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Kelley Skar: What makes a “full-service” brokerage?

Kelley Skar

Kelley Skar

Kelley Skar, the chief operating officer of Calgary-based Redline Real Estate Group, believes the term “full-service brokerage” is being used too loosely within the real estate industry, including within the pages of REM, and it’s something he finds puzzling.

“In the current model, you have the conveyance, an administrator at the front desk, and a broker – that’s it,” says Skar, adding that this typical model is anything but a full-service offering to agents, let alone a brokerage’s clients.

He believes the main reason agents flock to the larger brands in today’s market is name recognition and the illusion that bigger is better and can offer more. Agents are quick to buy into this illusion, he says, and the assumption that it will make them more successful.

He says that Realtors need to remember that success is determined not only by what they put into their business, but in the amount of support they get from their brokerage as well.

“And, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most brokerages – like 95 per cent of the brokerages out there – are not providing any real value to the agent other than the name that they have.”

He says in today’s ever-changing market, Realtors should be looking for greater support from their brokerage and their brand, just as it was a few decades ago, when full-service meant true support from the brokerage to both the agent and the customer.

He’s on a mission to restore what he believes a true full-service brokerage should be, just as it was years ago when Skar says the brokerage played a bigger role in fostering success.

He says to consider the real estate transaction: as it is, most people believe the success of the real estate transaction is based solely on whether the agent can deliver the value they promised. But not so, says Skar, explaining the success of the transaction (and what the consumer is ultimately going to say about it) doesn’t rely solely on the agent, but the role the brokerage plays as well.

As an example, Skar says Redline has developed a proprietary system called The Drop-and-Go Listing, which uses a backend checklist, of sorts, to automatically split duties up between the agent and the brokerage administrator. When the agent takes a listing, all they have to do to get the ball rolling is meet with the client, get the listing contract signed, pull open the web form, fill in the required information, and check off any add-ons like drone photography.

As soon as the form is submitted, the brokerage’s administrator takes over, ordering things like measurements and photography, and then touching base with the client to make sure the scheduled dates and times are still convenient.

“Literally, the brokerage administrator starts organizing everything and making sure the client is aware of what’s going on and communicated with on a regular basis,” says Skar.

But that is only one side of it, he says. The way the software works is as soon as the agent goes in and does something to service the property, the client automatically receives an email from the agent showing exactly what has been done.

“The whole idea is we’ve identified what the seller’s journey looks like and the biggest component we found that was missing from every real estate transaction was communication,” says Skar, adding that with this system, the client can see that both the brokerage and the agent are actively working on their listing – all while the brokerage also supports the agent to become more efficient.

He says agents do pay a nominal fee for use of the system, but only enough for Redline to recoup their costs. As he says, all of the photography is done professionally, there are marketing sheets created by Redline’s in-house marketing person, there’s a listing put on Facebook targeted to a custom audience, a website gets created for each property and the property gets syndicated out. And, at the end of the day, those hard costs have to be recovered.

“We can’t be dependent on fulfilling those hard costs based on whether a property sells or not,” says Skar. “It’s all of these marketing and communication layers that agents don’t typically do. And, we believe an agent’s time is better spent going out on appointments, generating business and getting listings – not editing and staging photos, as an example.”

Skar says this is only one example of a true service offering that benefits all parties: the brokerage, the agent and the client.

Another, he says, is marketing support – an area where he believes “a lot of agents fall down.”

“Many agents have a hard time staying in front of their clients and keeping in touch with people they sold a house to four, five or six years ago,” he says. “So, another thing we do is take the agent’s database and market it for them, all while making it look like the agent is doing it themselves.”

Skar says emails are sent out on a bi-weekly basis, there is a direct mail package sent out four times over the year and that Redline hosts four or five client events every year. It works out to over 30 client touches a year.

“And, I would be willing to bet that most agents don’t even do half of that,” he says.

Skar says there is a statistic that is thrown around that says approximately 88 per cent of sellers say they would use the same agent again who helped them buy their property, but that only 11 per cent actually do.

Why is that?

“Well, we know why,” says Skar. “It’s because agents suck at following up. They suck at staying in front of the client. They suck at communicating. Well, at Redline, we don’t.”

While they currently only operate in Alberta, Skar says they are looking to franchise out their model across the country and already have plans to expand into the Ontario region in the third quarter of this year.

Skar describes Redline’s model as a true full-service offering that is bringing back old values and making them new again.