A virtual or online real estate brokerage operates similarly to a traditional brick-and-mortar one. However, many virtual real estate brokerages are national and run entirely online. This type of venue can be an ideal fit for some agents and an absolute nightmare for others. Let’s dive in and discuss more specific differences and the pros and cons of working with an online brokerage.

What Is a Virtual Real Estate Brokerage?

A virtual brokerage (also known as a cloud-based brokerage) is an online brokerage firm that sponsors real estate agents but has no physical location. Although virtual brokerages aren’t new, they’ve grown in popularity over the last few years. After the pandemic, many realtors and brokers found themselves adjusting how they worked, leading to more real estate pros doing their work from a home office or on the go. 

Virtual Brokerage vs. Traditional Brokerage

There are a few obvious differences between traditional and virtual brokerages, like the lack of a physical office and the lack of in-person interactions with brokers and other agents. If you’re considering whether to switch your real estate brokerage to an online firm, make sure you understand the other differences and the pros and cons of each.

Some of the other differences include the following:

  • Costs and commission splits
  • Technology and software
  • Training and mentorship
  • Managing broker support
  • No physical office

Let’s break them all down. 

Costs & Commission Splits

An online real estate brokerage doesn’t have to worry about investing a big chunk of change on overhead, like offices, conference room designs, utilities, etc. As a result, cloud-based real estate brokerages are more affordable to run than traditional brokerages, and those savings can get passed on to agents.

For instance, agents generally have lower costs and often have a revenue-sharing opportunity. This incentive encourages agents to grow not only their own real estate business but also help the company grow.

Pros of Costs & Commission Splits
Cons of Costs & Commission Splits
  • Commission splits can be more competitive.
  • They provide more options and flexibility.
  • They have lower fees.
  • They have no franchise fees or royalties.
  • They provide additional incentives (i.e., revenue sharing).
  • Some offer benefits and a base salary
  • There are very few financial cons for agents, although the finances may not make up for the cons in other areas.

Technology & Software

Virtual real estate brokerages are wholly based on technology, so the better the brokerage’s technology, the better the agent’s experience. The best online real estate brokerages offer agents the most software to support them with significant real estate tasks like marketing, lead generation, branding, file management, and commission tracking. In a traditional brokerage, there are typically fewer software options, and agents are responsible for choosing and paying for additional tools.

Pros of Technology & Software
Cons of Technology & Software
  • Great technology allows you to work from anywhere.
  • They provide unrivaled flexibility and independence.
  • They can include top-of-the-line real estate software.
  • All technology is subject to bugs and glitches, and they can be especially frustrating when your business depends on functional software.
  • They lack in-person support and relationships.
Social media calendar example for real estate agents from Agent Crate
Agent Crate social media calendar (Source: Agent Crate)

For example, one of the best real estate brokerage software options is Agent Crate. Agent Crate is a marketing and social media tool for real estate professionals that includes pre-made social media content for multiple platforms, social media ads, customizable videos, blogs, landing pages, and templates for reels and videos. See how Agent Crate can help you easily build a strong social brand!

Training & Mentorship

Training and supporting agents are important parts of every brokerage. Traditional brokerages often offer classes, and new or part-time agents also naturally learn from being around other agents in the firm. However, virtual real estate brokerages must be more intentional about their training and support since there is no built-in office or meeting spot. Luckily, there are plenty of options for online classes or self-guided training materials. It is up to individual real estate agents to decide if online-only training is enough for them.

Pros of Online Training
Cons of Online Training
  • Training materials are available at all times.
  • You can work through materials at your own pace.
  • It lacks accountability.
  • Online training materials can be glitchy.
  • It has limited support for additional questions.
  • It lacks relationship-building.

Managing Broker Support

One of the biggest concerns many agents have about joining a cloud-based real estate brokerage is the availability and communication with online real estate brokers and other staff members. In a traditional brokerage, agents can walk into an office to print flyers or receive their commission checks on the spot. Plus, there is usually a limited agent-to-managing broker ratio.

However, many online brokerages are national, so each online broker can have hundreds of agents. This makes it difficult to get in touch with them and to get hyperlocal advice or support with difficult transactions, like dual agency. Plus, office tasks like file management are solely up to the agents.

Pros of Managing Broker Support
Cons of Managing Broker Support
  • It offers convenience—you can message online staff from anywhere.
  • Virtual staff members can be in different time zones and are often more available.
  • It lacks in-person interactions or support.
  • It lacks hyperlocal support.
  • It has limited access to the managing broker.
  • It has fewer support staff.

6 Best Online Real Estate Brokerages

All agents must be familiar with the best real estate brokerages to work for, both virtual and traditional options. We’ve gathered a few details about some of the most popular online brokerages and a few of their unique offerings.

The six best cloud-based real estate brokerages are as follows:

  • eXp Realty: eXp is available in all 50 states and is one of the largest and fastest-growing brokerages in the US. It is known for eXp World, a virtual video-game-like workplace for agents. Incentives include a competitive commission split and shareholder opportunities.
  • Real: Real emphasizes technology with AI, lead management, and document management. Although it’s unavailable in every state, it includes residential and commercial divisions.
  • Side: This option allows agents to build their brands and takes a more hands-off approach. It is ideal for experienced agents looking to grow their businesses, but not for newer agents needing more support.
  • Premier Agent Network: This is a high-tech virtual online real estate brokerage offering a 100% commission split and no franchise fees.
  • Virtual Realty Group: This is one of the veteran virtual real estate brokerages, having been around since 2011. It provides plenty of back-office technology and higher-than-average commission splits.
  • Redfin: This is a unique online brokerage that offers agents a base salary, benefits, and built-in lead generation.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Joining a Virtual Brokerage

Before deciding whether to join a virtual brokerage, you need to take the information you’ve learned while doing research and compare it with your personal strengths and weaknesses. Part of our real estate business plan template includes a SWOT analysis to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. To make the best decision about brokerages to work with, have this information ready and ask yourself additional questions like these:

  • What do I need from a brokerage? Training, support, technology, salary? Does my potential virtual brokerage offer this?
  • How important is it for me to contact a real person for questions about location or the real estate market?
  • How important is it for me to have contact with a real person for administrative questions or needs?
  • What are my sales expectations in a virtual brokerage vs. traditional?
  • What are my opportunities for growth in a virtual brokerage?
  • How does the brokerage handle new leads and referrals?
  • Does my learning style fit the online setting for training and meetings?
  • What level of marketing and branding support do you need to start or continue your business growth?
  • What tools and technology does the online brokerage offer?
  • What tools and technology does the brokerage not offer, and how will that impact your time and expenses?


Bringing It All Together

Traditional and online real estate brokerages both have benefits and drawbacks, and it’s important to understand them before choosing a brokerage to work with. In general, agents who thrive in online brokerages are self-motivated, tech-savvy, and able to build relationships without consistent in-person interactions. If this sounds like you, then a virtual real estate brokerage might be the best way to be successful in real estate.

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