This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
Real estate agents should come prepared with questions to ask a broker in a real estate interview, covering how the brokerage manages agent support, provides financial compensation, and implements lead generation and marketing. Ask questions that would affect your day-to-day operations, including the tools being provided, company policy manual, commission split, and networking practices. Real estate agents should be selective when choosing a sponsoring brokerage, as the choice will ultimately impact your real estate career success.
Take a look at these 24 crucial questions to ask a broker, as well as examples of what constitutes an acceptable or unsuitable answer, so you can properly judge the best company for you. Download and print our free real estate brokerage interview questionnaire below to come prepared and confident on interview day.
If you’re unsure of what you want in your sponsoring brokerage, review our How to Choose a Real Estate Company to Work For article, so you feel confident with the type of establishment you’re looking to join.
General Brokerage Questions
Before getting into more complicated questions about commission structure and lead generation, it’s necessary to understand the general structure of a real estate brokerage. These questions will allow you to evaluate the company as an overall organization and see if they share the same mission and values you hope to achieve in your real estate career. Also, it will give you an idea about the size, policies, culture, and general well-being of the brokerage and its agents.
1. How Many Agents Work Here?
Good answer: “We have about X agents currently at XYZ Brokerage.”
Proceed with caution: “I’m not sure, we have so many agents coming in and out.”
The number of agents at each brokerage varies depending on the type of brokerage you are interviewing with. Boutique brokerages may have as few as three agents on staff, while franchise brokerages have thousands of agents across the country. If you work in a small town and want to know all the agents you work with, a boutique brokerage is probably the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you’re in a large metropolitan area and wish to have connections with agents throughout that area, a franchise would be a better choice.
A good answer to this question depends upon your preferences and how you wish to conduct your business, but offers a valid answer to your question. However, a wishy-washy answer like the one above is a red flag. The broker in charge should at all times know how many agents are conducting business under their brokerage. It shows an attention to detail and a responsibility to the licensees and clients who do transactions with their firm.
2. How Many Agents at This Brokerage Work Part Time & Full Time?
Good answer: “About X% of agents work full time and X% of agents work part time.”
Proceed with caution: “There’s a mix of both.”
Similar to the above question, a good answer provides an accurate answer to your question but also should be judged by what you are looking for in a brokerage. Whereas a cautionary answer doesn’t give insightful information on the structure of the real estate firm.
This question can reveal the types of agents that work at a given brokerage and the work habits that are expected. To better judge this question for yourself, think about how you want to structure your work schedule. For example, if you intend to work part time, you probably don’t want to join a brokerage where every agent works 40 hours or more per week. It is critical to consider how your brokerage will fit into your lifestyle.
3. What’s the Average Number of Years of Experience of Your Agents?
Good answer: “We enjoy having new agents, but many of our agents have 10-plus years of real estate experience.”
Proceed with caution: “All of our agents have less than a year of experience.”
85% to 90% of new agents fail within the first five years due to a lack of an entrepreneurial mindset. To be in the top 20%, surround yourself with agents who have learned the ropes and understand how to succeed in a competitive market. Working with experienced and knowledgeable real estate agents can provide a wealth of useful insights if you are a new agent.
While hearing that the majority of the other agents in the brokerage are at a similar stage in their careers may sound appealing to a newly licensed real estate agent, an agent joining a young firm like this one will miss out on mentorship opportunities. Furthermore, if the brokerage is established, but the team is young, it may indicate a high level of turnover due to poor management.
4. How Long Have Your Agents Stayed at This Brokerage?
Good answer: “Most of our agents are working here an average of 10 years.”
Proceed with caution: “Well, the majority of our agents stayed here for one to two years.”
Although agents are not required to stay with the same brokerage for their entire career, selecting a brokerage that can help you start and grow your career for many years is extremely beneficial. This question is a great way to assess how well the brokerage can support agents with varying levels of experience.
If the majority of agents have stayed with the brokerage for only a few years, ask follow-up questions like “Why have your agents chosen to leave your brokerage after two years?” or “What reasons have agents cited for leaving your firm?” You might discover that the company has a legitimate reason for its high turnover rates. For example, you might want to know if the firm has had agents who retired after earning six-figure salaries or if agents have left because of poor management or little opportunity for growth.
