Real Estate Agent with Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate 303829;0225082372


DO REAL ESTATE "TEAMS" EXHIBIT EXPERTISE.  The concept of "teams" in real estate practices is popular and often compared to medical "groups".  I see little to no resemblance and, in fact, assigning a title of specialty such as "Buyers Agent" to a member of a team is often misleading to the consumer. 

Inspired by Miriam Bernstein writing about real estate teams and the NYTimes article on the same subject.

  • Has that "Buyers Agent" received any advanced training to represent home buyers?
  • Has that "Buyers Agent" managed a significant number of contracts representing buyers to have any claim to experience?

Not that it isn't possible.  It is, but rarely do the team members meet the test of expertise and experience found with medical specialties.  Most "teams" I've seen are groups of licensees who work closely with other members of the team and spread the advertising and marketing costs and work load.  Some teams may have members who specialize in listing or selling.  So, they have a team title.  However, do they have any expertise beyond the basic training for licensing? 

REAL ESTATE TEAMS are often a small group within a brokerage or real estate company.  In some cases new members will be "mentored" by a more experienced team member for a percentage of their fee for any business they bring to the team/brokerage.  Fact is, we are all individually licensed and usually expected to develop buyer or seller business either for our own account or for "the team". 

From the MD Real Estate Commission:  "There is no provision in Maryland real estate licensing law for teams or groups operating within a brokerage. The only license categories are broker, associate broker, and salesperson. The only recognized entity is a brokerage. Those licensees who choose to operate within a team or group must follow all applicable licensing provision."

THE MATTER OF FEE SPLITS FOR TEAMS will be different from team to team and broker to broker.

THE OPPORTUNISTIC TEAM SPECIALTY.  Unlike medical group specialties whereby the physician has committed an additional year or two to training, study and clinical practice to achieve a specialty designation or title, real estate licensees often advertise themselves as "experts" in topical areas such as "short sale experts" or "Buyer's Broker".  That short sale "expert" may have completed one transaction representing a buyer or seller, OR NONE.  There are courses offered for short sale training but no special license and the claim can be made with or without any actual experience or training. 

  • Buyer Agency Specialist
  • Short Sale Specialist
  • Foreclosure Specialist
  • Luxury Home Specialist
  • Waterfront Home Specialist
  • Investment Real Estate Buyer Specialist
  • Rehabilitation Real Estate Specialist
  • New Home Specialist

EXPERT BY DESIGNATION OR EXPERIENCE.  Many of us, myself included, have advertised some of these "specialties".  NAR designations are evidence of training in a specialty and many require certain experience in that specialty.  However, there is no special or advanced licensing required or available. 

I work with an informal "network" of experienced brokers and agents, but it's largely geographically based.  Each broker in my network is licensed but all have the same license and no further training is required for real estate brokers other than the general broker license.  I market our services and connect home buyers to brokers and agents serving buyers in a particular geographical area.  All of the brokers and agents in my network haveexperience representing home buyers.  Many had their license with my company for year and received training to represent home buyers on an ongoing basis in group meetings and individual consultation.  Focusing on home buyer needs is a specialty.  The real estate industry is about 95% focused on the listing side of real estate brokerage. 

EXAMPLE:  I recently attended a 3 hour CE class offering training in property valuation.  NOT.                          

The class was 98% "how to get the listing" and about 2% property valuation.  Why??  Because the focus of most real estate training is listing oriented.  The assumption is that training for property valuation is for listing agents for CMSs and not for buyers agents.  IMO, one of the most valuable skills any real estate practitioner can have is that of accurate property valuation.  The original listing is no more than an "offer" to prospective home buyers.  Buyers agents who can properly value property listings are offering their buyers an important service.  As a "buyers agent" member of a team, has that buyers agent received any training to properly value properties offered for sale??? 

