The Agent interview: Strategy and Tactics

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Real estate brokers-in-charge are nearly always in the recruiting mode. If they have desk space available, many will take on anyone with a valid license and a desire to work.

Some firms may require that you commit to a full time job in real estate, and not hold other jobs. Others have agents who work part time. A few allow agents to be associated with the firm, even if they don't work on a regular basis. This allows someone with a salesperson's license to remain on active status, rather than go inactive, since they are technically under the supervision of a broker.

How To Select a Real Estate Firm

Even if you think you know which real estate firm you wish to work for, we suggest you interview with several before you make the final decision. If you're not sure where to start, try these tips.

1. Which firm's For Sale signs are most common in the area you wish to work in? The firm with the most listings isn't necessarily the ‘best’ place for a new agent, but since they have a good presence in the local market it's certainly an agency you should talk with.

2. Pick up local real estate publications-the free magazines you see at supermarkets and other businesses.

3. Make a trip to the Chamber of Commerce-or a visitor's center if you have one. Which firms provide handouts for potential residents? Are there promotions for individual agents (most likely at their expense) or for the agency in general (which benefit all agents)?

4. What about television, radio, and other advertising. Do any agencies dominate those areas?

5. Do you know any local agents? Ask them which agencies they recommend (keeping in mind that real estate agents tend to be somewhat biased).
6. If you're in a small market, talk to them all.
Maintain Control of the Interview

During most job interviews, you are in the position of convincing the interviewer you are the best person for the job. In real estate, the agent must interview the broker.

The majority of real estate agents are independent contractors, not employees. That status gives us a fair amount of freedom, but it also means we are responsible for most of the expenses of doing business. You should know exactly what kinds of training and other benefits a firm offers before you accept a position.

A successful real estate career is dependent on your desire to succeed, and your willingness to hang in there until things start to take off. Just how fast things start moving depends a lot on your work habits, but choosing the right agency can help jump-start the process.
What You Need to Know

There are many things you should know before deciding which firm to associate yourself with.


  • What type of training is offered for new agents? If a broker's answer is ‘none, ’ that agency is probably not the best place to begin a real estate career.
  • Does the firm have a designated trainer, perhaps the broker or another experienced agent who acts as a mentor for new agents?
  • If part of a franchise, are there local or regional training sessions for new agents? If so, who pays for the training?
  • How many new agents has the firm hired during the past year? How many of those agents are still with the firm? A revolving-door of agents alerts you that something isn't quite right.
    Floor Duty
    Sometimes creatively called ‘Opportunity Duty, ’ it refers to times you are scheduled to work at the real estate office.
  • Are all agents scheduled for floor duty, and if so, how often?
  • Are phone leads, walk-in customers, and referrals given to the agents on duty when those leads come in? If not, how are they distributed?
    Advertising is a major expense for real estate agents, so anything the agency pays for is a plus.
  • Does the firm pay for the typical agency ad, where listings are showcased, or are you required to pay for the space occupied by your listings?
  • Does the firm pay for any portion of personal ads? (Ads designed to promote you, not your listings. )
  • What types of advertising does the firm do? For instance, newspaper, radio, television, Internet, for-sale publications, bulk mailings, chamber of commerce, and other promotions.
  • Does the firm have a bulk mail permit? (The expense of a bulk mailing is typically yours, but many firms pay the yearly permit feet. )
    Computer Equipment, Digital Cameras, Other Tech Gear
  • Does the firm have computer equipment for all agents to use, or are you expected to bring your own to the office?
  • What types of software are loaded on office computers? Are all agents allowed to use the existing software?
    Estimate your expenses and potential income
    Commission Percentage and Payments
  • What commission rate do they offer? Are commissions paid on a sliding scale, with the percentage you earn increasing as you bring more income to the firm?
  • Are commissions paid immediately upon closing?
  • Does the firm pay a higher percentage for ‘in house’ transactions? (Where both the listing agent and selling agent work for the firm. )
  • If the firm is part of a franchise, what percentage of each commission earned is retained as a franchise fee?
  • Ask to review a sample commission settlement statement, so that you can see exactly how commissions are recorded and distributed.
    Typical First-Year Income
    When you ask the broker to give you an idea about an average first-year income, keep in mind that it is truly just an average.
    Some agents come to the office every day, even if they aren't on duty. You'd be surprised how many leads they receive on those days, sometimes because the duty agents are on the telephone, or have left to show property to walk-in clients.
    Other new agents only show up when they are scheduled for duty. Which type of agent do you think might have a higher first-year income?
    Office Expenses
  • Who pays for long distance telephone calls made from the office?
  • How about stamps, photocopies, and basic office supplies?
  • Does the firm charge agents a flat monthly fee, or a percentage of certain expenses?

    Errors & Omissions Insurance

    Does the firm carry E&O Insurance for its agents, or are you expected to purchase this liability insurance yourself?

    Multiple Listing Service Fees

    You may be required to join the local Multiple Listing Service to work for the firm. In some cases, you may need to join a second, or even third MLS office to work effectively in the community. Ask about the expenses associated with each membership.

    One final tip: Make a list of the questions above before your interview, and add any others you feel are important. Sure, you can change agencies if the first one doesn't work out, but that's a waste of time and money. Getting the answers to your questions before you start working helps you make the best choice the first time around!

    Written for By James Christensen Real Estate Expert and educator. Our training site offers a valuable service to individuals looking to get into the Real Estate industry.

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