Should We Go with a Big Real Estate Agency?
Does the size of the real estate agency or firm matter when it comes to buying or selling real estate? A recent article in US news debated the impact of a large real estate firm versus a small or individual agent. Does it matter when deciding which agent to go with?
Some larger firms can have over 100 agents in one office but there still under the main broker. National corporations such as Windemere, RE/MAX, and Keller Williams may have tens of thousands of agents involved but does it really help when it comes to buying or selling a home?
Many of these large corporations require their agents to be Realtors. A Realtor is a term for a licensed Realtor, not just a real estate agent. Anyone can pass the test and get the real estate license but these licensed agents can pay more for membership in the National Association of Realtors. Basically it simply states that these agents must adhere to a code of ethics and there are other perks involved, however, ethics should be something that every licensed agent should practice regardless of whether they are a member of the NAR or not. Just because the agency requires their agents to be a Realtor, doesn't necessarily mean that every agent in that brokerage adheres to the same code of ethics.
So what should you look at when comparing large agencies to individual real estate agents or smaller firms?
Each agent is responsible for their own code of conduct. Fiduciary duties, honesty, integrity, and working for the client first are all that make a great agent great. There are many excellent agents at larger firms and brokerages out there but it can get harder to manage and supervise individual agent who are independent contractors. Less training may occur as well rather than more one-on-one with a smaller agency or firm.
I've seen very little in my line of work to suggest that clients go for larger firms because they are well known versus the agent themselves because they are either well known or referred to by someone they trust. Regardless of whether you are a Keller Williams agent or a Vision Realty agent, it comes down to the individual actually doing the work. Does that person have your back and can you negotiate terms, commissions, and understand that they really are working for you first rather than any large brokerage. So many of these large brokerages take so much of the individual agent's commission that it may be difficult for agents to work fully for the client knowing that their large brokerage is getting a majority of the chalk.
These smaller boutique firms tend to be high touch and the head of the firm typically owns the company and has a vested interest in the success of each agent. Larger firms may have more agents but it can be difficult to monitor.
Larger firms also can benefit from marketing dollars. Larger agencies such as Windemere or RE/MAX may advertise on TV or in more expensive markets benefiting all the agents. This is how a lot of sellers decide who's going to list their property yet they don't realize that it's not how homes are sold. Most advertising is really just branding the firm rather than benefiting the client.
But what about two agents that work for the same broker?
Agents are typically hired to help either a buyer or a seller and very rarely does the same agent represent both. But it can get tricky when both of those agents work for the same firm or brokerage. This means the broker is representing both sides even though there are individual agents representing the buyer and the seller. Typically a disclosure form must be signed by both parties so everyone's aware of what's happening.
It comes down to trust and security. A buyer wants to know that the agent has their back and the seller needs to know that the agent is working on behalf of them first. It really comes down to who you feel comfortable working with, references that backup exceptional work, and someone you trust to handle such a large purchase or sale.