What does a franchise bring to the table?

As the real estate industry evolves, and the need for “big” real estate companies is lessened, what benefits does a franchise bring to the table? Here’s a question for the consumers – does a franchise matter to you?

Perceived credibility – I have had clients say that they picked my Century 21 because they sold a house once with Century 21. As nice as that is, it’s irrelevant. Just like McDonald’s, most (all?) franchises are independently owned and operated. Unlike McDonald’s there doesn’t seem to be much corporate quality control over the product that the consumer sees.

Training – Perhaps. Only one franchise that I am aware of (KW) provides innovative training as part of their culture. You can learn an awful lot by reading some some of the best blogs in the RE.net, or by searching a thousand-plus real estate blogs. Stumbling on a conversation in the office about whether it seems more buyers are electing to have radon tests, or if there are any people having home inspectors, or did a home inspector/attorney/Realtor do something recently that was good/bad is much harder and often times, much more valuable.

Technology – This is a dubious argument, as it seems very few franchises really innovate. (is OpenHouse.com innovation or simply attempting to fill a void that has been crying out for someone, anyone, to fill it?) Franchises should have the money and the incentive, but rarely seem to proactively create new and useful tools. Any agent can upload their listings to Trulia, but from an individual agent’s point of view, a franchise can be detrimental. Any agent can get their listings throughout the web using one of the two predominant tools out there. This may be detrimental to the franchise. This is an interesting post at the Big Picture that touches on the relative inability of large companies to innovate successfully.

Support structure – perhaps. Any individual agent with the right motivation (and funding) can set up the necessary infrastructure to provide extraordinary customer/client service.

Reputation – as an individual agent working in a small franchise in a relatively small market, I have far more control over my reputation than if I worked in a larger company/franchise. All real estate is local. Bad news travels more rapidly and farther than good. The chances of one “bad apple” sullying others’ reputation within a larger company or franchise. Adequate oversight within a larger organization is probably much more challenging within a larger environment. Within a smaller company, there is more accountability to your fellow agents as generally, you know everybody else.

Autonomy – smaller companies aren’t tied to an unwieldy corporate culture. They are better able to adapt to market changes than the huge companies.

ReferralsGreat. Great for the referring company, but not so great for the Realtor who actually does the work. No thanks.

In short, a “boutique” company may be the best option for experienced agents who want to, and are able to, provide remarkable service consistently to their client base. I would be interested to see exactly what franchises bring to the table that are beneficial to the Realtors and consumers.

So – Does a franchise or “big” company matter?

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