Embarking on a career in real estate often starts with a critical decision: selecting the right brokerage to work for. The diversity among real estate brokerages can be staggering, ranging from traditional firms to innovative virtual models. Understanding the types of brokerages and how to choose the one that aligns with your goals is paramount to your success in the field.

Types of real estate brokerages

Traditional brokerages — These are the familiar names you see around town, with physical offices and a structured hierarchy. They provide a supportive environment for new agents through mentorship, training programs, and established brand recognition.


  • Support and training: These brokerages are known for their structured training programs and mentorship, making them an excellent choice for new agents.
  • Brand recognition: Established names often carry a strong brand image, which can lend credibility and attract clients.
  • Office space: Physical offices provide a professional setting for meetings and networking with other agents.


  • Commission splits: While they offer support, traditional brokerages might have higher commission splits, impacting your earnings.
  • Hierarchy and rigidity: The structured hierarchy might limit flexibility and autonomy for some agents.

Boutique brokerages — These smaller, niche-focused firms offer a more personalized experience. They might specialize in luxury properties, specific neighborhoods, or unique property types. Agents here often benefit from a more intimate working environment and tailored support.


  • Personalized experience: Smaller and niche-focused, these firms offer a more intimate environment, fostering stronger relationships among agents.
  • Specialization: They often cater to specific markets or property types, allowing agents to develop expertise in particular niches.
  • Flexibility: Boutique brokerages may offer more flexibility in terms of processes and decision-making due to their size.


  • Resources: Smaller firms might have fewer resources for training and marketing compared to larger brokerages.
  • Brand recognition: They might lack the widespread recognition of larger firms, potentially impacting initial client trust.

Online-based brokerages — Companies like Redfin and Compass leverage technology to streamline processes and offer agents flexibility. They tend to emphasize online tools, data analytics, and digital marketing, allowing agents to conduct business with varying degrees of physical office presence.


  • Technology emphasis: Leveraging technology, these brokerages offer advanced online tools, data analytics, and digital marketing support.
  • Flexibility and efficiency: Agents can work remotely with access to streamlined processes, offering flexibility in their work location.
  • Innovation: Constant technological advancements create opportunities for agents to stay ahead in the market.


  • Potential lack of physical presence: Limited physical offices might impact networking opportunities and local market presence.
  • Dependency on technology: Reliance on technology could be challenging for agents who prefer more traditional methods.

Virtual Brokerages — Fully virtual brokerages operate without physical offices, providing a cloud-based platform for agents to collaborate, access resources, and receive support virtually. These brokerages often offer attractive commission structures and stock ownership incentives.


  • Remote collaboration: Fully virtual platforms enable agents to collaborate, access resources, and receive support from anywhere.
  • Cost efficiency: Without physical offices, these brokerages often offer attractive commission structures and stock ownership incentives.
  • Global Reach: The virtual nature allows agents to tap into markets beyond their immediate geographic location.


  • Social interaction: Lack of physical offices might impede networking opportunities with other agents.
  • Tech-savvy mindset: Agents need to be comfortable and proficient with technology to maximize benefits.

How to choose the right brokerage to work for

Choosing a real estate brokerage is a pivotal decision that can shape your career trajectory. Each type of brokerage offers its unique advantages, and finding the right fit involves understanding your priorities, preferred working style, and long-term career goals.

Consider these important criteria when choosing the right brokerage.

  1. Does the brokerage align with your goals? Consider your career aspirations. Are you looking for mentorship, training, and a structured environment, or do you prefer flexibility and innovative technology? Understanding your priorities will guide your choice.
  2. Culture and support: Evaluate the brokerage’s culture. Do they offer the kind of support you need to thrive? Look for mentorship programs, ongoing training, and a collaborative environment that aligns with your work style.
  3. Commission structure: Different brokerages have varied commission models. Some may offer higher splits but fewer resources, while others provide comprehensive support but with different commission percentages. Analyze what works best for your financial goals.
  4. Technology and tools: Consider the tools and technology the brokerage provides. Are they equipped with the latest software, CRM systems, marketing resources, and a user-friendly platform to support your business?
  5. Location and reputation: The brokerage’s reputation and presence in the local market matter. A strong brand and market recognition can significantly impact your success, especially for client referrals and trust-building.

What to ask a potential sponsoring broker

Agents operate as self-employed individuals with a commission-based compensation structure, which means that brokerages incur relatively low costs when sponsoring agents compared to traditional employment models. Brokerages, therefore, are often on the same playing field as the agents they recruit—sponsorship is more akin to a partnership than employment.

This may put you in the driver’s seat when choosing a brokerage. With the luxury of choice, the onus is on you to assess how well a brokerage aligns with your values and professional goals.

The landscape isn’t always crystal clear. Brokerages actively vie for top talent, presenting themselves as the prime choice. As a result, it becomes crucial to engage potential brokers in detailed discussions and pose pertinent questions before committing. It’s important to get a comprehensive understanding of any prospective brokerage.

Try some of these questions, and sub-questions, when meeting with potential sponsoring brokers:

Do you provide training?

  • How many days or hours of formal training?
  • Is there a cost to me?
  • If so, how much?
  • Who will be available to help me after the training?
  • Is that person easily and readily available to me?
  • What other "hats" does that person wear?

At what commission split will I begin?

  • Do you offer a graduated commission split that pays me a higher percentage as my production increases?
  • If so, let's say I reach 60%. Do I go back to my original split at the end of a designated period?
  • May I have a copy of the commission schedule?

What costs will I incur?

  • Initial: licensing, application, business cards, photos, name badge, dues, etc.
  • Ongoing: monthly or quarterly charges such as desk fees, franchise fees, phone bill, etc.
  • Per listing: sign, lock box, advertising, etc.
  • Per sale: error and omission insurance

For more questions to help your career get off to the right start, check out our article on Interviewing a Sponsoring Broker.

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