If you’ve gone to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) or Inman conference in the past few years, you’d think that every agent in the country is trying to figure out how to build a team. But the reality is more sobering. According to the 2022 National Association of Realtors’ Member Profile, the percentage of agents on teams actually went down by more than 4% last year.

Why? Well, you could blame the market, but we have a sneaking suspicion most agents gave up because they didn’t take the time to learn how to build a team the right way.

To get you started on the right path, we decided to use our 40-plus years of real estate experience to walk you through everything you need to know to build a thriving real estate team in 2023. We cover getting started, the most efficient team structures, building your tech stack, which team members to hire and when, and wrap up with seven common mistakes new team leaders make.

How to Build a Real Estate Team in 2023

Before embarking on your quest to dominate your real estate market with a team, you need a plan. Here are the step-by-step instructions for getting your team up and running.

1. Get Approval & Guidance From Your Managing Broker 

Even though real estate teams are legal in all 50 states, you still need to talk to your broker to make sure you know the rules. You’ll also need to get a split and cap agreement in place so you’ll know how much money you can count on from each transaction to pay to your team and cover your expenses. As your team grows and becomes more successful, you can renegotiate with your broker. 

Why Managing Brokers Love Teams

Worried about your managing broker approving your team? Don’t be. Leadership in every brokerage I’ve worked for actually encouraged agents to start teams. Why? Simple. Teams require less hands-on management and usually recruit and train junior agents on their own. That means less work for your boss, not more.

That said, if you come to your broker with a detailed plan for your team from this article, they’re more likely to take you seriously and offer help getting your team off the ground.

2. Choose the Right Team Structure

Once you get the green light from your managing broker, the next step is to decide how your team will be structured. To get you started, here is a quick overview of our three favorite team structures for 2023. If you want to learn more about each structure, check out our deep-dive strategy guide at the end of this section. 

Mentor-Mentee Model: Teach Them to Fish & Build Residual Income

  • Best for: Team leaders who excel at recruiting and training new agents at brokerages with downline revenue sharing like eXp, Keller Williams, and Exit
  • Split to team member: 70-90%
  • Cost to operate: Low

If you love training new agents and work at a brokerage that offers revenue sharing, the mentor-mentee model might be your best bet. In this model, team leaders recruit, train, and mentor new agents, but instead of feeding them leads, they teach them strategies and systems to generate their own. Unlike other team structures, agent retention is not your goal here. Instead, you mentor them until they are ready to go out on their own to build your downline. 

Since you won’t have to reach into your pocket to generate leads for your agents, costs are low. Low costs = better splits. Better splits = less work recruiting new agents. Not bad, right? Of course, this model is not all wine and roses and is not for everyone.

Team Leader Model: Leverage Your Personal Brand

  • Best for: Team leaders with strong personal brands and established reputations in their farm areas
  • Split to team member: 50-60%
  • Cost to operate: Medium

Have you been building a magnetic personal brand and want to use it as the centerpiece of your team? The team leader model is the perfect fit. It operates more like a boutique brokerage than a traditional real estate team. The only difference is that, instead of a brokerage brand, the team leader’s personal brand is your unique selling proposition. 

Rather than endlessly recruiting and training new agents, the team leader model relies on building an actual team to support you. As team leader, you will be the lead listing agent and recruit other listing agents, showing agents, and support staff to keep your operation humming.

Lead Team Model: Run Your Team Like a Startup

  • Best for: Scaling your team without a strong personal brand
  • Split to team member: 30-40%
  • Cost to operate: High

If you have some cash to burn, a strong business background, and thrive on organization and systems, the lead team model just might turn you into the next Gary Keller. Here, you’ll operate more like the founder of a startup than a leader of a real estate team. Instead of you generating leads for everyone else, a business manager oversees a marketing manager and team of inside sales agents to fill your customer relationship manager (CRM) with fresh leads. Those leads are then fed to listing agents and showing agents, who close them with the help of a transaction coordinator.

Related Article
3 Foolproof Team Models: Hiring, Splits, Lead Gen + More

3. Develop a Business Plan & Budget

The management of a real estate team’s business is different from the management of a solo real estate business. Create a plan for what you need, how you’ll pay for it, and what to do with the revenue you generate. Need help creating a real estate business plan? Check out our strategy guides:

4. Decide on a Compensation Model

Instead of splitting a commission solely with a managing broker, real estate team members split it with their team (which has a collective split agreement with their broker). A junior agent split is usually between 40% and 50%, with 60% to 75% for team leaders. There is no standard split for teams with their broker; it usually is similar to the split percentage of a typical solo agent.

What’s different is the cap—typically about 90% of the collective cap of a group of licensed agents of the same size as the team. Why the discount? For the same reason it’s cheaper to buy your toilet paper in bulk. Real estate brokers are usually willing to give up a little bit of their top-line commission income in order to have a better chance of making their bottom-line commission income—a security that real estate teams provide.

