Is it Better to Work at a National, Boutique, or Virtual Real Estate Brokerage?

Nov 8, 2021
5 min

As a real estate agent, you can’t go completely alone. If you want to help people buy and sell properties, you need to have a broker.

You might be wondering what is the best real estate brokerage firm for new real estate agents.

Choosing a broker is one of the biggest decisions in a real estate agent’s career, and it’s not an easy choice to make. Simply looking at company websites is not going to make things clear.

Brokerages are very different from one another, but they share some similarities. So, how do you choose the right type of brokerage?

Let’s evaluate the differences between national franchise, boutique, and virtual brokerages to help you determine which one you prefer. 

National Franchise Real Estate Brokerages

National brokerages are large national companies (franchises) that sell the rights to use their branding, business model, and name to brokers. Some examples are brokerages like Century 21, RE/MAX, and Keller Williams. 

The broker that buys the franchise has to pay a set percentage for every deal they close in the office. And while many franchises are independent businesses, all of them follow regulations and rules set by the head office.

Franchise Real Estate Brokerages Pros

You get instant credibility working with a trustworthy and familiar brokerage name.

You get access to hundreds or thousands of offices all over the country, which means you can use those in the states that are better suited for clients.

National franchises give you access to discounted transaction management software, website-building software, and CRM software. You also get plenty of prepared marketing solutions such as website building tools, direct mail, and online advertising templates and drip campaigns.

Another important advantage of a national franchise brokerage is the training you get. Many franchises have developed incredible training programs for new agents to help them achieve success faster.

Franchise Real Estate Brokerage Cons

Some new agents find large franchises more impersonal and they don’t feel valued as they would feel in a boutique brokerage. There’s also a lot of competition for leads, as they are often distributed by management.

And since we are talking about a corporate office, big decisions take a long time to process and creative freedom is limited. Making positive changes or reaching someone in management is very difficult. 

Boutique Real Estate Brokerages

Boutique brokerages are typically owned by one small company and managed by one broker. Examples include Bayside Real Estate in Los Angeles, Webb Realty in Northern California, and Core Real Estate in Manhattan.

Even if boutique brokerages are much smaller than a franchise brokerage, they are not limited in earning potential. Some of the most successful brokerages in the country are boutique brokerages, pulling the highest numbers in sales per year.

Boutique Real Estate Brokerages Pro

An individual agent’s contribution is much more important for a boutique brokerage, therefore the brokers spend more time nurturing and coaching new agents.

You have less competition for leads since there’s a small number of brokers and agents. Experienced agents will often let newer agents handle the majority of new leads.

Another great advantage of boutique brokerages is teamwork. Everyone helps each other for the benefit of the brokerage, and that makes every agent feel like a valuable part of the team. 

Having no corporate office makes room for quick and easy decisions. Best practices and policies can be changed overnight. And all agents get more creative freedom when it comes to advertising and marketing compared with national brokerages where there are always strict creative rules.

Boutique Real Estate Brokerages Cons

One disadvantage of boutique brokerages are smaller marketing budgets and lower online traffic to websites that bring leads. That can make things hard for new agents.

You also have no brand recognition outside your immediate town and no discounted access to technology that you need to use for lead generation and follow-up systems. 

Virtual Real Estate Brokerages

The invention of SaaS real estate software and the reliance on online advertising has made virtual brokerage a viable option for experienced and independent real estate professionals. 

You don’t need to walk into a brokerage office anymore, you can handle your real estate work from your computer.

Virtual Real Estate Brokerages Pros

One of the biggest advantages of virtual brokerages is the attractive commission splits. Since they don’t pay for expensive office spaces, they can offer between 70% to 100% to agents.

The absence of a desk fee can also mean you can put that money towards marketing. An extra few hundred dollars in Facebook Advertising or Zillow Premier Agent can have a great return on investment.

Virtual brokerages also come with better real estate tools. You get access to integrated transaction management tools, CRM tools, and websites.

One last advantage of virtual brokerages is the independence you get. There are no more weekly sales meetings, training sessions, or social outings that you need to participate in.

Virtual Real Estate Brokerages Cons

when going virtual, there’s less potential for networking. While with a boutique brokerage you get the opportunity to build a network and get leads from other professionals, this option is not available for virtual brokerages.

You also get fewer training opportunities since you won’t be in contact with more experienced agents to grow your expertise.

And working alone can be isolating and it’s not for everyone. Dealing with all the highs and lows of this profession by themselves might be too stressful for some agents, while an office culture can give them moral support.

Final Thoughts On National vs. Boutique vs. Virtual Real Estate Brokerage

There is no perfect solution for all agents and therefore choosing the right type of brokerage comes down to the professional goals and skill sets of each individual agent.

National brokerages come with the reputation, training, and technology access advantage of being a franchise. But it can also be a competitive, inflexible, and impersonal environment.

Boutique brokerages are more personal, and they offer a great team environment with creative freedom. But, they don’t come with a national reputation or big budgets for marketing or software.

Virtual brokerages come with high commissions and instant access to all the software you need. But working alone from the computer might not be ideal for everyone and you can’t get training from more experienced agents.

If you analyze the pros and cons of all types of brokerages, you can figure out which one suits you better before making the next move in your career as a real estate agent.

Every week, we release in-depth videos to help viewers become successful real estate agents on our CA Realty Training YouTube Channel. Also, if you enjoyed reading this article, we would love if you could share it with a friend who you think would get something out of it.

Nov 8, 2021
5 min