Independent Brokers, What Are Your Costs and What Tech R U Using?

31 Replies

Im curious what independent brokers are using for CRMs and what cost you are paying, e&0 insurance costs, what splits you are putting agents on, what you are providing to those agents, and any other jazz that might get overlooked moving from be an agent/broker with a big brokerage to going independent.

@Dawn Brenengen @Mark Ferguson @James Wise  

MLS Tools- Auto Emails, CRM[Lion Desk] Free with MLS. Looked at some higher end and lead generation.

NO agents.

E&O about $450 per year [360 Coverage Pros]

@Russell Brazil I use Liondesk. I think it's $29/month. My E&O is about $1300/year, but I do property management as well, and I think it's more expensive than usual because of that. My assistant is on an 80/20 split if he sells something, but he also gets a salary as my assistant. The agent who is my teammate is 50/50 because I'm supplying all the clients. We don't have a physical office, and I'm not really interested in managing agents, so I don't recruit.

My costs are all over because we have property management, traditional sales, investing and the blog/books all mashed together. I am not trying to recruit agents either. They are a pain lol. We tried dotloop and hated it. Use easy agent pro for the website. Use podio mostly for crm. For the most part #brokerage don't seem to make money they are more of a convenience for thos who don't want someone telling them what to do. 

@Mark Ferguson well, we know us top producing agents....aint no one telling us what to do anyways lol.

My office was supposed to be moving to new class A office space, where I was going to have access to a big auditorium, which would have been very valuable to me as Ive been wanting to start a REIA. Id have valued that somewhere in the $12k range. But now our move is off, and we are staying in our dumpy building because a bunch of the old agents complained about the move.

So Im just considering now options on perhaps just going the independent broker route, or maybe making the move to a place with a lower cap. My contract runs out in May.

Interesting to hear this @Russell Brazil - I thought long and hard about going independent before leaving Long and Foster after 16 years and realized that the costs and hassles of going independent (not to mention recruiting and managing Agents and the liability that goes with that) were just not something I wanted to take on. For me, eXp Realty was the perfect fit! Much like a franchise, but with out the costly franchise fees, they offer all the on-boarding, technology, systems, and back-office support you need while letting you run your business as you see fit! And, while eXp is cloud-based, you can certainly rent out your own office space (or use the Regis office space offered via eXp) without the hassles of running your own brokerage. [Solicitation Removed by Moderators] -Marian.

@Russell Brazil To add to Marian's comments, you could start a team and just be "brokered by". You'd pay $40 E&O for each of your transactions and any agents on the team pay the same for themselves. You'd pay $25 for broker review, and agents on the team do the same (you don't have to be the one reviewing). CRM is kvCORE/Kunversion (included in $85/month). No commitment "contracts." No requirement to have an office. But there are a ton of Regus office spaces in the DC area for eXp agent use.

The team I'm a part of allows me to source my own leads and keep my commissions or take team leads and split.

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Im curious what independent brokers are using for CRMs and what cost you are paying, e&0 insurance costs, what splits you are putting agents on, what you are providing to those agents, and any other jazz that might get overlooked moving from be an agent/broker with a big brokerage to going independent.

@Dawn Brenengen @Mark Ferguson @James Wise 

At our peak we probably had close to 50 Realtors on staff. No more though. I got rid of my agent roster. Just doesn't fit correctly with the type of business we want to do as we have completely exited the traditional residential real estate sales business. At this point we simply turn away owner occupied clients and are 100% investor focused. It was too hard to try and dip our toe in the traditional space and investor space.

For example we had Realtors trying to obtain clients though church groups and family events. Total classy stuff, family friendly marketing driving nice families around town to buy homes for their 2.5 kids and dog etc. All of this happy go luck stuff would be happening at the same time their clients would see me on the internet posting photos of actual human poop on the wall or savage tenants being tossed out onto the street and reading negative reviews from tenants from hell online lol. 

Case and point the two models just didn't mix well and we wanted to be able to completely immerse ourselves into being able to bring transparency of how the rental business really works. Having to worry about my vanilla residential Realtors opinion on the rough marketing held us back and it just made sense to cut them all off so we could go full steam ahead into what you see us doing now.

Note that we do have a few legacy agents still around but these or one off situations. An example being my partner in our title business who used to be an agent for us, his wife currently holds her license with us. Another example is my partner in our insurance business is also holding a sales licence with us.

