Being a “full-service brokerage” has always meant providing a one-stop shop for clients, but leading brokers say it takes a bit more than that to warrant the distinction in today’s market.
“I think today the full-service concept is twofold: what we do for the consumers and the agents,” says Joan Docktor, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices (BHHS) Fox & Roach. “When you talk about full-service today, the agents are the customers as well, so you need full service for your agents as well.”
Though the approach varies among brokerage firms, offering a full range of tools and services geared toward supporting agent growth and streamlining the transaction process has become a core component of most business models in real estate.
For BHHS Fox & Roach, Docktor hires full-time sales managers and administrative staff devoted to assisting agents with their business development and transaction processes.
According to Docktor, BHHS Fox & Roach also offers ongoing training and support for agents of all experience levels.
“The agent just needs to sell a house,” Docktor says. “What’s unique about a brokerage like ours is we have the deep knowledge and brokerage experience to support our agents, where a newer company may not.”
Ancillary services have gone from perk to necessity for most business models. Still, a growing reliance on tech platforms and tools has also become a new normal for full-service broker offerings.
“If brokerages want to survive in an industry where they are no longer just competing on services, but also with lower brokerage splits and an overall decline in agent commissions, they have to get creative,” says Josh Harley, founder and chief executive office of Fathom Realty.
Offering agent websites, transaction management, financial management, personnel management, business intelligence, data aggregation and more with the help of tech has become common practice for companies looking to revamp their brands and attract top talent.
While Fathom and other traditional firms own the technology suite they are offering to agents, Harley notes a growing trend of companies establishing joint ventures with other companies to provide these ancillary services and offerings.
“That’s why we can charge our agents no monthly fees and only a small flat transaction fee and yet hit profitability faster than any of our publicly traded competitors,” Harley says, adding that joint ventures make it tough to lead to control the quality of services.
Ryan Raveis, co-president of William Raveis Real Estate (WRRE), shares similar sentiments.
“We’ve always believed that our primary responsibility is to serve the needs of our agents and our consumers, and the bottom line is virtually every homebuyer or seller will need at least one of these services,” Raveis says. “Being a full-service brokerage, however, doesn’t mean simply bolting one of the ancillary businesses onto your real estate brokerage.”
Instead, the company owns and operates its ancillary service companies to streamline the transaction for consumers. Raveis also notes that they’ve used technology to automate the marketing process for agents with the company’s Raveis Automated Marketing Platform (RAMP).
“We utilize the tech development power of thousands of talented professionals by developing deep partnerships with the best tech vendors inside and outside the real estate industry,” Raveis says.
A Personal Touch
While technology has become more of a requirement in real estate, regional firms contend that their advantage is leveraging their relationships.
“The only technology we’re interested in is what our agents can adopt and what benefits the customer,” says John Cates, COO at Meybohm Real Estate in Augusta, Georgia.
Touting almost half a century in the industry, Meybohm and its 340 agents cater to clients in 14 different Georgia and South Carolina counties from their five offices.
Despite a recent rebrand of their company website and CRM, Cates notes that relying on Meybohm’s wealth of expertise and human capital is still a focal point of their full-service game plan for clients and agents.
“That’s our value proposition,” he says. “We’re going to find somebody that works on our management team who is an entrepreneur, who lives and works in the community that you’re buying or selling in to come and meet with you to help you grow your business.”
The same goes for Portside Real Estate Group, according to Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dava Davin. Full service also means supporting agents with programs and opportunities in the house for the Maine-based company, so they don’t use up their time and resources.
“For us, it’s striving to help the agents build a career that lasts for decades, and with that, we need to help them achieve harmony in their life because the life cycle of a high-producing agent is usually ten years,” Davin says. “Here, we want people to be able to do this forever.”
To do that, Portside provides agents with opportunities to indulge in initiatives and causes outside of work. The independent firm also has a nonprofit arm that allows its agents to volunteer their time and donate portions of their commissions to charitable causes.
“This often becomes a really powerful driver for them because everyone wants to do well, but everyone’s life is so busy to volunteer,” Davin says. “We are extremely agent-centric, and there are different committees that they can be involved in or lead, and it offers so much more than just some tech.”
Despite debates and personal preferences, the quality of consumer services continues to be an impetus for evolution in real estate. While tech and agent perks are essential to emerging and established business models, the future of the full-service brokerage could very well be in for further changes in the coming years.
Brokers, what does full-service look like at your firm? Comment below or email us your feedback at email@example.com.
Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email him your real estate news to firstname.lastname@example.org.