February 15, 2022
When people wanting to get their NJ real estate license come to Garden State Real Estate Academy, they have a lot more questions than simply, “How do I become a Realtor®?” Our job as a real estate school (and the top-rated real estate school in New Jersey, according to Google Reviews!) is to help them pass the NJ real estate license exam and become Realtors®. But many of their questions go beyond just what will be on that test. And one of their most-frequently-asked questions is:
“Should I join a real estate team, or should I become a solo real estate agent?”
What is a team?
In the past few years, real estate teams have become fixture in many real estate broker offices. A team is where one real estate agent, typically one with great connections and good marketing skills, has so many leads that she cannot service them all herself, so she takes on team members to whom she can pass on those leads, in return for keeping part of the commission.
In the legal structure of New Jersey real estate law, the team member and the team leader report to and work under the authority of the broker—the team is not even an official legal entity. Nor does the team hold a real estate license.
Advantages of joining a team.
There are several advantages to joining a real estate team. The first is that you have a built-in mentor and coach—assuming your team leader has those capabilities. From Day 1 of your real estate career, you’ll have somebody who has a vested interest in training you and teaching you how to become successful, because your success puts more money in the team leader’s pocket as well as in yours.
You can likely pick up more leads more quickly on a team. As a solo agent, it might take weeks to find a buyer or seller who agrees to use you as their real estate agent, especially a person with a new real estate license. When you are on a team, the team leader could say to you within the first week or so, “Here is somebody who just called in on our new listing. Call him back and see if you can show it to him tomorrow.”
You also have backup on a team. Say you have made an appointment to show homes on Saturday afternoon and another buyer client calls to say she also wants to see home then; you can have another team member seamlessly take care of them and you don’t risk losing the buyer to another agent when they get frustrated that you cannot show them properties when they want to see them.
A team leader also should have administrative staff who can relieve you of the tedious tasks that occur between contracts and closing. This is a huge benefit to a salesperson, whose prime time is that spent lead generating and being with a client or prospective client. As a team member, a person paid by the team leader will take care of preparing contracts, ordering inspections, certificates of occupancy, title reports, following up on mortgage commitments, etc.
Disadvantages of joining a team.
You will have to share your commission with the team leader. While that may seem fair when the team leader gives you a lead you never would have had, it sometimes gets touchy when real estate agents on teams bring in their own leads—say, a family member—and then must give the team leader a hefty commission split. There is no standard division of commissions; they are always negotiable, but typically a team leader keeps 50% of the commission earned.
On the other hand, if the team leader is with a company that offers 100% commission once they reach a certain sales goal, the chances are the team member will be getting, say, 50% of a 100% split, compared to 100% of a 70% if he were a solo agent. These examples illustrate this:
Solo agent brings $10,000 commission to the broker and is on a 65% commission split
|Team member on a team that has capped (earns 100%) with the team leader giving him a 50/50 split|
|As you can see, in this example, there is not much difference in commission earned by the agent by being with a team, because the team itself is on a higher split from the broker.|
Team members do not get recognition for the sales they make; every sale goes under the name of the team leader. While that doesn’t bother many agents at all, to others, they resent putting in all the work and then at year’s end, seeing their team leader’s name in lights as doing “XXX million in sales.”
Although the team members are more than likely independent contractors, paid on a 1099, the team leader will often have requirements for them to work as he or she dictates. One team leader I know insists her team members be in the office from 8AM to 10AM every weekday for lead generation calls, and no excuses are acceptable!
Some team leaders will only accept full-time agents on their teams.
Advantages of becoming a solo agent.
The biggest advantage solo agents give is their independence. They are responsible for their own marketing, their own goals, and their own career aspirations. They also don’t have to split their commissions with anybody except their broker.
The solo agent can therefore create and operate their business model, generate their personal branding and as they become more successful can point to their own string of accomplishments and recognition awards they have earned. If they are successful, it will be signs with their name that are seen all over town.
Disadvantages of becoming a solo agent.
The biggest downside to being a solo agent after you got your new real estate license is that it takes time to find clients and then convert clients into commissions. In today’s market, even experienced agents are finding it sometimes takes months, and multiple offers, to find a buyer a home.
When working with sellers, it is much easier, but many prospective sellers are hesitant to even list their property for sale in case it sells in a couple of days, and they then cannot find a suitable new home to buy. A newly licensed agent could expect—under the very best circumstances—to find a seller or buyer a month after they got their license, and then be at the settlement table six weeks after that, which means the very earliest they could expect a commission would be almost three months after they started with the broker. It is much more likely to be twice that long.
So, what do you recommend?
The question we hate to answer! You need to weigh the positives and negatives of each option. I have had brokers whose opinions I greatly respect say, “Start as a solo agent and then you can always join a team once you have a better idea of whom you want to work with and what they can offer you, now that you are bringing your own business to them.” I have had just as many brokers suggest, “Join a team to get faster leads, and then, if you are very successful, you can branch out as a solo agent a year or two later.”
You should ask the team leader about their time availability and commitment to train and mentor you. Ask their broker for an honest and confidential opinion of how working on that team is likely to be. Ask other team members. Ask how leads are distributed and if there is a higher commission split for business you bring to them team. Ask what their expectations are of you if you join their team. How long have they had their team? What is the turnover of their agents? After talking with the team leader and members of the team, how do you feel about its culture? Is it friendly and supportive? Is it a hard numbers-driven ethos?
And remember, once you get your new real estate license, you are always an independent contractor. If things do not work out well with Plan A, you always have the freedom to go to Plan B.
Garden State Real Estate Academy offers live pre-licensing, broker licensing and Continuing Education classes for aspiring and existing New Jersey real estate agents. We also provide the “Supplemental Course” for out-of-state licensees wishing to earn their NJ license and our popular “Across the River” class to prepare NJ agents to pass the Pennsylvania real estate licensing exam. These are all delivered by live instructors via Zoom.
We also offer online self-study real estate licensing classes in 21 states through our partnership with The CE Shop. New Jersey does NOT allow self-study pre-licensing classes.
For information on the real estate school’s upcoming New Jersey licensing classes, click here: https://www.gsreacademy.com/pre-licensing-courses/
For real estate licensing classes in all other states, click here: https://gsreacademy.theceshop.com/pre-licensing
David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 33 years ago. During his career, David and his business partner sold more than 500 homes in South Jersey. He is now School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 20 books.