Below is all of the software we utilize to run the whole top down investment sales, management and media operation.
_

Dotloop 

---We use this for digitally signing sales contracts and the majority of sales / media related documents that we need to have signed.

_

G-Suite 

---This is google program. We use it for email hosting and storage. Many great features, including the snooze feature which helps with hitting leads on a schedule. We have email hosting and storage though our web hosting company but this is a much more efficient software, especially when it comes to pushing email notifications to all of your devices.

_

Constant Contact 

---Use this for email marketing, drip marketing and things of that nature. Had previously used MailChimp as well. Constant Contact seems to be similar on the software side but 10x better on the customer service side. From a customer service standpoint MailChimp is garbage.

_

Rentec Direct

---Property Management Software and tenant screening software. Run the entire PM side of the business though this software. Online rent collection, rent rolls and reporting, tenant roster, maintenance work orders, lease renewal notifications etc. We have it integrated with our website to run for rent ads through it which also get pushed out to Zillow and Trulia etc...We also have web integrated owner portals and tenant portals along with everything else one would expect in a PM software.

_

Docusign

---This is integrated with Rentec Direct so we utilize this to sign the majority of things on the PM side of things. I dislike having to use both Docusign and Dotloop in the business but Dotloop is the company that won the market here on the sales side of things and Docusign is what is integrated with Rentec Direct so this is what we do.

_

QuickBooks

---Accounting software. Very necessary as we're not just running the real estate brokerage. In total we are running about 8 separate businesses so this is the accounting umbrella that puts it all together.

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Final Cut Pro

---Video editing software that we utilize for all of our media.

_

1 and 1

---Web design and hosting. I personally handle all of this and the product itself is very solid and easy to use. However the customer service on this product is probably the worst thing I have experienced in my life. We've had our website hosted with this company since 2013 or 2014 and I think it's one of the more impressive websites for an independent real estate company if I don't say so myself. So going to stick with this company as it's taken me years to get the website where I want it building it out, tweaking her or there building back links and trees etc.

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Teespring

---This is the company we utilize to run our apparel business. They handle the logistics at their manufacturing and shipping facilities. Super easy to use, fulfillment is solid and product quality is fair for the price points we are able to offer. No way I would attempt to run an apparel business in the internet age without utilizing a partner like this.

_

Paypal

---Utilize this to collect online payments when we sell various media, coaching and consulting products. Integration with our website is amazing and of course it's a globally trusted brand. Fees are reasonable. No complaints whatsoever.

-

Vehicle Tracking Software

---We also utilize software that routes our maintenance technicians. It also tracks their job times and gives us real time access to see exactly where they are at all times of the day. I don't remember the name of the company we utilize for this as I am not really involved in this side of the business, our C.O.O. handles all of this. From what I have seen though it's pretty sweet and we've utilized it to get a lot of our service technicians moving much more efficiently. A specific example is how it helped us to improve our average lawns cut per hour per technician. We almost doubled the number of lawns they cut when we rolled out this software.

---

Insurance

---E&O insurance, workman's comp, liability insurance, general business insurance etc. We've got 60+ employees running several businesses so we've got a lot of insurance. This is also something I'm not personally very involved with as our C.O.O. handles so I may not have all the exact types listed but bottom line is that it's pretty damn costly.

_

Dropbox

---Cloud based storage. Very important as we have two office locations and myself and my partner (our C.O.O.) also have home offices.

_________________

 All of the above costs us around $8,000/month.

Wow @James Wise thank you for some awesome information. This is exactly where I am planning to be in 2020. I want to really have an investor/investment focused brokerage and continue to grow the PM side of the business (62 doors in 2019 and growing). I also want to get back to the Compliance Consulting and add some PM business consulting for CA here in 2020...Thank you for for sharing and providing me with some much needed “sound check.”

By the way, our costs are also all over the place as we have been trying new services and programs. Currently we use...We have not been actively recruiting agents but have 2 new agents from BP and a few older agents that will likely be encouraged to move to another company during our annual meeting with each agent...

PropertyRadar - targeted prospecting; property information etc

Quickbooks - Accounting software

RealtyBackOffice-Brokerage Transaction Management & CRM - just starting with them so no feedback yet

G-Suite - company emails, shared docs, etc

Zip forms - contracts/forms

We also do Property Management so these are the resources we use now...

