Independent brokerages, also called “Indies,” have unique benefits without having mega-brands.
Indies Have Viable, Long-Term Niche in Real Estate Industry
Even though the real estate industry has given rise to big names and big money, small, independent brokerages, also called “indies,” are not simply “hanging on” but thriving.
Most indie brokers and agents choose indie firms that are, quite simply, independent. No franchises; no “big box” entities with “big box” policies and procedures; no mega-legacy brands; no majority funding from venture capital firms. These brokers and agents choose to be and remain independent whether or not their indies are large or small and/or have far/close-in geographical reach.
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Benefits of Working with Indies
Independent brokerages translate into being able to make independent and agile decisions, unique policies, indie-specific technology choices and take more chances.
Stacie Staub, founder and owner of Colorado-based West and Main Homes, said,” We always like to say we can say yes and then figure it out. We don’t have a board trying to tell us how to run our business. (Plus), you really know where your money is going.”
Valerie Bergmark, owner of Red Oak Realty in the Bay Area, said, “Businesses evolve, communities evolve, and the industry evolves and when you are not agreeing to the bylaws of a franchise agreement you are free to evolve as you see fit.”
Likewise, indie firms have the ability to laser-focus on a particular aspect or niche of the market. For example, Courtney Poulos, founder of Acme Real Estate in Los Angeles, originally created a focus on first-time buyers with “consistent performance” services for that specific clientele. That focus has now broadened as “a lot of our first-time homebuyers have become third-time buyers, or investment buyers.”
The overall benefit of being indie brokerages is the ability to be agile, efficiently and quickly proactive/responsive, independent and independently accountable.
Recruitment & Retainment Through Culture Building
Most indie brokerages are focused on building their own specific type of culture. That culture is then the calling card for agents seeking alternative work cultures. Indie brokers most often say that their agents are people who first knocked on their doors, not vice versa. And once those people knock, indies then tend to screen for culture and fit. Growth is slow and growth is actualized only when the “right candidates” make themselves known.
In terms of agent retention, Michael Hickman, president and CEO of Seven Gables Real Estate in Southern California, said that his strategy is to make sure “…no body is forgotten, nobody is undervalued.” Hickman’s firm is much larger than most indies (hundreds of agents and $2B in sales during 2020) so his strategy is to make sure that every manager within the firm reaches out to each agent on a one-to-one basis every single week.
Hickman, of course, knows that big brands can and do have similar “connect” programs with and for their agents but he, and other indies, believes that their agents stick with them because their indie businesses are more flexible and more personalized.
Lastly, indie firms look for administrators from within their own ranks. Sure, indie firms hire remote and virtual support staff just as large brokerages do. But, most all of these indie brokers believe that exploring in-house staff first for new roles reinforces their specific indie culture said to be imperative to long-standing success and brokerage well-being.
Thanks to Inman.