Adriaan Grové

Franchise or independent agency — which is best for estate agents?

Big franchise brand vs small local brand. An obvious choice if you are an estate agent looking to join an agency, right? Not these days. Here is why:

  • The business landscape is changing with new real estate models. What worked 10 or 20 years ago may not work so well, or at all, today. New and existing real estate companies are constantly challenging the status quo with many disruptive new real estate models being launched. As an estate agent, you need to ask yourself: “what makes the real estate agency I want to join unique and sets itself apart from its competitors? Do I share their vision? Do I want to join an agency with a traditional or a completely different business model?”.
LeadHome, one of the disruptive real estate models launched in South Africa.
  • The internet is a great equalizer. Small and big estate agencies now compete with each other on the same property portals, social media channels and in many cases, the same back-end software. The tools are there for everyone. A tech-savvy agent joining an agency who has outdated systems or don’t know what a tweet is, will feel frustrated soon. Since most of your leads will probably come from the internet, you should have a careful look at the systems the agency provides and on which portals they advertise. Also, have a look at the quality of their listings, do they portray a professional online image you can associate yourself with?
  • Commission structures and benefits. Gone are the days of basic commission splits between agents and agencies. There are now a variety of options that provide higher commission splits, company benefits, and profit sharing models. Some of the newer models also introduced fixed salaries. What will work best for you?
Keller Williams South Africa franchise training in action.

Joining a real estate franchise agency

  • National brand recognition (instant credibility)

Joining an independent estate agency

  • The stamp of local authority and credibility

That’s a lot to chew on, each has its merits. One of the things you should however pay careful attention to is the fact that:

At the end of the day, the brand is as good as its people.

Both franchise and independent agencies can be mediocre or industry leaders, no matter what resources they have available to them.

Try to interview as many real estate agencies as possible (both franchise and independent). Yes…you interview them. Estate agencies need you more than you need them. Questions to ask when you interview can include the following:

  • What training do you provide? Mentoring in your first year is critical and should be on the top of your list in selecting an agency. But even experienced agents can benefit from additional coaching to keep up to date with the latest legislation. How often is training provided?
How involved is your agency with the local community?
  • What is the company culture like? Does it fit your personality? There is a big difference between large and small agencies. Check out their Facebook page.
Who wouldn’t like an office on the beach?!

What really matters in choosing an agency?

It is easy to get drowned in the above information, but what really matters? I asked this question on social media and received some interesting and valuable responses.

CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, sums it up as follows:

… Any brand, company, organization, franchise or independent is only as good as the person driving it …

Look at who is running that agency. You can achieve different results in different agencies (even within the same franchise network) depending on the leadership. The RE/MAX CEO further suggests that agents should ask the principals the hard questions like:

…How can you help me achieve my commission target for this year?…

In the end, your success will be closely linked to the synergy you have with the agency leadership and how effective they drive their brand, whether it be independent or franchise.

Real Estate Coach, Anthony van der Riet from The Coaching Factory, echoes this sentiment saying that “…people join people, and if it is a good company, even better…”.

Successful agents have a principal who supports them. You are not going to become a successful agent based on a brand name. To summarize:

You are your own brand.

I hope the above will give you some framework when making such an important career decision. From my discussions with agents, it is clear that it is a very personal choice based on your own goals and needs, and that you can be successful in both a franchise or independent agency model. Thanks to all agents who provided input on this and helped me better understand the industry. Please leave comments if you’d like to add anything … or do not agree with anything!

I’m the CEO of, I love working with my remote team to solve real estate problems. Questions everything.