Buildium - Property Management software including tenant and owner portals, accounting etc

Planet Synergy - VA services for PM Admin

LeadSimple - CRM for PM



You know, I just knew when I posted this, EXP agenta were going to reply with attempts to recruit. After all fees, EXP offers me essentially the same thing I already have, so there is no inducement for me to switch to them. A virtual office does not fit my business, and if I rent my own office space as a team in Maryland, then I would be need to hire my own on site sales manager which would cost over $100k to do so.  Having a brokerage address in PG county would hurt my business. So EXP is simply not an option.

Thanks James, as your post made me consider some of the ancillary costs that I know are out there but couldnt quite place my finger on, such as needing DotLoop or such for contract writing. 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

You know, I just knew when I posted this, EXP agenta were going to reply with attempts to recruit. After all fees, EXP offers me essentially the same thing I already have, so there is no inducement for me to switch to them. A virtual office does not fit my business, and if I rent my own office space as a team in Maryland, then I would be need to hire my own on site sales manager which would cost over $100k to do so.  Having a brokerage address in PG county would hurt my business. So EXP is simply not an option.

Thanks James, as your post made me consider some of the ancillary costs that I know are out there but couldnt quite place my finger on, such as needing DotLoop or such for contract writing. 

 No problem. If we are including other costs like office space, phone and things like that we've also got the following.

Office locations

---We bought the first one for $90,000 in 2014. This is a stand alone building with a warehouse. Our Property Management and construction headquarters are here.

---We bought the 2nd office location for $1,007,876. This is a multi tenant building which houses our Digital Media Studio, Title business and has a few tenants including a couple doctors, a dentist and a cleaning company.

---Not an additional location for our real estate sales brand which is housed in the two mentioned but we also bought the building that houses our insurance business which is branded as Farmers for $115,000. This building also has two other tenants in it.

_

Phone and internet bills 

--- We are paying approximately $2,500 per month for office locations phone and internet along with field employee cell phones and Ipads.

Originally posted by @James Wise :
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:

You know, I just knew when I posted this, EXP agenta were going to reply with attempts to recruit. After all fees, EXP offers me essentially the same thing I already have, so there is no inducement for me to switch to them. A virtual office does not fit my business, and if I rent my own office space as a team in Maryland, then I would be need to hire my own on site sales manager which would cost over $100k to do so.  Having a brokerage address in PG county would hurt my business. So EXP is simply not an option.

Thanks James, as your post made me consider some of the ancillary costs that I know are out there but couldnt quite place my finger on, such as needing DotLoop or such for contract writing. 

 No problem. If we are including other costs like office space, phone and things like that we've also got the following.

Office locations

---We bought the first one for $90,000 in 2014. This is a stand alone building with a warehouse. Our Property Management and construction headquarters are here.

---We bought the 2nd office location for $1,007,876. This is a multi tenant building which houses our Digital Media Studio, Title business and has a few tenants including a couple doctors, a dentist and a cleaning company.

---Not an additional location for our real estate sales brand which is houses in the two mentioned but we also bought the building that houses our insurance business which is branded as Farmers for $115,000. This building also has two other tenants in it.

_

Phone and internet bills 

--- We are paying approximately $2,500 per month for office locations phone and internet along with field employee cell phones.

 Yeah, I saw your videos of your new building and the rehab on that and ita killer.  $1 million goes so much further there lol.

I was looking at a commercial building near my house thats $1.1 million as a possibility, and it's really just a 4 level townhouse with 3300 sq feet. But with $4k in rent on 2 of the floors coming in, makes it pretty attractive to have the other 2 floors for a brokerage when its break even off the top. 

We also have a Remax office close by that has a $10k cap which is pretty attractive...and even more attractive the cap only increases $3k for each additional team member. 

Advertising though is always an issue when you have these secondary businesses as I always need to put my brokerage name in all advertising for these other businesses even when they arnt nessecarily related. If Im just Russell Brazil Broker...then I bypass needing to add my brokerages name. 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

You know, I just knew when I posted this, EXP agenta were going to reply with attempts to recruit. 

Russell, I deleted the solicitation above from the eXp agent which violates forum rules. If you see any other instances of forum violations from eXp agents or anyone else for that matter, please report the post so us moderators can jump on them and correct the issues.

BP Nation, you are not allowed to ask members to PM you, tell them you will PM them, tell them you would "love to talk to them more about it" or any other ways or means to skirt forum rules. Solicitations outside of the marketplace forum is NOT allowed. BP is NOT your place to recruit agents onto your team at eXp. Any further solicitations in this thread will result in them being deleted in their entirety and you will lose your posting privileges for a given time period. Multiple offenders may lose their account all together. Thank you for your cooperation.

