March 2015 | By Mary Beth Klatt
Going it alone in real estate is a daunting prospect. Learning every aspect of the business while trying to create a marketing plan, find clients, and get yourself off the ground is difficult without a lot of support. Mentors can help, but another option is to team up with another agent. When you share your business with someone else, you can evenly delegate responsibilities and free yourself up to focus more on developing your skills as a salesperson. The real estate team model is becoming more popular, and as one broker said at a Real Estate Connect session in January, “The days of the lone-ranger agent are numbered.”
For Patty Blackwelder, a sales associate with EXIT Realty Associates in Lorton, Va., it made sense to make her foray into real estate last year with a business partner she knew she could trust and learn from: her twin sister, Peggy James, who has been in the business for more than 20 years. Their partnership spawned from an offhand comment James made in 2013 when she found herself overwhelmed with business. “Peggy said, ‘I wish I could double myself,’” Blackwelder recalls.
And so last year, Blackwelder left her full-time job as a sales and marketing representative for homebuilder Ryan Homes and formed the Twins Selling Real Estate team with James. Blackwelder became a buyer’s agent while James focused on listings. But even with her background as a support staffer for real estate companies, Blackwelder had to learn the business from an agent’s perspective. “I had been in and around the real estate business for over 20 years but never worked as an agent myself,” she says.
James mentored Blackwelder, showing her how to write contracts, negotiate home inspections, and deal with title companies, warranties, and closings. “Passing the [real estate exam] is one thing, and having sales experience is great, but knowing how to sell real estate when every sale is different can be a daunting prospect, and many do not succeed their first year,” Blackwelder says. “Peggy was an invaluable resource, and it allowed her to do what she loves and for me to do what I love, which is work with buyers.”
The sisters’ clients like the combination of their services. “We are referred to many who are trying to navigate selling and then buying, and we make the process seamless,” says Blackwelder. “We think and look alike and often finish each other’s sentences. We have the same work ethic, which is so important if you are a team.”
Blackwelder describes James as “off the cuff, funny, and creative,” while Blackwelder herself is “more serious, reserved, and a numbers person. We make the perfect team.”
Not everyone has a twin, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good real estate teammate who isn’t your clone. Blackwelder gives four reasons why anyone starting out in real estate should consider teaming up with another agent:
You Gain Instant Credibility
One of the biggest challenges newcomers to the industry have to overcome is their inexperience. When you team up with another agent, particularly one with much more experience than you, that assuages clients’ concerns that you don’t know what you’re doing. Blackwelder says teaming up with her sister “helped me to look as if I was an established agent to the consumer.” She admits: “It did not hurt that my mentor was my best friend and sister.”
You Always Have Access to a Mentor
“A mentor was vital to my first-year success,” Blackwelder says. “I was scared at first, but teaming up allowed me to sell with confidence, knowing I had someone to teach me as I went. I took a little less [income] for each transaction, but in the end, I exceeded my goals in sales volume and income.”
You Stand Out in the Crowd
It may seem counterintuitive that you acquire more visibility as a team than an individual, but Blackwelder says prospective clients are more likely to remember you if you’re working with a partner. Aside from the novelty of Blackwelder and James being twins, “people love to ask us questions about how we started working together,” Blackwelder says. “We turn it into a conversation about how working with us is like getting two for the price of one. We back up each other so our clients never need to worry that one of us will not be available. We have found when we go together to meet a buyer or seller, we always secure them as our clients.”
You Have Expanded Marketing Opportunities
Blackwelder and James have a billboard ad at a new town center that shows three photos of them taken over the past 60 years, beginning with a vintage shot of the duo as toddlers and ending with a more recent photograph. “It really helped to get us off to a fast start as people took notice,” says Blackwelder. “They loved the nostalgic look of the board. We got calls from people who have met us over the last 25 years as individuals to say, ‘I love that you are working together.’” Whoever it is you team up with, you have two heads to come up with marketing strategies and two sets of skills to market.
Teaming up with someone can take the edge off of a stressful first year in real estate. Not only does it make it easier to learn the business, but you can also have more fun getting acclimated to the job with a confidante by your side. “It’s still scary sometimes being self-employed,” Blackwelder admits, “but I love making dreams come true.” Her own included.
Reprinted from realtor.org, March 2015, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright March 2015. All rights reserved. http://www.realtor.org/