BUYER AGENCY TRAINING?  Additional Buyer Agency training is available through the NAR.  However, having gone through several "buyer agency" courses, I don't believe they do the job of producing buyer experts, but rather focus on risk reduction for agents selling their own broker's listings.  Many will differ with that description, and so be it.  Risk reduction is critical, of course, but knowing how to avoid committing fraud through undisclosed dual agency doesn't provide skill in representing home buyers.  I realized after committing 4 days to a course specializing in buyer agency that the experience gained by limiting my customers and clients to home buyers, managing many contracts for home buyers, my experience was far more valuable than the course offering. 

TEAMS are a good marketing concept.  They may share the workload.  The question is, does a team member with a "specialty" title offer any more actual expertise for the consumer?   Has the broker, the entity with the real responsibility for any team formed by a group of licensees in that brokerage, required that the team members with any speciality where a consumer would be referred actually have expertise in that specialty? 

DOES THE BROKER KNOW WHAT THE TEAM IS DOING?  Seems to me that the broker must take responsibility to make sure that the consumer is well served and that includes shared responsibility for customer or client service by a team.

                   Real Estate Buyers

"Honey, did you find an agent to help us today?"

"Yes Dear, I called the listing agent for the house we saw on the Internet and they are going to have the Buyers Agent on their team contact us." 

Courtesy, Lenn Harley, Broker, Homefinders.com, 800-711-7988. 


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Comments (124)

Julie Martin
Port City Realty - Mobile, AL
Realtor, Broker - Gulf Coast Real Estate

Lenn, Comments were at 55 when I last commented. This has really been a great thread you have going here. It always amazes me how passionate some people get if you don't see eye to eye with them, but it has been real interesting to read!

Concerning broker experience (#86 & 94 among others): I agree that there are some brokers without a lot of experience. There are even some that do not practice real estate much. But, as a general rule of thumb I think that practicing brokers, especially those that have a CRB designation, have been committed enough to put in additional time and education and are more likely to do a better job than the average agent.

Nov 01, 2009 07:13 AM
Joyce Thomas
The Thomas Group Brokered by eXp Realty - San Tan Valley, AZ
Your Home Sold Guaranteed!
As always great post!
Nov 01, 2009 08:52 AM
Emily Lowe
The Lipman Group | Sotheby's International Realty - Nashville, TN
Nashville TN Realtor

Hi Lenn - I have read [most] of the comments posted here.  Here is what I think:  I like the team concept.  It gives older and wiser agents a chance to earn more money.  It gives younger agents a chance to learn valuable experience under a "mentor". 

As far as looking at this from the client's standpoint, I would most likely want to find out more from the team leader.  I would make sure that they are overseeing the process in a very hands-on sort of way.  I would want to be certain that if any problems were to arise, I could be in contact and have the direct guidance of the team leader. 

I like the whole mentor-mentee process and think it provides a good service all the way around.

Nov 01, 2009 09:47 AM
Emily Lowe
The Lipman Group | Sotheby's International Realty - Nashville, TN
Nashville TN Realtor

Oh and please feel free to reblog me anytime!  : )

Nov 01, 2009 10:16 AM
David O'Doherty
Raleigh Realty Inc - Clayton, NC
Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC

I"m not sure about the agent who has new construction subdivisions who picks up buyers driving through the neighborhood and assignes them to a buyers agent on their team!!

Is that buyers agent really working for the buyer, will they recommend a home inspection that may cost the builder a bunch of grief and dollars?

Will they go head to head with the listing agent (who feeds them the leads) to get the best possible price for that buyer?

I think not.

Other than that I have no problem with teams....full disclosure.


Nov 01, 2009 01:28 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I have a loose confederation of agents/brokers, nothing that could be named a team.

However, I have been thinking about gathering a "team," and this gives me a lot to think about.

Nov 01, 2009 04:27 PM
Paul Francis
Francis Group Real Estate - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Real Estate Agent - Summerlin Homes

"TAKING a cue from successful medical practices"

That's interesting... Does that suggest it's the same concept of going to see a Dr., hanging out at the practice for two hours, seeing a Dr. for an actual 15 minutes and getting hit with a $3,000 bill? LOL!

