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A few years ago, I used to work in an office environment from Monday to Friday. However, as there are technology in streamlining the work, I can complete my job virtually anywhere that has internet. According to a study done by Flexjob.com, nearly 3.9 million people in the US are working from home at least 50% of the time. This trend has risen by 115% between 2005 and 2015. Working remotely is not just a perk, but an ongoing trend. In fact, I’m writing this post right at my home office now.
I wonder how does remote working apply to the real estate industry. Therefore, I gathered some feedback from sales agents on this topic and thought would be good to share with you.
So can real estate agents work from home? Yes, real estate agents can work from their home office. According to the NAR 2018 member profile, 76% of sales agents are not paying any office lease.
In this article, I’ll go over the pros and cons to work on your real estate business at home, and the setup you’ll need for a home office.
Pros of Real Estate Agents Working at Home
Less Traveling Time
Unless your brokerage is located very close to your home, traveling back and forth could be hackle. Many sales associates expressed that they are already spending lots of time on the road in servicing their clients. They do not prefer traveling to the office unless it is necessary.
Flexible Work Hours
Your real estate office probably does not operate like a fast-food drive-through restaurant. It wouldn’t be open 24/7. There would be standard office hours for the administrative staffs and public holidays.
However, there could be times you want to get things done even when the brokerage is closed so you could move on to other plans for the next day. If all your filing and laptop are at your home office, then you could continue working on it according to your schedule.
Savings on Business Expenses
When you work from home, you don’t need to pay rent for an office space. This could significantly reduce your overhead costs. According to the NAR 2018 member profile, the monthly cost of office lease could range from less than $500 to over $15000 per month. However, only 76% of sales agents are not paying for it. So it’s reasonable to assume the majority of them are working at a home office setting.
Percentage of Sales Agents Who is Paying Office Lease
|Office Lease/Building Expenses||Sales Agents|
|Less than $500||9%|
|$500 to $999||4%|
|$1000 to $1499||4%|
|$1500 to $2499||2%|
|$2500 to $4999||3%|
|$5000 to $9999||1%|
|$10,000 to $14,999||1%|
|$15,000 or more||1%|
Source: NAR 2018 Member Profile
Furthermore, working from home could save money on gasoline, and you don’t have to eat out as often.
Cons of Real Estate Agents Working at Home
Less Interaction with Colleagues
Many realtors enjoy working in a real estate office because they get the chance of connecting with their colleagues. Throughout the daily interaction, you could learn a lot about the real estate business – for example, the new development in the market, ways to handle demanding clients, compliance rules that you must pay close attention. All these knowledge might not be available in a textbook or a course, but only through experience from others.
Therefore, if you are new to the real estate industry, you should consider working in an office setting.
Miss Out Access to Walk-in Clients
Whenever there are walk-in clients to a real estate office, it is normal that those leads would be passed on to in-house agents. After all, you are not physically present at their office. Your broker wouldn’t ask the clients to come back until your next appearance.
If your real estate office has a high volume of walk-in clients, then you could be missing out lots of business opportunities.
Distraction from Family
Not everyone is familiar with the concept of working from home. Sometimes, your family might misunderstand that you are available because you are present in the house. Even though you told them that it is now your office hours, there could be times they forget and start talking to you about family issues.
Not to mention if you have kids, then it would be a completely different challenge. They could be screaming while you’re talking to a client on the phone, asking you to play with them when you are working on documents.
Check out this BBC News interview. Then you’ll know what I mean.
Less Professional Environment
Unlike a corporate office, where there would be security guards and other staffs on site, you could be at the home office alone with your clients. In the real estate industry, you could be dealing with new clients on a regular basis. Constantly having strangers at your home could be a severe safety concern for you and your family. The safety concern goes both ways too. Some new clients could hesitate in going to a home office since they have no idea who you are.
Also, most offices are being taken care of by a property management company. They would frequently vacuum the floor, clean windows, wash the bathroom, and shovel snows in the parking lots. Although you could try maintaining a presentable office to your clients, it is challenging to do. After all, your job is to close real estate deals, and not as a janitor.
Last but not least, some clients just do not used to hiring professionals who work in a home office environment. They would go to a clinic when visiting a doctor, a law firm when consulting a lawyer; therefore, they expect to meet at a real estate brokerage for your services. Although I’m not saying I agree to the following concept, many clients still judge a book by its cover.
Essential Setup for Work-at-Home Sales Agents
After you weight the pros and cons, if you really decided to work the real estate business from home, then below are some essential setup you’ll need.