5. Is There a Company Policy Manual?
Good answer: “Yes, here’s a copy for you to review.”
Proceed with caution: “No, we don’t have a policy manual.”
Every business should have a policy manual. Before entering into any agreements, it is critical to read their manual because it shows the brokerage’s standards and values, as well as its regulations and expectations. If you want to broaden your real estate expertise beyond working as a buyer or seller agent, it’s also a good idea to read the manual before joining a firm.
Check the manual to see if the brokerage has rules and restrictions regarding agents upgrading to a broker’s license, caps on commission splits for listings you brought into the company, or lead distribution. This will allow you to decide whether this brokerage is the right fit for you.
6. Are There Mandatory Meetings?
Good answer: “Yes, we have one mandatory meeting per month to speak about the goals and financials of the brokerage, market trends, and general news.”
Proceed with caution: “We never have meetings, and if we do, they’re spur of the moment.”
Real estate agents are independent contractors and do not have the same duties and expectations as employees. You will, however, be responsible for adhering to specific rules from your sponsored brokerage, such as mandatory meetings.
Mandatory meetings may suit your needs if you like meeting with your coworkers and are looking forward to receiving training and developing mentor connections. Meetings can also be valuable for observing the inner workings of your brokerage. However, if you want total control over your schedule, you could consider a virtual brokerage like Real. This 100% mobile brokerage provides tools and assistance but does not require you to attend a physical office or have mandatory meetings.
7. What Is Your Involvement in the Community?
Good answer: “We are hosting charity events where the proceeds are going to the less fortunate.”
Proceed with caution: “No, we are not hosting and attending community events. We don’t have time for those events.”
Real estate is all about connections and is a very competitive field. Community involvement is a great platform to boost your reputation and influence, establish connections, get people to know you better, and generate new leads. But beware that community involvement is about helping other people first and, only after that, promoting yourself. And even then, you need to be subtle about it. You don’t want people to think you are using such a noble cause for business purposes.
8. Does Your Brokerage Have Social Gatherings?
Good answer: “Yes, we do host and attend social gatherings. We do not require agents to attend, but always encourage participation to get to know everyone better.”
Proceed with caution: “Our firm does not host and attend social gatherings. Those kinds of events are just a waste of time.”
It is crucial for a brokerage to host and attend social events because the real estate industry requires making connections with clients, other agents, and brokers, mortgages, investors, etc. It is also a great way to socialize with colleagues outside of the office. However, hosting and attending social gatherings should not be mandatory for those who prefer not to attend.
9. What Is the Company Culture Like?
Good answer: “Our firm promotes an open culture, allowing employees at every level to share their ideas, suggestions, and concerns with us.”
Proceed with caution: “It’s hard to describe our company culture, but we are a very competitive group of agents.”
You want to get a good idea of the company’s values as soon as possible. Although you cannot judge everything in one meeting, you can observe interactions inside the workplace. Spend some time at a brokerage to determine that it has the real estate firm culture you want. Interview the broker as well as several agents. Look them up online.
Be aware that some brokerages have more rivalry than support for an efficient and effective work in an enjoyable work environment. While healthy competition between real estate agents is normal, it should not be misconstrued for bad attitudes, fighting, or situations that cause agents to leave their position at the brokerage.
For instance, employee turnover is a great indicator of whether the company has a good or bad company culture. If the company has a good culture, then employees will most likely stay longer since they are comfortable, happy, and engaged. Employees who are offered continued opportunities for growth are more likely to stay put. On the other hand, if the company has a negative culture or a toxic workplace, it will most likely have a high turnover rate.
10. What Are the Brokerage’s Short- & Long-term Goals?
Good answer: “Our firm aims to increase our overall brand awareness and our share of the market.”
Proceed with caution: “Our company has no short-term or long-term goals. We’re just going with the flow.”
All successful businesses have clear goals that they want to attain. The brokerage you choose should similarly strive for development at every step. Pay attention to how the broker speaks to you about their aims and future ambitions. The firm’s goals should align with the vision you have for your business. For example, if your goal is to work with sellers and represent listings, you’ll need your brokerage to have similar aspirations and training to help you meet these goals.