Use our guidelines for the split ranges for the team structure you chose as a starting point to decide what to offer your new team members. Since you’re just starting out, being a bit more generous can help you attract high-quality agents. You can always lower them as your team scales. 

5. Build Your Technology & Communications Stack

No matter which model you choose, your toolbox can make or break your team. Remember, team members will not rise to the level of your combined talents, but sink the level of your systems. The right software will make it much easier to recruit new agents, and more importantly, reduce stress and confusion. 

Here are a few of our favorite tools that are designed specifically for teams. They’re not cheap, but most will let you create accounts for as few as two team members and then add more seats as you scale.

6. Hire an Administrative Assistant

If you want to set your team up for success, your first hire should be an administrative assistant. Many new team leaders make the mistake of recruiting junior agents first, only to have them quit or move on in a few months when they discover how much of their time is dominated by mundane tasks. Having an administrative assistant on your team can be an attractive lure for recruiting junior agents.

This person’s primary responsibility is to take work off the plate of the team leader or other licensed members of the team so that they can focus on the real estate-specific tasks that drive new client relationships and closed deals.

This work includes things like filing, calendar coordination and scheduling, communication that doesn’t include real estate-specific advice or strategy, light marketing tasks, errands, sign placement, marketing material delivery, and general office organization.

Related Article
Hire a Top-notch Virtual Real Estate Assistant

7. Build Out the Rest of Your Team

Once your team starts closing more deals than your agents can handle, it’s time to scale. While the team model you choose will determine who you should hire next, here is the general order we recommend for most teams. 

Buyer’s Agent

A buyer’s agent is a licensed real estate professional who works exclusively with house hunters. Because of how labor-intensive the buying process is, successful solo real estate agents can only work with so many buyers before running out of time in the day. When you reach the point where you have more buyers than you have time, a buyer’s agent is the right hire.

Related Article
The Ultimate Guide to Recruiting Agents for Your Team or Brokerage (+ Scripts)

Transaction Coordinator

Anyone who’s working in real estate knows that the business gets divided into two phases: the legwork and the paperwork. That’s why a transaction coordinator is often a perfect early hire. Not only will they free up your buyer’s agents to show more houses, they will also help you attract new agents to your team. A dedicated transaction coordinator is an alluring perk for any agent, experienced or not.

Listing Specialist

The yang to the buyer’s agent yin, a listing specialist does just what their title says: specializes in listing property. In many cases, especially with newer (or smaller) teams, the team leader is also the listing specialist. But as your volume grows, so will the requests for listing presentations. If you’re running the team leader model, keeping your showing agents busy can be a huge problem when the market is slow. Adding another listing agent to your team will keep them on their toes and help your team grow faster.

Marketing Specialist

Guess how much marketing experience is required in order to get a real estate license? Zip, zero, zilch. Guess how much of your success as an agent or team depends on a solid marketing strategy? A lot.

A marketing specialist is in charge of envisioning, designing, and executing a marketing strategy for your real estate team. Their work includes branding, lead generation, referral generation, and property marketing. This role is incredibly important; your marketing specialist creates the messages that your community consumes about you, your team, and the way you do business.

Inside Sales Agent (ISA)

An inside sales agent is someone whose primary responsibility is to create new leads with outbound communication, qualify incoming leads, and pass off opportunities to other members of the team for nurturing and closing. This person spends a lot of their time on the phone; they deal with lead communication at scale, meaning they’re shooting to make hundreds of contacts a day.

7 Critical Mistakes New Team Leaders Make

Now that you have a better idea of how to set your team up for success, let’s take a look at some common missteps that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new team leaders make. Our very own Sean Moudry has seen these mistakes crater talented and driven teams many times over the years, and he has a few tricks to help you avoid the same fate.

Providing opportunity and a paycheck to others does not give you the right to project your bad mood, unrealistic expectations, or perfectionism onto others. Unrelenting, micromanaging, uncompromising jerks quickly develop reputations—and not the good kind.

📌   Pro Tip

Good people don’t leave good jobs. They leave lousy leaders.

Aside from the fact that you’re making it nearly impossible to create a positive culture, you need to remember this: Finding great talent—for sales, operations, or support—is one of the most significant challenges team leaders face. How easy do you think it will be if you have a reputation for being a nightmare to work for?

There is hope for those with enough self-awareness to recognize where they’re falling short as a leader. A therapist, a coach, or a trusted group of peers may all provide support as you seek to correct the behavior preventing you from achieving all you are capable of.

How to Build a Real Estate Team: FAQ

Bringing It All Together

Building a real estate team is a fantastic way for successful agents to scale up their business and for new agents to break into the industry and learn from seasoned pros. Are you a part of a real estate team? What advice would you give to agents wondering how to start up a squad? Tell us in the comments below.