Originally posted by @Mark Ferguson :

My costs are all over because we have property management, traditional sales, investing and the blog/books all mashed together. I am not trying to recruit agents either. They are a pain lol. We tried dotloop and hated it. Use easy agent pro for the website. Use podio mostly for crm. For the most part #brokerage don't seem to make money they are more of a convenience for thos who don't want someone telling them what to do. 

 I'd rather take a kick to the groin than hire another agent lol

Originally posted by @Maya Clark :

Wow @James Wise thank you for some awesome information. This is exactly where I am planning to be in 2020. I want to really have an investor/investment focused brokerage and continue to grow the PM side of the business (62 doors in 2019 and growing). I also want to get back to the Compliance Consulting and add some PM business consulting for CA here in 2020...Thank you for for sharing and providing me with some much needed “sound check.”

 No problem. My biggest piece of advice would be for you to try to hit one side of the business or the other. Whether that be investor focused or traditional. I can't stress that enough. Doing both made us incapable of reaching our full potential in either space.

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :
Originally posted by @James Wise:
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:

You know, I just knew when I posted this, EXP agenta were going to reply with attempts to recruit. After all fees, EXP offers me essentially the same thing I already have, so there is no inducement for me to switch to them. A virtual office does not fit my business, and if I rent my own office space as a team in Maryland, then I would be need to hire my own on site sales manager which would cost over $100k to do so.  Having a brokerage address in PG county would hurt my business. So EXP is simply not an option.

Thanks James, as your post made me consider some of the ancillary costs that I know are out there but couldnt quite place my finger on, such as needing DotLoop or such for contract writing. 

 No problem. If we are including other costs like office space, phone and things like that we've also got the following.

Office locations

---We bought the first one for $90,000 in 2014. This is a stand alone building with a warehouse. Our Property Management and construction headquarters are here.

---We bought the 2nd office location for $1,007,876. This is a multi tenant building which houses our Digital Media Studio, Title business and has a few tenants including a couple doctors, a dentist and a cleaning company.

---Not an additional location for our real estate sales brand which is houses in the two mentioned but we also bought the building that houses our insurance business which is branded as Farmers for $115,000. This building also has two other tenants in it.

_

Phone and internet bills 

--- We are paying approximately $2,500 per month for office locations phone and internet along with field employee cell phones.

 Yeah, I saw your videos of your new building and the rehab on that and ita killer.  $1 million goes so much further there lol.

I was looking at a commercial building near my house thats $1.1 million as a possibility, and it's really just a 4 level townhouse with 3300 sq feet. But with $4k in rent on 2 of the floors coming in, makes it pretty attractive to have the other 2 floors for a brokerage when its break even off the top. 

We also have a Remax office close by that has a $10k cap which is pretty attractive...and even more attractive the cap only increases $3k for each additional team member. 

Advertising though is always an issue when you have these secondary businesses as I always need to put my brokerage name in all advertising for these other businesses even when they arnt nessecarily related. If Im just Russell Brazil Broker...then I bypass needing to add my brokerages name. 

 How big of a team are you trying to build? Like what's your business plan? In some situations an agent is probably better off working for a flat fee company like a Re/max or something of that sort if it's just them and maybe a couple of assistants. 

Originally posted by @James Wise :
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:
Originally posted by @James Wise:
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:

You know, I just knew when I posted this, EXP agenta were going to reply with attempts to recruit. After all fees, EXP offers me essentially the same thing I already have, so there is no inducement for me to switch to them. A virtual office does not fit my business, and if I rent my own office space as a team in Maryland, then I would be need to hire my own on site sales manager which would cost over $100k to do so.  Having a brokerage address in PG county would hurt my business. So EXP is simply not an option.

Thanks James, as your post made me consider some of the ancillary costs that I know are out there but couldnt quite place my finger on, such as needing DotLoop or such for contract writing. 

 No problem. If we are including other costs like office space, phone and things like that we've also got the following.

Office locations

---We bought the first one for $90,000 in 2014. This is a stand alone building with a warehouse. Our Property Management and construction headquarters are here.

---We bought the 2nd office location for $1,007,876. This is a multi tenant building which houses our Digital Media Studio, Title business and has a few tenants including a couple doctors, a dentist and a cleaning company.

