I sometimes think I live and operate in a rather small microcosm even though we cover Plymouth and Cape Cod where we have homes to sell and real estate to buy for our clients.

Just today I heard from another Realtor that had left a national franchise office and started their own agency. This the third Broker in as many days and similar to the others in experience and time in the industry. And I know another Broker who bought a franchise. Though I do not see this being similar to opening an independent agency.

I am seeing this emerging trend, as more agents are not happy with the traditional real estate agency business model. But why now and what do we read into this? Is it in fact a trend and akin to a brewing storm of the big box stores and the local shops on Main St. in a David and Goliath battle to survive? I suspect not.

It’s simple to run down the pros and cons of big vs. small and we all know the answer to the size question. Size may not be required but it is nice: branding, advertising budgets, recognition, comfort, and ubiquitous offices. Do buyers and sellers perceive a difference in service quality and experience from the franchise vs. the independent agency? I think it all comes down to whom you talk to and believe – if they have an opinion.

In my market in Plymouth County and Cape Cod, all the major players are here in spades. They recruit as many agents as they can, supposedly train them and hope that each agent will do at least enough deals to cover the cost of training them. It’s a numbers game. With a volume of agents out beating the bushes even if they manage the national average of 4-6 deals per year the compensation plan will work for the agency. And if an agent is not happy with one agency they simply move to another.

There has been a great deal of movement between large agencies in my market over the past year or two. Everyone is trying to compete for the top producing agents but what happens when top agents open their own shop? If you are an owner of a large franchise office you just keep on keeping on with the plan and hope the brand and support from the home office gets you through. In the end that is what you are paying for in a franchise.

As for the smaller agencies they must rely on their personal production and database of contacts and an experience set that they can market. The buck stops here! Technology has leveled the playing field somewhat but even Google, Facebook and other social media sites are prone to follow the money these days. Meaning large advertising budgets are influencing the rankings and placements on their pages (SEO). A small shop has to be very savvy.

And most Realtors are getting tired of the aggregators such as Zillow, Trulia, etc. who like to grab all our data and sell it back to us. The public will not pay them so they pressure Realtors to become “premium” agents on their sites and promise that leads will flow. Not to mention that should you use widgets (mortgage calculators, home valuation, etc.) of some of these sites you are actually helping them outrank you in the search engines.

Broker/Owners are opening their own agencies because they can. It’s also a lifestyle decision. Yes I may need to work a bit more – well maybe not always more but differently. And I’m not stuck answering phones for 4 hours on someone’s schedule other than mine or subject to giving up to 40% or more of my fees back to a franchise. I can control my hours and effort and have a life.

Buying and selling homes in Plymouth and Cape Cod is a great job. No matter big or small, if you have the skills, drive and perseverance you can survive and flourish. It’s the small agencies that add the flavor to the local market, especially on Cape. But whose measuring?

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