Is the Brokerage Office Manager Obsolete?

To stay competitive in today’s evolving industry, more real estate companies are reworking their organizational chart.

November 2, 2018

Office managers are quickly becoming an “endangered species” in the real estate industry, and brokerages are relying on them less to keep their businesses thriving, Wendy Forsythe, COO of HomeSmart Real Estate International, said Friday during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston. “If you are responsible for a multi-location brokerage that currently depends on office managers, you may want to pivot your business model,” Forsythe told attendees. “If you are currently an office manager, you may want to consider pivoting your experience.”

Wendy Forsythe

© REALTOR® Magazine

Wendy Forsythe

Forsythe said the real estate industry is at the crossroads of risk and opportunity, with traditional brokerage models being disrupted by mega mergers, the growth of real estate teams, virtual offices, technology, and venture capital funding. To compete, brokerages must adapt their offices to these changes, Forsythe said.

In the past, real estate professionals would often graduate from salesperson to office manager to broker—a path Forsythe said she herself took when starting out in the business. An office manager typically would be in charge of everything, including recruiting, agent training, and transaction management, among other responsibilities. Their roles have swelled over time, and, particularly for large brokerages, the office manager is stretched thin.

“Office managers are tasked with having to do everything, and we are setting them up for failure,” Forsythe said. “If I’m good at selling, one of the last things I want to do nowadays is become an office manager. You’re more likely to want to become a team leader.” Plus, retention of office managers is a challenge, and if one quits, you run the risk of them taking some of your best agents with them.

Instead, Forsythe said the office manager’s role should be broken into centralized departments, such as broker services, agent services, recruitment, training and education, and mentoring or coaching. “We’re seeing the role of office managers become much more specialized,” Forsythe said. Smaller brokerages may divide up tasks, and agents could agree to help one another in their specialized areas. It’s more of a team concept—and teams are growing in popularity. One in four REALTORS® is now part of a real estate team, according to a recent survey by the National Association of REALTORS®.

“We must consider how we set up our brokerages and realize it may not be how we did so in the past,” Forsythe said. “We can’t get stuck in the status quo in our business and depend on the one-size-fits-all approach. But the real estate industry is at the intersection of risk and opportunity. We need to make sure we stay competitive, and how your business is organized is one part of that.”