---Not an additional location for our real estate sales brand which is houses in the two mentioned but we also bought the building that houses our insurance business which is branded as Farmers for $115,000. This building also has two other tenants in it.

_

Phone and internet bills 

--- We are paying approximately $2,500 per month for office locations phone and internet along with field employee cell phones.

 Yeah, I saw your videos of your new building and the rehab on that and ita killer.  $1 million goes so much further there lol.

I was looking at a commercial building near my house thats $1.1 million as a possibility, and it's really just a 4 level townhouse with 3300 sq feet. But with $4k in rent on 2 of the floors coming in, makes it pretty attractive to have the other 2 floors for a brokerage when its break even off the top. 

We also have a Remax office close by that has a $10k cap which is pretty attractive...and even more attractive the cap only increases $3k for each additional team member. 

Advertising though is always an issue when you have these secondary businesses as I always need to put my brokerage name in all advertising for these other businesses even when they arnt nessecarily related. If Im just Russell Brazil Broker...then I bypass needing to add my brokerages name. 

 How big of a team are you trying to build? Like what's your business plan? In some situations an agent is probably better off working for a flat fee company like a Re/max or something of that sort if it's just them and maybe a couple of assistants. 

 Great question.  Ive certainly enjoyed just being a solo agent.....but Im capping out at $15 million per year.  I kept hoping Id break that $20 million per year barrier as a solo agent....but I keep trying and keeping coming up short.  Mostly I wanted to be at that because we have approximately 50 solo agents per year in the state of Maryland breaking $20 million.  I tell you though, I got a lot of respect for those guys, because I cant do it no matter how hard I try. 

So then, might as well move onto the idea of building a team.  Id like to be at $30 million or higher within a couple years if I build a team. Figuring a team member is going to be good for maybe $5 million in production, and I may then dip a little bit having to be involved with the team, I reckon I need 4 team members that are $5 million producers to get that goal.

Unless I found a partner, which may be more ideal, someone in the $9-15 million range also looking to grow their business.  Of course then the question arises....do I want a partner with a similar business, investor based.....or someone whose business does not overlap, so we can compliment each other, but send incoming team leads to the appropriate partner.


Originally posted by @James Wise :
No problem. My biggest piece of advice would be for you to try to hit one side of the business or the other. Whether that be investor focused or traditional. I can't stress that enough. Doing both made us incapable of reaching our full potential in either space.

Yep after being in the business on several different ends I have decided to accept that traditional sales has never been my "happy place." I do them here periodically because my father had a pretty big reputation in the community so I get referrals from time to time. The PM and Investor/Investment end has always been my "happy place" especially since I started in the business under my Dad and my parents owned a large portfolio growing up.  

My suggestion to other Brokers considering going off on their own would be to follow what James suggests...and go in with a clearer focus than I did. Knowing what area of real estate suits you will make you a much better Broker/Owner with or without agents.

 

Originally posted by @David Bell :

@Will Barnard  just a heads up, the comment you deleted wasn't made by an exp agent.  

I don’t know where you get your info but it is wrong. The post states right in this thread, “for me, eXp was the perfect fit” so yes, she is an eXp agent and certainly is pro eXp throughout. Let’s stay on topic here David and let me do my job.

Originally posted by @Ben Guttman :

@James Wise - I love o see people doing it right. A broker with employees running a legit business requires more insurance than a $450 E&O policy these websites offer!!

 

$450/yr for E&O = madness.

@James Wise

Love what you’re doing in the investor-broker space!

I’m in the process of taking over the Brokerage that I work for, and wanting to sort of departmentalize it, for lack of a better term.

We've got 4 Agents, plus me, and my current Broker, who is looking to semi-retire. Over half of my business this past year was investors, and I want to keep that as my main focus. The plan is to continue this way, and probably do some retail listing/selling for just my personal sphere, and kick everything else to my agents. I go back and forth on building a team vs going at it alone, and I'm hoping that keeping a small number of capable agents will get me a little bit of leverage, and let me focus more on the parts of the business I enjoy most.

The other thing I want to do, is get into some ancillary businesses. We already have Property Management, doing 25 units for investors that I’ve sold properties to, plus my own investments. I know there’s more I can be doing with that. Also, I’m currently in talks with a local abstracting company to partner with them, and eventually, would love to get into insurance as well. So, I wondered how you got started with the side businesses, and how that’s worked out for you?

Appreciate all of the help!