If you haven’t yet decided on your own business goals, learn how to write a real estate business plan and download our free template to get started.
Agent Support Questions
As a new real estate agent or an experienced agent entering a new firm, it is crucial for you to know how the brokerage intends to support you and your business for success. These questions help you assess if the brokerage would offer training, programs, administrative support, technology, and other agent support systems for you to grow and acquire the skills needed to be successful in real estate.
11. What Kind of Training Is Provided?
Good answer: “We offer a two-week training program that teaches agents everything, from how to organize their schedule to generating leads to the entire real estate transaction process.”
Proceed with caution: “We don’t provide any training for our new agents.”
As a new real estate agent, training opportunities that cover how to complete a real estate transaction, communicate with clients, and generate leads are vital for a successful real estate career. Experienced real estate agents will also need training on the new technology, services, and policies to further develop their skills and update their knowledge. Some brokerages have pre-established training programs for new agents, while at other brokerages, it falls upon the agent to find a mentor.
If you’re already a licensed agent struggling to get your career moving and find a specific direction, you will benefit from Kaplan’s professional development courses. The Real Estate Accelerator is an eight-hour intensive boot camp program designed to teach agents specific activities they need to perform, and it’s focused on critical business-building activities and the skills required to perform their duties successfully.
12. Are There Mentorship Opportunities?
Good answer: “Yes, we do provide mentors for our new agents.”
Proceed with caution: “No, we don’t provide mentorship opportunities for our new agents.”
Having a mentor as a new agent will be one of the essential tools in your career. A mentor who is familiar with your industry and target market will be able to provide you with highly relevant and practical knowledge like real estate trends and how to generate leads. Some brokerages offer a six- to twelve-month mentoring program.
Even if there is no official program, there may be chances for mentorship. Inquire about the broker’s leadership style and management experience. A managing broker who takes delight in their team’s success is a solid predictor of a high-performing real estate firm.
For example, Coldwell Banker provides live, in-house training and one-on-one expert assistance for new and experienced agents, including career guidance and basic, in-depth classes to learn sales skills, time management, prospecting techniques, and contract creation. These training programs are beneficial, allowing agents to improve their personal and career development, onboarding and productivity, and leadership.
13. Who Do I Speak With if I Have Client or Transaction-related Questions?
Good answer: “If our agents have a client or transaction-related question, they can speak with their manager for advice and support.”
Proceed with caution: “We provide reading materials, but there isn’t anyone specifically to speak with for questions. Agents can try calling the office and if someone is there, they may be able to help with questions.”
Regardless of an agent’s experience level—especially new agents—they will have questions related to clients and transactions. They may run into issues or situations that they’re unfamiliar with and will need advice to navigate their way through the process. The brokerage you choose should provide a system where agents can get answers to their questions and learn how to handle challenging situations. This can be a mentor manager who is available for questions and concerns.
14. What Does Your Firm Offer to New Real Estate Agents?
Good answer: “We provide headshots and business cards for all new agents. Also, we offer marketing stipends, free buyer leads, and continuing education (CE) courses for credit toward license renewal.”
Proceed with caution: “We don’t provide any agent support. You are on your own.”
New and experienced agents entering a new brokerage will need tools to penetrate the market and identify opportunities to help them navigate the industry. While brokerages aren’t expected to offer anything to their incoming agents, many will include a few items to help get their agents off the ground. Here are some common real estate agent support tools that many firms offer:
- Free leads
- CE courses for credit
- Marketing stipends
- Access to the firm’s listing
- Business cards
15. Is There Administrative Support?
Good answer: “Yes, our assistant works from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and takes care of specific tasks.” or “No, we do not have a real estate assistant, but here is how we balance the administrative tasks.”
Proceed with caution: “No, we don’t worry about the administrative side of things.”
Most brokerages employ real estate assistants or administrators to assist with paperwork, answering phones, arranging appointments, organizing supplies, and other duties. This will save you valuable time and effort and help you stay organized.
On the other hand, great real estate brokerages may not have a real estate assistant but are still great places to work. If the brokerage does not have an assistant, the real estate broker and agents will be responsible for multiple tasks. In this case, be careful to obtain thorough information regarding the administrative tools and assistance that will be provided to assist you in balancing your job.
