Which brokerage to join as an experienced RE investor

5 Replies


I am trying to determine which brokerage might be best for me.  To give you just a little bit of background, I'm pretty much the furthest thing away from a newbie, and have lived on commission income for the past 12 years. As a wholesaler for the past nine months, I've probably made more offers to purchase property then the vast majority of buyers agents. So I don't need a company that caters to newbies or requires an excessive amount of initial training. I also don't want to be with someone who will charge ridiculous desk fees. I am okay with franchise fees up to a certain point. 

Looking at the firms in northwest WA, here are my options:

  • Windemere
  • Keller Williams
  • Century 21
  • RE/MAX
  • Muljat
  • Sterling
  • Coldwell Banker
  • John L Scott
  • Zip Realty

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone working for any of those firms would be so kind as to add their two cents.  Specifically, I am interested to know what sort of initial training program or ongoing support systems are in place, the commission split and what sort of monthly and transactional fees there are.  

I have met with managing brokers of Windermere, C21, and Sterling.  I have met agents with KW, Muljat, JLS and Zip.  As of right now, Windermere is in the lead with C21 followed closely behind.  

While each place has its pros and cons, I think that Muljat and perhaps RE/MAX are out of the question based on conversations I've had with brokers there. At Muljat for instance, does fees are astonishing $1200 per month. Even though the split is 95/5, that's quite a hefty load to carry for the first few months as I get things ramped up. I have heard the desk fees for RE/MAX are also quite high. Can anyone confirm what those are?

While I have heard very good things about Keller Williams, especially with respect to its training program, I've heard some horror stories about agents getting only 15% of the total commission. Granted, these are agents were part of larger team and didn't read the fine print on their employment contract. Still though, it's a difficult pill to swallow when you expect a  $7000 payday and you only get $1000.

Also, Keller Williams seems to attract a lot of newbies to either sales and marketing or real estate in general. That's not to say that they don't have good agents. On the contrary, I know of several who are not only fantastic people but also massive producers. But these are specific team leaders - so I might consider them down the line.

I know very little about Coldwell Banker so if anybody can shed some light on that I would be very appreciative.

Last but not least, it may help to mention why Windermere is currently in the lead. Firstly, the commission split is 50/50 until you've made the brokerage $23,500. After that it's 100%. I've also been told that there are no desk fees, franchise fees, transaction fees or any other monthly or transaction related cost whatsoever. This may be specific to the Windermere appear in Whatcom County – I am not sure. Another thing however, is that the vast majority of top producers are with Windermere and in fact they have an approximate 40% market share. They are also listing-focused which is in line with my philosophy.

So again, I would greatly appreciate feedback on each of these firms from people who have either work there are currently work there.


If I were you I would go with a non-traditional broker. There are plenty of them out there that charge a flat fee per month plus a small transaction fee when you sell a property. 

When I first got my license I was contacted by United Real Estate. At the time they charged a monthly fee of $90 and they collected a transaction fee of, I think, $200 when you completed a transaction. And they have conference rooms available if you need to meet a client in the office. They're a nationwide company, but I don't know if they're in Washington.

You can google "flat fee broker" or "no split broker" to find them. They also advertise extensively on Craigslist in the real estate section.

Good luck!

@Fred Heller Thanks Fred. I couldn't find United Real Estate in Washington or any other flat the broker based in the state.

The one thing I would like however is a big name and brick-and-mortar building. This is just my personal opinion but I view real estate brokers working for smaller shops as Mickey Mouse-ish. I know this is unjustified and flat out unfair but we are all entitled to our opinions :-) This is another reason why I would lean towards Windermere or century 21.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that I would like the brokerage to have a professionally made website. I recall that when my wife and I were looking to buy a property I would immediately dismiss a broker based solely on the quality of their website. Again, I know this is totally unjustified but to me a cheaply made website indicates a lack of care and professionalism.

Again though, thanks for the reply and I will look into it a little further, especially on craigslist which I have yet to peruse.

I am a Florida Real Estate Broker and used to manage a Coldwell Banker. I think that each brokerage has its pros and cons. If you are after more of the corp. culture then the big names are great for that and training. You do however give up your "freedom" that you get with a mom and pop shop. Make sure that the brokerage is aware that you will not be splitting commission because you are not working the investment as a "sale" if that is the case. Also the bigger companies have franchise fees that they must pay which means you must pay. If you need training I would recommend any of the big companies. KW and Coldwell are some of the best. The issue I had with CB is that I managed a residential brokerage and got several commercial listings that CB would not allow us the list. They have their rules and do not care what your personal goals are. Where at a smaller brokerage they allow you more freedom to reach your goals. Good luck with your choice.

@Patrick Britton here is my .02 on brokers:

1) Big name = Big expenses. all the big broker firms will cost you a lot to operate. just like any other aspect in life, you pay for the name. On the other hand, the big firms also provide systems such as websites, (some) leads and smoother transactions when it's time to close.

2) Keep in mind the big firms are franchisees. there could be more than one REMAX franchisee in your area and they might have different fee structures, talk to all of them,

3) RE is a negotiation business. Other than the national franchise fee, everything else is negotiable. Including desk fees...

4) As Fred suggested above, there are many independent brokers that has simpler and cheaper fees. You local realtors association can provide you with a list of all independent brokers in your area.

5) In 3-4 years you can bet your own broker license (if that's what you want) and things can be different then.

It all comes down to YOUR business plan. I recommend you open an excel sheet, build a column that has the numbers of houses you believe you can sell per month and a column for each broker that calculates your net from these transactions.

Run the numbers for the first 12-24 months and see where the break even points are (for example, selling 20 houses in REMAX might net you the same as selling 30 houses for KW).

Try to be honest and realistic with yourself about these numbers and remember that as an agent you are measured to higher standards than a wholesaler so some "gray area" methods one might have used in the past (not suggesting you did), one can no long do that w/o getting in trouble as a Realtor.

@Joseph Gozlan  Hi Joe, very good points. The guy at Century 21 and the brokers at RE/MAX and Keller Williams told me that there are franchise fees. But quite frankly they don't seem to be unreasonable.

I will check with the local Realtor's Association about the independent brokers in the area, I hadn't thought of that so thank you.

In terms of a business plan, yes already done :-) and funny you should mention the net house sales firm-to-firm. That's probably one of, if not the single best way to look at things and something I think all new brokers need to do. 

And you are most definitely correct about the duties and responsibilities of a real estate broker versus a wholesaler. I'm happy to say that I never operated in any gray area, but it was my wholesaling marketing that convinced me to get a broker's license because I found a very large number of sellers, but none willing to provide huge discounts. I ended up sending referrals to a bunch of listing agents and figured I might as well become a broker and list those properties myself. 

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