Let’s be real: no-one gets into real estate to be a team-player.
To be a real estate agent – at its most rarefied level, to be a masterful negotiator – is to be an individualist. One who can withstand endless cruelties from the public, hang-up phonecalls and relentless rejection. And that’s not a bad thing. After all, if you were a born ‘team player’, you probably would have been more attracted to a fixed-income job in an industry that didn’t reward individual efforts. This isn’t to say that estate agents are lascivious, money-loving loons in the model of Bob Jelly – far from it. Estate agents (and for the purposes of this article, we’re talking about sales agents here and not property managers who are necessarily far more team-oriented) have a tough gig that makes their profession a vocation. They’ve more in common with the funeral industry and its client pastoral care than they have with their suit-wearing compatriots on the stockmarket floor – estate agents are helping stressed, worried, disoriented and often disarmingly greedy people to make life-changing decisions which are finite. That’s no walk in the park, no matter how much you’re paid.
To be a sales agent is a job that you do by yourself – you’re attending people’s family homes late into the evening and early in the day, exposing yourself to their emotional wackyness, irrationality, fear and (eventual) gratitude. Before you even get a foot in the door, you’ve usually prospected those same clients for years on end with relevant market information – and this doesn’t guarantee they’ll use your services, either. And you do all this alone. You might enjoy your colleague’s company and support at open for inspections – you may even list together from time-to-time – but when all is said and done, that commission check and subsequent retainer balance is your responsibility. So let’s lose the empty rhetoric about being part of a team, shall we?
Depending on the way that your commission structure works, you’ll receive a portion for listing a property, for managing it and for selling it. Some agencies pride themselves on their team’s ‘group selling’ mentality – engaging in weekly ‘caravans’ which not only burn petrol and hours of good prospecting time, but allow agents to see (and potentially sell) the properties their colleagues have listed.
I call bullshit on both caravans and selling other people’s listings. Both these practices are cancer to a corporate culture, let alone one that purports to prioritize ‘teamwork’.
Agents who are unable to list should not be rewarded for cannibalizing their colleague’s hard-won listings. It might take years to get a quality property on the market with a motivated vendor: claiming a willing buyer as ‘your own’ and then grabbing a 20% share of your colleague’s hard-won listing isn’t exactly what you’d describe as a friendly, team-y act, is it? Newbie agents should instead be grown into a culture of client relationship development by attending listings with their Principal or other leading agent, seeing the process of fostering trust and negotiating from the ground up. Too often, new sales agents are still being left out in the cold – either being forced into the full ‘list and sell’ too swiftly, or being encouraged to survive by working buyers, selling the stock of agents who are able to list. Such top-down negligence can only breed contempt within a real estate business.
Little wonder, then, that corporate real estate awards nights, Christmas parties and training sessions are accompanied by a strong undercurrent of petty jealousy and aggression. By pretending that teamwork matters when real estate is actually about business written, the real estate industry attempts to obscure its true nature from its very workforce. No-one’s fooled by this charade of mateship, least of all the agents that work within it. This is not to say that colleagues can’t learn from one-another, support one another or build a culture of respect. But respect – by its very nature – means not stealing from one another’s plates to survive.
There’s no ‘team’ in real estate, surely as the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Agents are working for themselves and their clients – and the sooner they embrace this raw savannah truth, the stronger they’ll be for it.