I think "Taking a cue from big law firms" would have been a better analogy.

Whatever works best for the actual client. Real estate teams in Las Vegas are old news and have been around as far as I can remember...

Some are great... some are nothing but new agents headed by a savvy one. The only issue I have with teams is when the "I" is used in advertising insane sales numbers that no individual agent could possibly do.

I've had to explain the concept to more then one client when they see the "I sold 300+ homes last year" (and did not see a fraction of them)or a Gazilion in real estate...

Unfortunately... the NYT article fails to mention anything about this...



Nov 01, 2009 05:36 PM
Laurie Mindnich
Centennial, CO

Lenn, after further thinking (as mentioned, adding a buyers agent) if this person is advertised as a "buyers agent", the disclosure really has to go beyond a "here's the agency disclosure- sign" as is common in this area. Nope- no team advertising- just a buyers agent who will very carefully explain to buyers the reality of buying an in house listing absent their own representation. If a "sub group" of a large brokerage advertises a "buyers agent", they'd better be limited to exactly that, and be disallowed from showing listings held in house altogether, at the risk of false advertising. If I have a dislike of the team approach, it's that: the "buyers agent" of the group had better be very, very careful about explaining beyond the normal disclosure, because it creates a very real likelihood that a buyer will assume that they're represented, when they are most definitely NOT on an in house deal (ANY listing- not just "team" listings). I have yet to see a website generated by large volume listing companies provide that disclosure to a public that's viewing properties- to the contrary, it's, "Call one of our agents" with no forewarning- bad plan for NY buyers. I may have swerved off course, but thank you for provoking the thought! While we don't have the # listings by a long shot that these "teams" often do, it only takes one listing to provoke a lawsuit- backed by advertising for a "buyers agent" isn't good, absent up front disclosure. Maybe I'm overly paranoid.

Nov 01, 2009 10:51 PM
June Lewis
Northwood Realty Services - New Castle, PA
Realtor Northwood Realty - New Castle,Pa Lawrence Co 7247304571

Hi Lenn what a wonderful educational post.  I have read through almost 3/4 of the comments and certainly will finish reading them. This is an interesting read for me.  I am from a small market area and an even smaller team area ...( three  teams ), although they are slowly catching on. It seems around here " team "  is used for marketing...two for the price of one.".

In some situations...both agents are part time agents  with other full time jobs and most often neither one can be reached..for feedback or appointments....just.another marketing tool used to obtain listings.  Just MHO




  Your blog is so factual and important for consumers and agents to read....Thank you


Nov 01, 2009 11:38 PM
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Wow...got here late... 

I loved the comment thread...and even though it went off topic.... about writing about the same topic...it was still worthwhile reading about different opinions.

Regardless if there's a team ..there has to be experience involved. I know of a team here....who gets all the newbies on their team and it certainly is for one purpose only. Yuk. 

On the other hand I know of teams, duos and such that bring a lot to our industry here.

Each individual is just that...an individual...titles do not make a good agent....

Nov 02, 2009 02:57 AM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Barbara.  Thanks.  The comments are great.

Chris.  Indeed.  Most teams of which I'm aware have a team leader.  One team that I refer listing in Loudoun County to is a three agents team with one as the team leader because she's a broker.  Works for them. 

Jim.  P.  There are very clear rules in MD and VA about these matter too but rarely considered by the team members.

Erica.  Just more information and great conversation.  Food for thought throughout these posts.

Tarris.  My observation is that the teams fall apart because some don't bring in enough to pay their way.  Or, they don't carry their weight with showings, inspections, etc.

Julie.  Unless someone has their own blog and covers every facet of a subject, there are always going to be other ideas. 

Joyce & Terry.  Thanks. 

Emily.  The mentor system can be very helpful for new agents.  However, I believe that I prefer that a broker train their agents.  That's where the responsibility lies and the risk.

Emily.  Will do.  I like the reblog and I always write a lengthly introduction - agreeing or not.