16. What Kind of Software or Technology Is Provided?
Good answer: “One of the tools we use is Market Leader, which helps agents generate leads and convert them into clients.”
Proceed with caution: “We don’t use technology tools because we don’t think they’re important.”
It’s common for franchise and virtual brokerages to give agents access to real estate tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, social media management, and task management tools. On the other hand, boutique brokerages sometimes don’t have the same level of funding to provide the same tools for their agents. You can be highly successful without every instrument on the market, but make sure you know the essential tools and how your brokerage will help you.
Market Leader, for example, provides an all-in-one solution for generating leads and converting them into lifelong clients, including a robust customer relationship manager (CRM), website, and marketing automation. Furthermore, its website tools are easy to use, its widgets make adding content effortless, and the picture library provides quick access to great stock images. Market Leader also guarantees exclusive buyer and seller leads each month, based on a ZIP code and lead availability.
Another vital factor that agents must know about their potential brokerage is the amount of money they will be able to earn. These questions will help you assess if the brokerage is willing to negotiate commissions, if the commission split is fair, and what the real estate fees are. It’s important to work for a brokerage that appreciates your expertise and allows you to earn and negotiate compensation based on progress and contributions to the company.
17. What Is the Commission Split?
Good answer: “Our commission split is 60/40.”
Proceed with caution: “Our commission split is 20/80. You will receive 20% commission, while we keep 80%.”
A commission split refers to the amount of money the agent and the brokerage receive when they complete a real estate transaction and can vary by brokerage. Agents know the commission split they will receive, so they can estimate their income. Thus, a wishy-washy answer to this question will not work here.
While most people obviously want to earn more money, it’s important to understand how your commission and support coincide. For example, your brokerage may offer an 80/20 split, with 80% of the commission going to the agent, but they may not provide any training, agent support, or technology. Whereas a 60/40 split, with 60% going to the agent, will offer a comprehensive training program, multiple technological tools, and an administrative assistant.
Even though the latter brokerage is taking more from your paycheck, they are offering you tools in return. Use the other information you have gathered about the brokerage to judge which commission split is best for your business.
18. Are Commissions Negotiable?
Good answer: “Yes, we are open to negotiating commission splits, but we typically review them after seeing an agent’s progress at the brokerage.”
Proceed with caution: “No, commission splits are not negotiable.”
Real estate commission splits, like salaries, can be negotiated. Real estate agents are independent contractors. While they must pay a certain amount to their broker, they usually have an opportunity to ask for a higher or lower commission split. Real estate agents must be aware that if you have been offered a lower commission rate, you can refuse and negotiate it for a higher commission rate. However, if you are a new agent, you may have to wait before negotiating until the brokerage can see your performance.
19. What Are the One-time & Ongoing Fees?
Good answer: “You must pay E&O insurance in a lump sum, pay for an annual MLS fee, and the technology fee is $100 per month.”
Proceed with caution: “I don’t think there are any additional expenses.”
Every real estate agent incurs membership and marketing fees, but each firm manages the finances differently. Make sure to inquire as to what costs you will be accountable for and ask questions about these fees to get the complete picture of how each brokerage will impact your income.
A few common expenses are:
- Desk fees
- Annual National Association of Realtors (NAR) membership
- MLS fees
- Printing fees for mailers, business cards, and so forth
- Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance
In this case, the word of caution in the brokerage response is “think.” A high-performing broker should be able to supply you with a list of recurrent expenditures, so that agents working under their supervision can budget accordingly.
20. What Is the Average Income of Your Agents?
Good answer: “Many of our full-time agents make between $70,000 and $100,000 per year.”
Proceed with caution: “They probably all make $50,000.”
A real estate agent’s income highly depends on various elements, such as niche, years of experience, and how many hours they work a week. According to the Colibri Real Estate survey, agents putting in 40 to 50 hours a week can expect to make around $113,054, and agents who work between 51 to 59 hours a week can expect to earn approximately $143,469.
As for the experience factor, a real estate agent in the middle of their career might earn somewhere between $149,000 and $164,000. However, for the niche factor, average real estate incomes tend to fall in the $130,000 range. Some niches, like affordable housing, have notably lower incomes, and others, like luxury homes or commercial properties, have markedly higher earnings.