Divide a Physical Space as a Home office
To avoid distraction from family, you’ll definitely need a separate room or an entire floor designated as your working area. The home office must have a door that separates it from the rest of the house. To ensure the confidentiality of your clients’ documents, you should always shut the door and store all the filings in a locked cabinet. Your family should not have any access to your home office. If the wall of your home office is too thin, you might need to do something to soundproof it.
Some self-employed people would even build a standalone office shed in their backyard.
Business Tools for Remote Working
Even without saying it, you’ll know that laptop and printer are essentials tools in a home office. However, there are other apps which could also be helpful to your businesses.
- GeniusScan: To scan documents into high-resolution PDF files. It also has the password protected feature.
- GeniusFax: No need to buy an old and bulky fax machine. You could fax the documents with your smartphone.
- DocuSign: Allows you and your clients to sign documents on any touchscreen devices.
- VOIP Phone: You shouldn’t use your home line or your personal cell phone to conduct business. VOIP could be a cost-effective way of having a separate business phone number.
- Skype: Great for video conferencing. It also has the screen sharing feature, so your clients could easily follow what you say.
- WIFI with High Speed: Since you would be sharing the WIFI usage with your family, there could be times where you are on a video conference call, but your kid could be playing online games, while your wife is watching Netflix. Having a high-speed internet to ensure there would not be any lag is very important.
Review the Rules and Regulations for Home Offices
Compliance rules: There could be specific guidelines about agents working at home – for instance, if you are going to advertise with your home address, you’ll probably need approval from the State Commission and your real estate broker first. Also, there could be a requirement to put up the corporate sign in your home office.
Some agents might not officially register their home address for their real estate business, because they are just handling the paperwork there. However, there could still be practice guidelines you must follow. You should always confirm with your real estate broker.
Insurance Policies: You should review your insurance policies to see if they have any coverage for your business activities – for example, if a client trip and fail in your house, will your policy cover the damages? Any coverage against robber breaks in and stealing your laptop? Does your E&O have any protection against leakage of clients’ details from your home office?
Meeting Places with Clients
You need to determine whether you’ll be meetings with clients at your home office. If so, you should consider having a separate door entrance for your clients. This way, they would invade your privacy in entering the rest of your house.
Furthermore, as mentioned before, safety indeed is a huge concern. You should set up a surveillance camera on your door. So that it would record who is entering your home office. You should also look for apps where you could alert someone for help with just a push of a button.
However, I strongly do not suggest meeting clients at a home office. There are several alternative places you could consider:
Real estate office: Yes, I understand that you do not want to pay for the monthly office lease. However, some brokerages allow their agents to use their conference room for free in meeting clients. You just need to book with them in advance.
Pay-as-you-use office: Many business people are in a similar situation as you are. They also want to meet their clients in a professional setting. But they could be using it only once in a while, so it’s such a waste of money to lease office space. The pay-as-you-use office is to address this need. The concept is similar to Uber. You just pay a fee every time you use their office, without committing to a hefty monthly lease.
There is a group called Fueled Collective. They have shared workspace at numerous locations as Downtown & Uptown Minneapolis, West Loop Chicago, and others. Some agents also find it a great place to connect with other professionals.
What about meeting clients at a coffee shop? I believe a coffee shop is only suitable for networking. If you were going to discuss specific business matters with a client, then it is not the right choice.
First, you and your clients could be going through confidential details during the meeting. (i.e., Budget, occupation, address, social security number). All these sensitive info could be overheard by someone who sits in the table next to you.
Secondly, you can’t confirm there would be spots available. Unlike the other options above, you could pre-book for a meeting space. It is no fun and unproductive having to wait in lines for half an hour just to be seated.
As you could see in the discussion above, many sales agents do not work in an office environment. Some do not find to justifiable in paying office lease when most of their business activities are happening at the subject properties.
However, if you do not visit the office regularly, make sure to keep your knowledge up to date by attending the training sessions in the brokerage. You should also join the local real estate groups so that you could stay connected with other colleagues in this industry. Here’s a list of real estate associations for your reference.
On the other hand, some sales associates find it difficult to focus on work when staying at home. They could easily get distracted either from their family, or take a nap, or other entertainments available at their house. If this sounds like you, then you should consider working at a corporate office environment.
Regardless of where you work, keep in mind your level of professionalism should remain the same. After all, your clients hire you because of your expertise and services in helping them with the real estate transaction, and not about where your office is located.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change anytime without notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. For full and exact details, please contact your real estate broker or regulatory agency in your state or the actual service providers.