Year after year, in job satisfaction surveys of American workers, the results are the same: Being a real estate agent is one of the most pleasant and rewarding jobs you can have. This might have something to do with the fact that Realtors spend a lot of their time making people’s dreams come true, but it also owes to other more pragmatic factors, like flexible hours and the feeling of being your own boss.
This sunny professional outlook wasn’t always the perceived norm. In Sam Mendes’ film American Beauty, which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2000, Annette Bening plays a ruthless real estate agent in fierce competition with a prominent Realtor rival—the kind of guy whose face is plastered on every bus-stop bench. The movie’s portrayal of the real estate industry was almost as dark as its overall message, making it hard to imagine that just 13 years later, Forbes would say that real estate agent was the happiest job in America.
Technology gets a lot of the credit for reshaping the business, of course, but so too does a spirit of teamwork that has transformed a still highly competitive business landscape. Where agents used to have to market themselves aggressively as individuals, many agents now join a team instead, and it’s the team itself that does the branding development. There’s a collaborative spirit that informs these groups, and a feeling of working for a larger whole. And teamwork is profitable: Real estate expansion teams—those that offer services in multiple markets—have become, according to a recent Inman report, “one of the industry’s latest, and hottest, innovations …. [that] drive profits higher.”
But how does all this teamwork facilitate positive outcomes for clients?
Martha Craig of the Lacovara Group with Berkshire Hathaway said her team members provide additional support to each other as a way to give a “value-added service” to their clients.
“If somebody is not available or on vacation or has a closing,” she said, “we have other team members who can back each other up, so it increases our ability to be available for our clients.”
And from the perspective of a home buyer or seller, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
“You’re kind of getting three or four agents for the price of one, because a good team is going to work together,” she says. “Not only are [clients] getting availability and coverage from multiple agents to help service them, but they’re also getting the brainpower and collective experience of the entire team at their disposal.”
As Craig is still relatively new to Lacovara—she joined two years ago—being a part of the team is a learning experience for her, too. Each team member has a distinct expertise in another area, so she can pick up on those different transactions.
But there is also a lot of cross-pollination.
Melissa Hargreaves of The Hargreaves Home Sales Team of Keller Williams Integrity created her squad with an agent closer to home—her husband, Brandon.
They are the team leaders—who focus on working with home sellers and listings—along with two buyers agents, a property manager and an assistant.
“We were doing very well in the business independently, and we realized we couldn’t do it anymore by ourselves. We were at our maximum capacity,” she recalls. “In order to grow our own businesses, we needed to find a way to expand.”
Hargreaves noted that attaining success right off the bat as a new independent agent can be challenging, so they wanted to help other agents reach that goal as well.
“Our philosophy is that we can work really hard and make a lot of money, or that we can help other people make a lot of money, and by default that’s going to help us in the long run,” she says.
Brandon and Melissa had a baby last year, welcoming another unofficial member to their team.
“There was a lot of times where we couldn’t always be there, but we know that we have fantastic agents on our team,” she says. “We trust that if we can’t be there, one of the agents from our team is going to be giving the same service that we would have given to our clients.”
Real estate is also a lifestyle for the agents on the Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, ranked No. 1 in the nation for the third time this year, and No. 1 in Maryland as well. Creig Northrop, president and CEO, attributes the group approach to his company’s success.
“There’s 5,000 teams out there and certainly we’ve been honored to be No. 1 in the nation,” he says. “We did that through teamwork.”
The 90 full-time agents aren’t a team because of the name they represent, Northrop adds. They’re a team because “everyone pitches in, helps each other, trusts each other and gets along,” which builds the foundation each agent lives by every day.
Northrop adds that clients can tell the agents love what they do and love the environment they work in. And each agent uniquely specializes in the areas in which they live, in the hopes of increasing the value of the community.
Northrop considers himself a “player’s coach” and leads with the goals of consistency and longevity in mind. Everyone plays a key role, which is why those on the administration team keep a signed brick on their desks to represent the company’s foundation.
“That’s really who we are, what we are,” Northrop says. “We all have the passion and love what we do called real estate.”