David O.  Full disclosure is the key to all agency matters. 

Christine.  Glad to inspire you.  I have a "network" of agents and brokers to whom I refer business. 

Paul F.  I have explained that to consumers many times.  One broker and 20 agents and all the listings are in the broker's name.  Mmmmmmm.

Laurie.  Anytime a buyer contacts a listing agent, the risk goes up exponentially. 

June.  I know some "teams" that are two and some that are 10 or more.  In my experience, it's either a few agents pooling their resources of money and time, OR, a broker with a number of agents that work on his team.

Sally  That can never be forgotten.  Each licensee is responsible for his or her own practices.


Nov 02, 2009 08:55 AM
Stephen Kappre
KW Hometown - Mantua, NJ
Helping You Home

I like this comment, "Has that "Buyers Agent" managed a significant number of contracts representing buyers to have any claim to experience?"

In my experience, buyer's agents are in-experienced, and work as a buyer's agent because they don't get enough business and need to "feed off of" someone that has "Extra" business, someone that likes to focus on listings. Otherwise I think a two or three person would likely be FAR more effective than a listing agent with 5-7 "Feeders"

Nov 02, 2009 12:43 PM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Erica.  That's generally the model.

Steve.  You make a very good point.  However, there are many agents/brokers who specialize in marketing brokerage services and have a "team" or "network" of agents/brokers to work directly with the consumer.  That's my model (this year). 

However, the general model in the past 10 years has been list, list, list and then if a buyer (not co-op represented) enters the picture through sign call, IDX, etc., "hand them off" to a Buyer's Agent.

Those of us who specialize in buyer representation know the difference. 

Nov 02, 2009 08:17 PM
Larry Estabrooks
Independent Real Estate Agent - Moncton, NB
100% representation means NEVER DUAL AGENCY !

Lenn, you asked if I am sure. I'm never really totally sure of anything. However as I look at the Maryland legislation it contains the words "affiliate" and "affiliated" for salesperson licensing. The legislation definitely states that the client relationship is with the brokerage. That is the basis of the principal - agent relationship in law.

"Affiliate" means, unless the context requires otherwise, to establish between an individual and a real estate broker an employment or other contractual relationship under which the individual is authorized to provide real estate brokerage services on behalf of the real estate broker.

If the applicant is applying for a real estate salesperson or associate real estate broker license, the applicant shall submit to the Commission adequate evidence that the applicant has obtained, from a licensed real estate broker, a commitment providing that the applicant shall become affiliated with the licensed real estate broker as a real estate salesperson or an associate real estate broker on the granting of a real estate salesperson license or an associate real estate broker license to the applicant.

While an associate real estate broker or real estate salesperson license is in effect, it authorizes the licensee to provide real estate brokerage services on behalf of a licensed real estate broker: (i)   who is named in the license certificate of the associate real estate broker or real estate salesperson; and (ii)   with whom the associate real estate broker or real estate salesperson is affiliated. (2)   An associate real estate broker or real estate salesperson license does not authorize the licensee to provide real estate brokerage services on the licensee's own behalf or on behalf of any person other than a licensed real estate broker named in the license certificate of the associate real estate broker or real estate salesperson.

 (a)    (1)   Subject to the provisions of this section, a licensed real estate broker may utilize as an independent contractor, employ, or otherwise contract with a licensed real estate salesperson or a licensed associate real estate broker to provide real estate brokerage services on behalf of the licensed real estate broker. (2)   A real estate broker may not provide real estate brokerage services through any other individual unless the individual is licensed as an associate real estate broker or real estate salesperson to provide real estate brokerage services on behalf of the real estate broker. (b)   Any individual, including a licensed associate real estate broker, who provides real estate brokerage services on behalf of a real estate broker shall be considered a real estate salesperson with respect to the provision of those services. (c)    (1)   A real estate broker shall exercise reasonable and adequate supervision over the provision of real estate brokerage services by any other individual, including an independent contractor, on behalf of the broker. (2)   The requirement of paragraph (1) of this subsection applies regardless of the manner in which the individual who provides the services is affiliated with the real estate broker on whose behalf the services are provided.

