Flexibility: The Advantage of the One-Person Office

One-person real estate offices are on the upswing. We asked a longtime one-person-office veteran, Sheila Prager, of Sheila Prager, REALTOR®, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to explain how she operates, as well as the pros and cons of "going it alone."

May 1, 1996

I've been running a one-person office a long time, 17 years. I prefer it. I began my real estate career as a salesperson with a brokerage that had about 15 salespeople. Once I had developed a good client base, I obtained my broker's license and went off on my own. That allowed me to retain more commission, as opposed to splitting it with a broker.

When I was setting up the business, my attorney told me not to incorporate. "Just get a good E&O policy, and you'll have less paperwork," he said. Thus, I'm a sole proprietorship. Most sales are residential properties in northeast Fort Lauderdale, but I handle a little bit of everything, including commercial property.

My office space consists of a couple hundred square feet in a small commercial office building. That space provides a professional atmosphere to confer in and to put together proposals with clients. The landlord also provides a large conference room for use by the tenants.

My office has all the modern amenities, such as a computer, a fax machine, and voice mail service. I make it a point to spend time in the office each day, Monday through Friday. When out, I call in religiously to pick up messages. Having an aversion to being on a leash, I've so far been able to avoid the cellular phone and pager craze.

When leaving the office in the evening, I forward calls to my home telephone. I have a service that enables me to identify business calls coming in. My home computer is linked to the MLS, which allows me to do work in the evening without going back to the office. It is an optimum office setup enabling me to provide 24-hour-a-day service to my clientele despite being a one-person shop.

The disadvantage of a one-person shop is that you're always "on"; you're always working. If you have to go somewhere, there's no one else to cover the phone for you or handle a situation, which can be particularly difficult when you're trying to go on vacation.

You alone are responsible for all business outcomes. In addition, when operating alone, and on a referral basis, you lose the advantage of networking. However, the great advantage of a one-person office is versatility. It allows me to pursue other personal and professional interests, such as providing mediation services. With a degree in education and a love for teaching, I occasionally lecture at theREALTORS® Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Being part of someone else's company would most likely limit my ability to diversify my daily activities.

Over the years, the 100 percent commission companies have tried to recruit me, but I always say no. I prefer the flexibility that comes with running my own business. I find that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

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