The Rise of the Real Estate Team:  Solo Agents, Brokerages Being Displaced by Teams

by Danielle Skowronek

The Rise of the Real Estate Team:  Solo Agents, Brokerages Being Displaced by Teams

Over the last several years real estate teams have rapidly grown and are displacing the older model of solo agents and large-scale brokerages.  Small, but extremely productive teams, have been able to provide a more customer-centric approach and as a result, a higher percentage of real estate transaction are now conducted by teams. The response of many solo agents and large brokerages has not been to adapt to this trend and focus on client based solutions, but rather to try and confuse the public. Many solo agents are now trying to appear to be a team and many large brokerages attempt to present data in a way that confuses brokerages for teams.

The Real Estate Team Trend and Advantage

The structure of real estate teams provides them with several inherent advantages that have fueled their increase in market share. Real estate teams typically have a mix of people in sales and administrative roles. They are usually led by one, or sometimes two, individuals who built the team after becoming a highly productive solo agent. Team members have specific roles. In a typical structure, there is a support staff that coordinates all of the administrative and marketing work. The size of this staff depends on the number of transactions the team does. The support staff fills roles such as assisting with all the behind the scenes listing work (getting the home ready, coordinating marketing efforts, scheduling showings, ordering documents, etc.), coordinating the contract to closing process and marketing.

On the sales side, real estate teams usually have a mix of inside sales agents, buyer agents, and listing agents. The inside sales agents are in charge of incoming leads and phone calls. They maintain the database, follow up with prospects and book appointments for the listing and buyer agents. The buyers agents work with prospective buyers and the listing agents work with prospective sellers.

So what specific advantages does a real estate team have over solo agents or brokerages?

First, real estate teams benefit from having teams of specialists. A successful real estate transaction requires several different types of skill sets. It is rare for one person to be able to do them better than a group of specialists. Second, real estate teams have a much bigger marketing budget that can be directed towards promoting sellers’ homes or finding homes for buyers.  Third, real estate teams have a high standard when it comes to hiring and has tighter contracts, which give them higher quality people, and the ability to have tighter controls over them. This helps ensure more consistency in customer service. Finally, real estate teams do a lot more transactions so they are much further along the experience curve than a solo agent or a brokerage (While brokerages may do more transactions they are structured in a way that prevents corporate experience development from happening, which we will go into more detail about later).

The Solo Agent Response:  Fake Teams?

So far the solo agent response to real estate teams has been to add the word “group” or “team” after their name. Calling yourself a group or team does not mean you are a group or team. If an agent says they are a group or team, but their website only talks about them you should be suspicious.  If you are interviewing someone with group or team in their name ask them about the specific roles of each of their team members. Ask them how many people work on their team. Be direct and do not let them dodge. Many times an agent will also have a buyers agent or another agent that they share marketing or leads with. That does not make them a team and if you hire someone like that you will not get the real estate team advantage.

The Big Brokerage Response:  Misleading Stats?

The response of big brokerages to teams has been to try and use their brokerage stats in a way makes the brokerage seem like one coordinated team. Big national and regionals brokerage chains such as Long and Foster, Washington Fine Properties, Century 21 and Keller Williams, can have as many at 200 to 300 agents per office. The agents are hired as independent contractors, meaning there is very little direct supervision of individual agents. There is typically a very low bar in the hiring process for big brokerages. Their model depends on signing up as many people as possible and it is hard not to get hard by one. If you were to hire an agent from a big brokerage there could be a completely different level of service and experience from one agent to the next. They are not a team of closely coordinated specialists. They are so far removed from each other’s transactions that there is very little, if any, corporate knowledge or experience gained. Each individual agent has their own marketing system and budget. The brokerage may or may not have a marketing budget and system and if it does it much or all of it may be directed at agent recruiting rather than promoting your home.

So when a big brokerage says they have done a certain number of transactions or have a certain amount of market share in an area, what they really might mean is that 200 plus independent agents that area all operating in a different manner, but are very loosely connected through the brokerage, have done that number of transactions. That is a far cry from a small and highly coordinated team doing a number of transactions.

The Bottom Line

The rise of real estate teams has been a trend in the last few years that is benefiting consumers in a number of ways. Teams are able to provide more specialized, responsive and customer-centric service. They are able to spend more on marketing and systems that help their clients. Finally, because they can do an exponential amount of more transactions than an individual and because they are smaller and much more coordinated in operations than a brokerage of hundreds of independent contractors, they can climb the experience curve much faster. So far solo agents and big brokerages have responded not by innovating or trying to improve service, but instead trying to confuse the consumer.


The Keri Shull and Orange Line Living Team is proud to not only be the highest selling team in Arlington, VA and one of the top in the nation for the last several years, but we have also consistently been one of the top-rated teams on Zillow, Yelp, Google, and other 3rd party platforms. Most of our team members our employees, rather than independent contractors and we often get hundreds of applications for every hire that we make. If you want to learn more about the true team difference contact us today at [email protected] or call or text 571-969-7653.

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