Nov 03, 2009 01:36 AM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Larry.  I didn't mean that the "Real Estate Salesperson" which is what the license says in Maryland is the "agent" of the broker in a literal sense.  All Salespersons must affiliate with a broker. 

In our area, the word "affiliate" is used to identify title companies, lenders, etc. that are affiliated with brokers making the RESPA notice required. 

When a Salesperson is hired by a consumer, the Salesperson or Associate Broker becomes the agent of the broker to perform real estate brokerage services for the consumer. 

Of course, you're correct, in the litteral sense, the Salesperson is the affiliate of the broker. 

HA.  Call us what you will, the consumer will always call us "my agent", whether we are or not.


Nov 03, 2009 07:30 AM
Bill Ladewig
LoanOfficerSchool.com - Escondido, CA
Experience Is Your Advantage

Lenn, many years ago when California licensing was less stringent and only one class was required for licensing there were several training companies and a couple of real estate companies that promised their three day real estate class would allow a passed test.  One of the real estate companies was advertising their expertise at the same time they were running ads for their three day classes.  We joked about 24 hour real estate experts.

But real estate was MUCH less complicated back then. 

Today, if I was a real estate agent I would build a group of really qualified specialists including an excellent attorney, title person and of course a super qualified lender, a mini me :o).  They would be the best of the best without regard to company affiliation.

Nov 09, 2009 01:11 PM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Bill L.  While this post is specific to real estate agent teams in a brokerage, your comment is important. 

I do have such a team for my brokerage.  I retain two attorneys, one for general business matters and copyright enforcement and another for MD contract and license law matters.  I also have a title attorney I can call on when needed.  My home inspector is a jewel and answers specfic questions for me even when not on a home inspection.  I have a selection of lender specialists depending on the type of loan our buyers need, FHA, Conventional, VA, USDA, 203(k), etc. 

It is important for real estate practioners to know the limits of their practice. 

Mmmmm.  I'm inspired by your comment.  I might write something about that one of these days.

Nov 09, 2009 08:33 PM
Bill Ladewig
LoanOfficerSchool.com - Escondido, CA
Experience Is Your Advantage

Lenn, People who take the time to shed their ego and idenitify experts then rely on their advice are the stars of our industry.   Thanks, any time I am able to inspire, even a little, it is a good day.  I will look forward to your article.

Nov 09, 2009 11:45 PM
Ed Williamson
REMAX Properties East (RPE) #1 in LOUISVILLE, KY. - Louisville, KY
Homes in Louisville, KY. RE/MAX Realtor & Broker,

Seems the new trend nationwide with some Real Estate agents & companies is to form a team. Nothing wrong with that....all heavy hitting agents need support. But I've noticed two common patterns....either the lead agent does virtually no business & still calls themselves the "JANE DOE Team" (I guess the office janitor & John Conti coffee guy counts as team members). --OR-- The "team" picture looks like a yearbook class photo with rows & rows cheesy smiles in matching colors. Everyone is included (office receptionist, accounting dept, in-house loan officer). In their ads, as they cheer the lead agent's 150th closing at years end....there are 10 smiling agent faces in the "team" pic. 150 divided by 10 agents= 15 sides per agent....not really a number worth celebrating. I guess the marketing sounds good.....but I just think of the lack of personal service, extra liability, overhead & the bottom line. However from amarketing standpoint........If I could somehow get all the National Association of Realtors members to wear blue for a massive "team" photo......Can I then claim that, "I SOLD A GAZILLION HOMES LAST YEAR"?

Jun 06, 2011 07:20 AM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Bill.  I lost track of this one long ago.

Ed.  I know team leaders who sell 300 homes a year.  All their team members do business in the team leader's name.  He/She gets the awards, the team members do the work.


Jun 06, 2011 11:48 AM

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