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Achieving Success by Embracing the ‘Team’ Spirit
Patricia Dantzic admits she was a bit apprehensive about re-entering the workforce with a new career in real estate. After enjoying a successful profession in corporate communications in the music industry, she switched gears, earned her license and began working at a local agency.
Soon afterward, she was approached by a team member from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hudson Valley Properties and quickly decided that joining that team would be the best way to help her jump-start her new business. For the past year, Dantzic has been part of the firm’s Clement, Brooks & Safier Team and works from their Rhinebeck office. “Even with all of my business experience, I found real estate to be somewhat intimidating and being part of a team is very reassuring for me,” she explained. “I’m working with a great group of professionals intent on having my back.”
COVID hit not long after Dantzic joined the team, and that’s when she realized the true benefits of being part of a team. “I would have really been on my own then, since no one was coming into the office,” she said. “At first I didn’t know anything about teams and it I took me a while to wrap my head around this, but I knew I could learn from the group and I’ve gotten so much more than I ever expected.” Dantzic has had the opportunity to list, sell, and be involved with just about every other aspect of a real estate transaction.
Last year, the team closed more than $50 million in sales, and Hayes Clement, along with his two partners, Donna Brooks and Harris Safier, hope to keep increase that number for 2021. Clement explained that the team is fairly new, but has already exceeded their own expectations. “Collectively, we can spend more than we could do as solo agents, so that helps our marketing budgets along with everything else,” he said. “Plus, operating as a team means we’re able to take a weekend off and still have someone there to service our clients.”
The team, consisting currently of 11 agents, is organized as a corporate entity within their Berkshire Hathaway brokerage, which has offices in New Paltz, Kingston and Rhinebeck. “Everyone has a mix of responsibilities and different team members have expertise in different areas,” explained Clement. “Some are stronger with listings, while others are stronger working with buyers.”
Many also find being part of a team has been a huge asset during COVID, with almost everyone working from home. “We usually have one or two meetings a week, training, and comradery,” said Clement. “Just making those connections via teleconference helps us bounce ideas off each other and creates a bonding you wouldn’t get on your own.”
Clement believes teams are here to stay and expects to see more of them, as the pandemic has caused us to eschew large gatherings, particularly in offices and other social arenas. “For agents like Dantzic, who are new to the business, teams can offer big savings. “It’s tough for those just starting out—it can be a large investment of money and time. For seasoned agents, teams are a nice in-between step from working alone to owning your own brokerage,” added Clement.
Dantzic believes education is the biggest asset of being a team member. “We have weekly meetings and training sessions, and I’ve gotten many leads as a result of this,” she added. “I’ve also had the opportunity to observe different business styles and the knowledge and experience I’ve gained is invaluable.” Most appealing to Dantzic is the team motto, which she practices daily: “Play nice and do good work.”
A recent National Association of Realtors study found that 26% of Realtors are now members of a partnership or real estate team. The median year that teams were established is 2014 and the median number of team members is four. The survey also found that many members joined their current team in 2016.
Deanne Rymarowicz, NAR Association Counsel, Legal Affairs, said teams are defined at state levels and need no permission from NAR when forming. However, all teams are subject to state rules and regulations. For example, in New York, advertising guidelines stipulate that any team advertisement must always mention the name of the brokerage.
“All teams are still part of a brokerage and cannot act as their own company, she explained. “An agent’s license is with the broker and not the team leader.”
Rymarowicz noted the many advantages that teams offer such as the ability to focus on certain aspects of a transaction, division of responsibilities, training and education, and mentoring for new agents. “However, there are some pitfalls that people need to be aware of before joining a team,” she acknowledged. “Be clear on why you want to join, review the benefits it will bring you, make sure you understand the terms of your agreement as team member, and know what your role and expectations will be.”
In terms of agent compensation, Rymarowicz said that will vary with each team. The NAR survey found that the most common compensation was a commission split, with 38% of survey respondents indicating some type of split. Just over 22% responded with a graduated commission split and only 13% chose a 100% commission split. “In some cases, agents’ commissions may increase after meeting a certain threshold,” she said. “Team leaders can set their own policies on compensation.”
The survey also found that in some cases, the team leaders handle the listings, while other team members work with buyers. In some team formats, all members are encouraged to pursue listings. In most cases, a client can contact any member of the team for assistance if one particular agent isn’t available.
As far as division of team responsibilities, the survey found that one agent might be in charge of handling buyer phone calls on listings and sign calls, while another might escort buyers on home-showing tours or host open houses. Another might draw up purchase offers, manage the lending process or attend home inspections.
One of the most successful teams in Westchester and Putnam counties is the Nancy Kennedy Team, which is part of Houlihan Lawrence, Inc. Kennedy, an associate broker in the company’s Croton-on-Hudson branch, has been in the business for more than 35 years and is consistently rated the top associate in the region in terms of dollar volume and units sold. In 2019, she achieved more than $1 billion in career sales. The Wall Street Journal has ranked Kennedy and her team as #1 in Westchester, #5 in New York State and #109 in the nation.
Her team, which has been in operation for 17 years, started with just a few agents. Today, the team includes her husband Paul Kennedy, Megan and Coleen Coxen, Adam Redondo, Ali Alverez and Susan Fraietta. “We are like a family,” admitted Kennedy. “Plus, my calendar books up so quickly that I often find myself meeting five or six people on Saturdays and Sundays. Having a team allows me to get a lot more accomplished, and is a great benefit to both our clients and our agents on the team.”
Kennedy will consider only full-time agents to be part of the team, due to the volume of work they handle. Some of the more well-known properties the team has listed and sold include the Residences at the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, Trump Plaza in New Rochelle and Trump Park in Shrub Oak. “I would consider expanding because I’m always looking for another good team member,” she shared. “But they have to want to work hard. I never felt I had a separation from my job and my life. I look for good energy and passion.”
Never short on leads, Kennedy distributes them among her team members. “It’s like a game of jump ball—whoever grabs it is the one who gets it,” she said. “We list and sell all types of properties from one-bedroom rental units to luxury estates and properties.
She describes her group as having a “real team spirit.” “We’re actually a small real estate business under a bigger umbrella,” she added.
Christina Stevens, broker/owner of Laujel Realty Corp. in the Bronx, has been a Realtor since 1994 and owner of her own brokerage since 1997. For the past five years, she has been leading a small team, which now consists of four people. In addition to herself, JoEllen Sandy, Ellen Fiske and Andrew Bushay make up the Christina Stevens Team. Her son, George Stevens, was also a team member, but will be relocating to Los Angeles next month.
“Everybody does everything on this team—listings, selling and rentals,” said Stevens. “We all help each other out and if one person is not available, another one steps in. There are no issues or problems.” Stevens said team members also negotiate compensation with each other for help with handling sales or rentals.
For her, having a team has been a huge asset when covering a territory that includes the Bronx, Westchester, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. “Everyone is trained on all aspects of real estate transactions so we can accomplish goals as one,” she explained. “The trust factor we have among ourselves is awesome.”
Stevens also believes the team concept is here to stay, especially because her clients love the idea. “Customers should never be left unattended,” she added. “We always let them know they will never be alone.”