Gina Rautenberg is a freelance writer who specializes in the real estate industry. Previous clients and publication sources include Inman News, realtor.com®, Edina Realty, and Engel & Völkers. To get in touch, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building a Powerhouse Female-Run Brokerage
By making collaboration, transparency, and agent retention top priorities, one South Central Texas real estate company changed its market for the better.
October 31, 2019
In 1987, Lindi Braddock was a veteran agent who’d just moved to Brenham, Texas. She was surprised when, despite years of experience, no one would hire her. But that didn’t bother her as much as the closed-off cultures in the offices where she interviewed.
In short, the brokers weren’t big on sharing, says Braddock. They didn’t want newcomers who might take part of their market share and they also didn’t believe in sharing information between companies. In a pre-digital world, that meant brokers were acting as listing gatekeepers—and the agents who served the area were working with limited information.
Collaboration was nonexistent and—in Braddock’s mind—so was the kind of real estate company where she would thrive. She pivoted from her original plan, and together with her mother, Yvonne Hastings, who had retired after a career in real estate, founded a new brokerage. Today, Coldwell Banker Properties Unlimited is still female-run and female-focused. It’s been the highest-selling sales office in South Central Texas's Washington County for the last 31 years, according to the Houston MLS.
In 2015, Braddock stepped down from running the company so that she could focus exclusively on sales. She and her daughter, Camaron Pruiett, are the firm’s top sales team. At that time, Braddock’s sister, Kelli Brennan, took over operations, prioritizing collaboration and the advancement of female leaders in real estate.
Causing a Stir, Then Forging Partnerships
When the brokerage first launched in 1987, Braddock says they “caused an uproar in the market.” But it wasn’t just that they were shaking up what she calls the “‘good ol’ boys club’ mentality of real estate” as the only female-run real estate company in the area. They also immediately pushed for collaboration between agents and brokers across the South Central Texas region, which spans the five counties between Austin and Houston.
Braddock pressed hard on the idea that by partnering and sharing information, agents would be working together to best represent their clients. “They’d never had anybody share or work together with them. I invited them to help sell our listings and pay them a share of the commission, which they’d never had done before,” says Braddock.
She also helped establish a local association—today, the South Central Texas Association of REALTORS®—and was part of a team that pushed to establish an MLS marketing site where agents could share their listings.
Fostering Flexibility and Support For Agents
Brennan says that Coldwell Banker Properties Unlimited is proud to create a culture that works for their agents, many of whom are working mothers. After recognizing the complexity of her agents’ schedules, Brennan has advocated for flexible hours and robust administrative support that allow them to succeed even if they can’t be “on” 24 hours a day.
The company has hired a designated agent assistant who performs administrative duties such as posting new listings online, editing and uploading listing photos, and coordinating yard signs and other logistics.
“Even though we’re a small company, that kind of support allows [the agents] to have more time for what’s important in their schedules—especially when it comes to spending time on sales instead of a lot of paperwork and computer input,” says Brennan,
Importantly, the firm also prides itself on how the agents step up to ensure that even in times of emergency or unexpected hiccups, client needs don’t fall through the cracks. “Since we’re all women, we understand when you’re having a bad day, or your child is sick, or you have a lot of different responsibilities,” says Brennan. She says the firm’s agents also take on work for one another so that they can enjoy family vacations and long weekends. “It’s a lot of give-and-take and it’s about understanding what a busy, working mother goes through.”
Cracking the Code: Information Leads to Confidence
Over their three-plus decades in business, Coldwell Banker Properties Unlimited has come to find that agent success has a lot to do with confidence. Brennan keeps the agents updated on the marketplace, in addition to running trainings that seek to empower agents and help them land more business.
And for the last few years, when inventory has been scarce, they have sent out a company-wide email alert any time an agent posts a new listing. While many real estate companies have all but given up on being the real-time source of new listings for their clients, Brennan believes that this email push allows her company’s agents to be a source of key information to their clients.
Further, Brennan believes that confidence and success doesn’t have to lead to competition. “I always tell new agents we’re like a training hospital. If an agent has a question, every agent in this company is there to help. We’re not fostering competition as much as support, because when everyone is supporting each other, they’re going to make more money in the long run.”
Agents as Recruiters
The strong, collaborative culture means that Brennan does very little recruiting. In most cases, existing agents recommend potential recruits if they think they’ll fit professionally and culturally. The firm sweetens the pot by offering referring agents $100 for every transaction the new agent closes in their first two years.
Knowing When to Lead and When to Step Aside
The company, long defined as a place for unabashed female entrepreneurship, has made pivotal leadership changes in the last few years. In 2015, after nearly 30 years leading the company and running her own sales operations, Braddock handed over the reins to Brennan. While Braddock says it was “difficult to step aside and to make the investment in someone else to run the company,” she agrees with Brennan that it was “the best decision ever for the company and for the agents.”
Under the new hierarchy, Brennan, Braddock, and Pruiett agree that the camaraderie and culture have completely changed. Agents have an advocate in Brennan, who doesn’t sell and who supports them with ongoing training, confidence-building exercises, and systems optimization. Plus, says Braddock, agents are able to benefit from her reputation as a long-time leading agent in the region, rather than feeling that they are competing directly against her.
After 32 years in business (and 31 atop its market), Coldwell Banker Properties United remains a powerhouse brokerage, dedicated to partnership, support, and the development of female leaders in real estate.