June 22nd - 2014

Running a real estate brokerage

While many real estate salespeople focus on serving consumers who are buying or selling properties, a broker of record serves a different clientele -- the REALTORS® themselves.

Man in boardroom

Man in boardroom

While many real estate salespeople focus on serving consumers who are buying or selling properties, a broker of record serves a different clientele -- the REALTORS® themselves.

The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter talked with three real estate professionals who run their own brokerages to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges they face. Although there are various approaches to running a brokerage, all of them find it a satisfying experience.

Bernie Roth, the owner and broker of record at Century 21 B.J. Roth Realty Ltd. brokerage in Barrie, is celebrating 40 years in real estate. He purchased his franchise in 1981 and started out with just a few salespeople. Today, his brokerage has six offices and 180 registrants, with in-house property management and mortgage departments.

“You need the big numbers to make it work,” says Roth, who long ago shifted from sales to full-time administration. “Most brokers of record don’t sell because they don’t have the time. For many years, the real estate business was pretty much the same. People worked out of the office and split the compensation. Now there are many different office models and people work out of their homes and cars, and there are many different compensation structures.”

His brokerage offers REALTORS® three weekly training sessions and an in-house newsletter to help them understand new regulations and requirements. The biggest challenge today is keeping up with the technology and innovations in this changing industry, he says.

Supporting your team is crucial, according to Roth. His typical day begins with a visit to the accounting department to see if any problems have occurred with deals underway, such as conditions on offers that have not been met. Then he goes to his office to respond to emails, many from salespeople with questions. Staff members often drop by with questions or concerns.

Once email is handled, Roth turns his attention to planning and organizing events, such as training sessions. He works with the office manager and the marketing department, which includes a printing press and equipment to produce in-house marketing materials. He also spends time prospecting for new salespeople and visiting the six offices frequently to make sure everyone is on track. He has business planning to do and goals to meet.

Woman holds clock“The most satisfying part of the work is the relationships I’ve developed with staff and REALTORS® over the years,” he says. “I’ve seen people get married and have kids, and I’m hiring their kids now. I enjoy their successes, and we’re like a family now.”

Jim Tristram, owner and broker of record at Tristram Realty Associates in Kitchener-Waterloo, takes a different approach to running a brokerage. In addition to Tristram and his wife, who is the alternate broker, there are just two other salespeople at the brokerage. A broker for 25 years, Tristram divides his time between selling and administration. It’s a strategy that allows the small brokerage to thrive.

“I’ve always been a selling broker, both out of necessity and desire,” he says. “A broker of record must sometimes continue to sell to subsidize living expenses and the cost of operating the brokerage.” He enjoys the sales portion of his job even though “it’s a challenge to balance my time.”

“I would like to work for a broker out in the trenches if I were a salesperson,” Tristram says. “We’re in a good position to counsel sales staff about the challenges of today’s marketplace.” He has established strict boundaries, however, to prevent conflicting deals. “If I find myself in a potentially conflicting transaction, I step away. I never compete with my salespeople.”

Mentoring new REALTORS® is an important role for the broker of record, says Tristram.  He takes his administrative responsibilities seriously, noting that “broker of record is not an honorary title and it’s not to be taken lightly.” He is obliged to ensure that his team remains current on the impact of changing regulations and statutory obligations. “I look to OREA for help with that,” notes Tristram, who is also an OREA instructor.

If Tristram needs advice, he knows that help is only a phone call away. “I’ve used as role models a number of excellent brokers here in Kitchener-Waterloo,” he says. “I don’t hesitate to phone a colleague to ask if they’ve encountered a similar situation. It’s a co-operative broker’s network.”

Vivian Risi, president and broker of record at Royal LePage-Your Community Realty, a Toronto and York Region brokerage, became a REALTOR® at a young age. It was a natural career move for Risi. “My father was a builder, so building and developing real estate was always discussed in our house, and I found this industry fascinating.”

She purchased a small brokerage in 1994 when the company where she worked was sold to a U.S. brokerage. At the time, Risi had been a manager for just six months. She enjoyed nurturing REALTORS® but the amalgamation changed her future. “I decided to buy the office I was managing. There were some challenging moments because our industry was experiencing a recession at the time.”

Today, Risi presides over a real estate enterprise that comprises 11 offices and almost 1,000 REALTORS®. She no longer spends her days selling properties, as her priority has shifted to nurturing and mentoring other REALTORS®.

Risi works long hours. She coaches the managers, REALTORS® and administrative staff at each of her offices and enjoys the challenges. She recently expanded her company with a new homes and condominiums division, which takes Risi back to her younger days when her father was building. Her early exposure to the building industry and long experience serve her well.

“I work closely with developers, advising on pricing, unit mix and marketing to ensure that their project is a success. They require current and accurate input on market conditions, not just from statistics but from someone actively involved in the industry daily.”

The best part of her job is “encouraging REALTORS® to flourish and become the success they want to be. Seeing them grow and be successful gives me a sense of pride.” Risi advises anyone interested in becoming a broker of record to “be passionate about what you’re doing and support your REALTORS®, because they are your clients. If you keep that in the forefront of your mind, it will all work out.”

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Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

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