Profile: For Independent Brokers Only

March 1, 1997

Name: Independent Brokers Association, Seattle
Statistics: Twenty-three member companies in western Washington; represents about 500 salespeople; member brokers pay $115 dues each month.

How can small independents compete against franchises? A group of independent brokers in Seattle banded together to form the Independent Brokers Association, which provides member brokers with services that typically only large multiple-office independents and franchises have the resources to provide.

The IBA was launched about three years ago because a local broker got fed up with the positive press that large independents and franchises were able to generate. "There was an article in The Seattle Times that basically indicated that franchises were taking over and that independents were dying," says Bill Fredrickson, CRB, president, Harper Bond Inc., REALTORS®, Bellevue, Wash., which has about 50 salespeople.

In response, a letter was sent to prominent independents in the area inviting them to get together to discuss forming an association to provide services, such as a referral network and training and retirement planning for salespeople, that the brokers couldn't afford to provide individually.

"We had no idea how many people were going to show up," says Fredrickson. "But the place was packed. It was standing room only with independent brokers. And nobody in the room felt as though independents were on the way out."

What do members get out of the IBA? "What I find extremely valuable is the monthly and quarterly meetings," says Fredrickson. At those meetings, IBA members trade ideas and brainstorm for answers to common problems. For example, most major franchises offer training classes, but small independents typically don't have that ability. So the IBA created training classes for new salespeople and courses that offer continuing education credits for experienced salespeople.

In addition, the group pays the cost of a weekly radio program on which member brokers and salespeople discuss the market in their area. It also funded the research to create a retirement plan for salespeople. Salespeople pay an annual maintenance fee of $12 per year to participate in the plan.

"This association is a kind of evolutionary process," says Fredrickson. "You can't imagine how many ideas came to the table about the direction we should take. The consensus over time was that we want the association to be a vehicle for helping us maintain our independence.

freelance writer

G.M. Filisko is a Chicago area freelance and former editor for REALTOR® Magazine. 

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