How to Choose the Right Real Estate Brokerage to Work For

Evelyn Long

Jun 12, 2024

man in a suit sitting at a desk and working on a laptop

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Knowing how to choose a real estate brokerage to work for is one of the keys to finding success as an agent — but why? Why must you be under a broker to help people sell, buy and rent realty? Learn how real estate agents differ from brokers, and get tips on finding the one that suits you.

Difference Between Real Estate Agents, Brokers and Realtors

Agents are professionals licensed to facilitate real estate transactions between property sellers and buyers or renters and owners. Their primary duties and responsibilities include carrying messages between parties, such as offers and counteroffers, and helping clients navigate the process by assisting in completing requirements and preparing documents.

The “agent” designation is generic. In addition to salespeople, it may also apply to brokers, appraisers and property managers.

Brokers are agents who also hold a state real estate broker license. They pursued more education to gain the authority to do tasks beyond what licensed agents can legally do. They help determine the market values of properties, list them, find ones reflecting clients’ needs, prepare offers, negotiate and iron out any problems leading up to the closing.

Real estate brokers can work independently, but only some can manage agents. Associate brokers can’t oversee agents and may work for other brokers. Managing brokers oversee deals, administer the office, and recruit and train new agents. Principal brokers supervise agents to ensure they comply with relevant laws and regulations — every real estate office has one.

Realtors, which can be agents or brokers, are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) — the largest trade association in the United States with more than 1.5 million members. NAR members must comply with the association’s Code of Ethics to always uphold their clients’ best interests.

In summary, agents and some realtors must work for brokers to ply their trade. Brokers work behind the scenes to kickstart and complete real estate transactions. For these reasons, agents, non-broker realtors and some associate brokers split commissions with their employers.

How to Choose a Real Estate Brokerage to Work For

You can begin your search ahead of your real estate agent license application. A broker sponsorship may be a requirement in your state before you can take your exam. Follow these six steps to narrow down your options.

Step 1 — Research Their Niche

Look for a brokerage that matches your preferred field of expertise. Like agents, brokers specialize in specific properties and demographical groups to set themselves apart from the competition and boost their branding. The more saturated a market is, the more niches there likely are.

If you plan to start your real estate career in California, Florida or Texas, you’ll encounter brokerage firms of various hues. These states account for over a third of the 1.16 million real estate sales and brokers nationwide, so expect most to market themselves distinctively.

The wide variety of brokerages on the market can be a blessing or a curse. It’s a blessing because there’s a strong chance that you can find an organization that fits your chosen niche like a glove. It’s a curse because analyzing what each one does is not humanly possible. Still, do the legwork until you shortlist a few, no matter how long it takes.

Step 2 — Evaluate Their Market Presence

A bird's eye view of a neighborhood with identical houses of various colors.

Compare prospects as if you’re a client seeking a trustworthy advocate. Google them to see whether they organically dominate search results.

The most naturally visible companies tend to be the most credible — start there to learn about a brokerage’s reputation. Then, read reviews and news articles about their awards or scandals to know what previous clients, the media and the industry think of them.

The largest brokers usually brag about their figures — market share, agent count, number of properties sold and years in business. Their numbers can indicate the amount of leads you can get from them.

Step 3 — Scout the Physical Offices

A city skyline viewed from a high vantage point.

Visit your prospective real estate offices to see what working there is like. Interact with active agents to gain insight into their job satisfaction and grievances.

Pay attention to building amenities, too. Is the office in a convenient location? Is there adequate parking? Does it have high curb appeal? Are there nearby establishments you like? You’d spend considerable time at the office, so coming to one that suits your lifestyle will make your experience enjoyable.

Step 4 — Know About Their Expectations

A group of people having a meeting in a conference room.

During your interview, ask about what they expect from their agents — like yearly quotas. Some brokers consider meeting attendance mandatory, while others require phone or desk duty for several hours weekly.

Understanding your role’s minimum duties and responsibilities will help you envision your day-to-day. More brokers permit hybrid work arrangements, so ask about one to determine whether you can collaborate with the team from home.

Step 5 — Learn About the Benefits They Offer

Know what your prospective broker will do to support and help you succeed. Vital benefits to look for include:

  • Marketing resources — signage, business cards and standalone or company site
  • Business tools — eSignature and customer relationship management
  • Meeting space with clients
  • Administrative, technology and closing coordination support
  • Local vendor discounts
  • Continuing educational training — free or paid, in-person or online, live or asynchronous classes
  • Mentorship program

Furthermore, find out where their leads come from, how they distribute them among agents and how many you can expect weekly or monthly.

Step 6 — Inquire About Commissions and Fees

Clarify a broker’s commission split ratio. Some brokerages only want 30% of the commission you split with the other agent involved in the real estate transaction, if there’s one. However, some brokers demand a 50% cut or more when they provide tremendous value for their agents.

Be wary of commission caps, too. Working for a broker that limits how much it deducts from your gross earnings lets you pocket more. 

Familiarize yourself with all the expenses you incur when you join a broker. The most common ones are startup, desk and multiple listing service fees. Some brokers subsidize errors and omissions insurance — even when a jurisdiction doesn’t require it — so you only need to cover the premium’s portion. Find out whether they’re recurring and how often you have to pay them.

Unlike independent brokers — mom-and-pop companies — franchises charge an extra fee per deal, shrinking your commission split by several percentage points. Consider the franchise fee’s size before you go with a big-name brokerage firm.

Money is negotiable, even though it’s long-established. Counter anything you find unreasonable, although pushing your luck can backfire on you as a rookie. Get your feet wet first and pay your dues like everybody does. Negotiate after knowing the ins and outs of the business.

Team Up With a Fitting Broker to Give Yourself a Leg Up

Learning how to choose a real estate brokerage to work for involves no shortcuts. It usually entails an arduous search, but you can start your career on a high note when you find your perfect match.

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