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3 Smart Steps to Building Your Real Estate Dream Team

A look at how to know when it’s time to hire, whom to hire first and how to keep it all organized.

It took Betsy Pepine, broker-owner of Pepine Realty in Gainesville, eight years before she built her 14-person real estate team after becoming an agent in 2006. She regrets not starting earlier. “That’s one of my biggest team-building lessons,” says Pepine, who now believes agents should teams in year two or three.

What’s the tipping point?

Listen and Learn: Check out business coach Jan O’Brien of WBNL Coaching’s podcasts on real estate team building.

“You become so overwhelmed with your own business that something has to give,” notes Pepine. “Usually it’s your quality of life that significantly suffers. You realize that something has to change — either you must give up business or build your business.

Pepine’s guideline: When you have a consistent pool of 10 active listings, it’s time to start a team. If that sounds like you, where do you begin when you want to form your own real estate team? Take these three steps to build a solid foundation.

Step 1: Get your house in order

Don’t make the No. 1 mistake most agents make, says Jan O'Brien, co-founder of WBNL Coaching in Henderson, Nevada.

“Don’t hire people before you’re ready to bring them onto the team,” says O’Brien, a real estate broker and business coach for over 23 years.

Instead, put core real estate systems in place for every complex or recurring task, activity or process — and write them down. “If it takes more than two steps, it needs a written process,” says O’Brien. Rather than reinventing the wheel every time, get the step-by-step instructions of how you perform tasks out of your head and onto paper. This will evolve from the blueprint of how you do things to a comprehensive, cohesive structure for how you expect your team to accomplish the same tasks.

Although the specific systems will vary depending on your preferences, O’Brien recommends creating written procedures for each major area of your business. These include listings (sellers), sales (buyers), lead generation (database, farms, social media, Internet, networking), hiring and onboarding, and team administration. What else might you want the manual to cover? Your team business plan and goals; vision, purpose, and brand; marketing and advertising; referral system; and financial, productivity, profitability reports and forecasts.

Step 2: Name your team

While you might be tempted to get creative with your team name, you’ll need to tread lightly. Thanks to new team ad regulations by the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC), proceed with caution when naming your team.

Why the change? “It was confusing because some of the team names gave the impression that the team was a separate brokerage,” explains Meredith Caruso, manager of member legal communications at Florida Realtors.

Learn more: What you can — and can't — do promote your real estate business in the state of Florida.

According to FREC, real estate team or group names may include the word team or group as part of the name. However, real estate team or group names shall not include the following words: Agency, Associates, Brokerage, Brokers, Company, Corporation, Corp., Inc., LLC, LP, LLP or Partnership, Properties, Property, Real Estate, Realty. Additionally, any similar words suggesting the team or group is a separate real estate brokerage or company may not be included.

“For those who don’t comply, FREC hasn’t yet issued what the potential penalties might be,” says Caruso. “Florida Realtors will keep you informed and help Realtors prepare.”

Step 3: Plan your hires

Next, should you hire a listing agent? A transaction agent? Both?

The best first hire is an administrative assistant, says Pepine. “[That person] can enter MLS listings, take photos, handle feedback from showings and sit in your listings for inspections,” she explains. “The best use of an agent’s time is creating relationships and negotiating contracts. All other functions [can] be outsourced.”

O’Brien agrees, but with a twist. “You can task your new assistant with creating the team operations manual while [they’re] doing the work,” O’Brien suggests, citing the ease of documenting one process at a time.

The next hire after the assistant depends on your needs. It could be a marketing coordinator, a photographer, a transaction coordinator or a buyer’s agent.

Are you at your tipping point? Get your systems in place today so you’re ready to go full on with an assistant tomorrow. It will be one of the best decisions you’ll make because you can focus on what you do best—relationship building.

Lisa Beach is a freelance journalist and copywriter. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, USA Today magazines, and dozens more. Check out her writer’s website at