Bye bye big box brokers—Hello Virtual Realty
By Ronny Santana
If you take a look inside most real estate offices these days, you will find them mostly void of agents. Nowadays, most realtors work from home. Why is that? The internet has leveled the playing field of available information. Older, traditional real estate companies really no longer have anything to offer agents that requires them being part of an office or brokerage. This makes it unnecessary for realtors to give a large part of their commission away to a broker.
Empty real estate offices are merely evidence of the old traditional way of doing real estate having finally caught up with technology, and virtual, online, 100 percent commission brokers are now filling the need for agents to be able to keep all of their commission and work exclusively from home, minus all the constraints and exorbitant fees of a big box broker.
I could never understand why it is when I see a hapless realtor driving around with a logo on their car (that they paid for themselves) advertising for big block real estate company. And if you look real close you can see the agent’s name in small font somewhere on the ad. Maybe it’s the entrepreneur in me, but when I see an agent spending their own money and effort to advertise someone else’s company I am beyond bewildered.
In the past, agents had no choice but to be connected to traditional real estate brokerages because of access of information that only brokers had. Heck, when I started in real estate, in order to see what properties were on the MLS, you had to use this doo-hicky that only real estate companies had that had two suction cups mounted on it that you put a telephone receiver into, dialed a number, then there would be a noise signal that would feed into this machine that printed out lines of coded text on a giant piece of paper of the available properties…yikes! ..But that was then.
And remember going to a travel agents office with posters of exotic travel destinations on the wall to book a vacation? Now we sit at home and click the mouse to do the same thing. Likewise, investors, buyers, sellers, builders, and their agents are also doing real estate online as well.
If you think about it, real estate was really one of the last business models to finally acquiesce to the online format. Many of the flat fee virtual companies are essentially the same as the storefront real estate companies with all the same services, just without the parking lot and office politics. The online model works like this; the agent signs up online with a one hundred percent commission broker and only pays a small fee to the broker for every transaction the agent closes, usually between $500 to $1000.
One of the winners of this new business model is of course the agents. When agents can keep all their commission and not have to sacrifice broker support, what’s not to like? But not only do the agents that are a members of a 100 percent commission brokerage get to keep all their money, those agents that represent investors and builders are now saving thousands of dollars on their commission, and now those same agents are in a position to use that as a tool to compete against the old school real estate agents, by passing on their savings to their clients—reflected in the commission charged to them. Which at the end of the day reflects in a healthier bottom line for the builder and investor.
No longer do brick and mortar brokers have a monopoly on information or technology, and agents are voting with their feet. There are still going to be the old school real estate agents that believe they need to give a big chunk of their commission to a brick and mortar brokerage office in order for them to function, and that’s fine. But realtors that don’t want to subsidize for a break room to sip coffee with co-workers are quickly going where they can buy lots of their own coffee.
Ronny Santana is Broker and Owner of CURB®. He may be reached at