hire) a person for a particular role. Also, filing resumes in a folder or keeping digital copies is helpful for quickly referring to job candidates' previous work history, education, and contact information.

Keep in mind that there’s no one “right” way to manage the hiring process when you’re building your team. A lot of this will take some trial and error as you start, and you’ll figure out what system works best for you and your needs. For example, Blain’s brokerage has an agent leadership committee that’s made up of seven team members. Both she and another broker are responsible for initially interviewing potential job candidates. If a person seems like a good fit, Blain will introduce them to the inside sales team and the other agents who are on the leadership counsel. If she receives positive feedback from the rest of the team, she moves forward with extending an offer to that candidate. And, if not, they go back to the drawing board and start over with a new candidate.

Step #5: Create goals for your team.

Goals are an invaluable tool for keeping your team motivated and focused as you go about your day to day. However, not all goals are created equal, and poorly designed ones can quickly lead you off-course. That’s where the SMART acronym comes in: it’s a simple, yet highly effective strategy for creating both short- and long-term goals that provide you with structure and focus, which can ultimately translate into success.

The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

The ideal business goal will tick off all five of these boxes. As a brokerage owner, Blain helps each of her team members identify and manage goals by:

  • Setting goals at the beginning of the year
  • Sending weekly sales reports
  • Meeting with agents individually to help them when needed
  • Holding weekly meetings to touch base about goals

“We have a meeting where we ask everyone what their goals are for the year, and we have meetings throughout the year to make sure they are reaching their goals. We [also] meet with agents individually to see how we can best help them,” she said. “This is really the core of how our brokerage achieves success—supporting our team members is a vital part of it all.”

Step #6: Manage your team (without being a micromanager).

Being the boss can be a fine line to walk. You want to encourage your team to be successful and work hard, but you also want to avoid micromanaging their every move. Here are some of Blain’s tips for how to strike that balance:

1. Set up regular “check-ins” with your team.

One way to do this is to set up weekly meetings; ideally, this will be done both as a team and as individual one-on-one meetings with each employee. This will give you a chance to check in with everyone to see how things are going and provide any kind of support or guidance they may need.

2. Try to establish an “open-door” policy.

Make sure your employees feel comfortable approaching you if they need help. You don’t have to be the “fun” boss, but you should try to foster an environment that makes your employees feel at ease when they talk to you about work-related problems or if they have a business idea they’d like to share with you.

3. Address any and all issues immediately.

If you notice that a teammate is struggling or just isn’t performing at the level they should be, sit down with them so you can find out what’s going on.

4. Fire fast.

The unfortunate truth is that you’ll inevitably find yourself in a situation where a new hire just isn’t the right fit for your team. If (and when) this happens to you, don’t hesitate to address the problem immediately. Mark Ferguson of Invest Four More explains why this is so important to do: “If someone is not working out or not working well with the team, let them go. One or two bad people can be toxic and ruin the morale for the entire team. The sooner you let them go, the better off the team will be even if they sell a lot of houses,” he said.

Step 7: Develop a strategy for retaining your talent.

By the time you’ve gotten to this step, you’ve already put a lot of time and effort into building your team. The last thing you want to do is have all your hard work go to waste by having your employees leave after a year or two (or worse, after two weeks!). Here are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re keeping your talent once they’ve signed on with you.

1. Foster a positive office culture.

While many real estate professionals enjoy having a flexible work schedule, for some, the daily grind can eventually lead to burnout. To combat this, strive to create a fun and supportive work environment for your team. Some brokers do this by providing free snacks and drinks in the break room, or posting positive messaging throughout the office, while others make a point of hosting fun company outings (e.g., bowling or an after-work happy hour on the company). All these efforts may seem small, but they can go a long way toward boosting your team’s morale and keeping spirits high. You should also consider encouraging your employees to use their paid time off so they don’t feel overworked.

2. Reward your teammates for a job well done.

When your agent wraps up a big sale or your marketing manager lands you an interview with a major industry publication, reward them for a job well done. The reward can be as simple as giving a gift card to their favorite restaurant, taking the office out for lunch, or even closing early on a Friday. Rewarding your employees on a regular basis can make them feel valued and appreciated, which, in turn, will help increase their job satisfaction and keep them with you longer.

3. Provide your team with the latest technology and tools they need to do their jobs.

If you want to retain your top talent, you have to support them by providing them with the latest technology and real estate tools they need to do their jobs well. If your computers are slow and old, or you don’t have any kind of customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep track of existing customers and potential leads, you could end up making your employees’ jobs a lot harder. This, in turn, could cause you to lose customers, as well as the employees you worked so hard to hire in the first place.

4. Learn and grow with them.

Blain said that she makes a point of providing her team with both industry- and business-related books to help them grow as professionals.

“One of the things we do is we have a monthly reading,” she explained. “I find books like the ‘12 Pillars of Success,’ and I will present them to everyone in the brokerage and recommend they read them. I think more reading and more knowledge brings more success for all of us.”

Final Thoughts

With the right people on your team who show dedication to clients, reaching your real estate goals will be easier than ever.

Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran once said, “The joy is in the getting there. The beginning years of starting your business, the camaraderie when you're in the pit together, are the best years of your life. So rather than being so focused on when you get big and powerful, if you can just get the juice out of that...don't miss it.”


Want to learn more about how E&O insurance can help you protect your team's work? Call us at 855-209-2555 to speak with one of our licensed agents today!


Image courtesy of iStock.com/Vasyl Dolmatov


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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