Be careful not to base your entire decision on this numerical figure because real estate agents’ incomes can have an extremely large gap depending on the hours they work and the effort they put in. Knowing these figures is important for an agent’s brokerage decision because it will give you an idea about the possible factors that may affect the money you can make.
Lead Generation & Marketing Questions
It is essential that you know the lead generation and marketing strategies that a brokerage uses to build a business. While you will be using your own lead generation strategies, if your brokerage has additional ways to capture and convert leads, they will be helpful in supplementing your business. Also, a brokerage’s marketing and branding will directly reflect your reputation within the real estate industry. These questions will reveal whether the brokerage has solid lead generation and marketing plans as well as if they can be beneficial for your real estate business.
21. What Is Your Target Market & Niche?
Good answer: “Our business’ niche market is condo owners, and here’s why…”
Proceed with caution: “Well, we don’t have any niche market; we serve everyone.”
Brokerages must carve out a niche and target market to position their firm as the go-to brand for a specific audience. It builds their reputation over rival brokerages and results in a more concentrated business. Focusing on a specialized market—from your unique value proposition to your content marketing efforts—makes it easier for agents and brokerages to attract the right customers.
In this context, having “everyone” or no target market or niche is detrimental to sales and company growth. If you don’t know your target audience, you won’t be able to utilize language or address the issues that are most important to clients. Your marketing, website content, and ad campaigns will be less successful.
22. Where Do You Focus Your Marketing Efforts?
Good answer: “We have found that social media outreach is the best way to connect with first-time millennial homebuyers, and our email list helps us nurture previous clients.”
Proceed with caution: “Our business comes from friends and family, so we don’t focus on being seen online.”
A successful marketing effort includes acquiring new leads, converting them into customers, and constantly expanding your network and reputation. However, the ideal approach to achieve this depends on your area and target market. You could use online, direct mail, Google advertising, or social media marketing. Besides, a great managing broker will know which marketing methods work and which do not in your area.
While the strength of a referral network will play a vital role in the success of any agent, more and more business is being conducted online each year. In addition to running out of leads, a brokerage that doesn’t care about its online presence also risks being seen as out-of-date or not credible.
23. How Many Listings Does Each Agent Currently Have?
Good answer: “We currently have around 10 listings for each agent.”
Proceed with caution: “Some agents have 20 listings, some have two listings.”
A brokerage may have many listings, but the distribution and system used to manage those listings impact the opportunities an agent will receive. While most brokerages have a few top producers, it might be a concern if one or two agents have the bulk of listings and other agents are having difficulty finding any. This might indicate that the brokerage fails to support and encourage its agents.
24. How Are Leads Distributed & Qualified?
Good answer: “We use an automated system that rotates the distribution of each lead.”
Proceed with caution: “I tend just to give them to anyone near me at the time.”
When a buyer or seller contacts a brokerage for assistance, the brokerage has many options for transferring the lead. They can distribute leads by seniority, price point, round-robin, or first-come, first-served basis. How they decide to distribute leads reveals a lot about how the brokerage is managed and if they value fairness and transparency. According to an Inman survey, 60% of real estate brokers believe their firm distributes leads unfairly, so it’s important to make sure you ask this question.
Lead distribution systems are beneficial for agents and the brokerage to guarantee clients are well taken care of and agents have sufficient business. Follow Up Boss provides automation tools to generate real estate leads and move them through the sales pipeline. It also offers essential features like workflow automation, allowing agents to engage with leads by sending a follow-up email or a greeting on their birthday.
Follow Up Boss provides a centralized platform to communicate with contacts via texting, email, and an in-app phone, helping agents and teams to keep track of all active conversations.
In addition to printing several copies of your real estate resume, interviewees should have an organized and printed list of questions to ask a broker during the interview. To ensure that all essential questions are answered, record each answer and review them after the interview before making a final employment decision.
As you gather answers to these interview questions, remember that each brokerage is different in structure, values, operation, and management styles. Even if they offer you an answer that doesn’t align with your values, it doesn’t mean that that answer is wrong—it may just be the wrong brokerage for your needs. Instead, see it as a hint that you should ask follow-up questions for further clarity.