Is Working from Home a Smart Choice?

Making the decision to forgo the brokerage office environment and work from home raises lots of important issues. Here's how to sort them through.

August 1, 2006

In a profession such as real estate, the question often arises: Is it better to work from home or work from a brokerage office? There are benefits and drawbacks of both, and making a decision requires you to ponder many questions. Among them:

  • Can you really do without the weekly meeting at the office, floor time, volunteer work, networking, and other things that go along with being part of an office? If you’re relatively new to the business, there are countless benefits to meeting as many practitioners as possible and networking with them. It’s smart to attend their open houses with them and to share the cost of marketing and business services. You can organize buyer caravans if the office has several listings in the same neighborhood.
  • What’s your relationship with your broker? If you’re not happy where you are, either your broker isn't doing enough for you or you aren't doing much for the brokerage … or both. Perhaps that's why you think you'll prosper more in a different environment. You might consider moving to a different brokerage if you feel that disconnected.
  • What support do you need? Many practitioners are tempted by "license hanger" brokerages that promise high splits in exchange for few services. However, a high split doesn’t do any good if you aren't making sales. It's far better to start with a broker who can provide the technologies, training, support services, and brand appeal. Your split will be less at first, but there's a reason for that — you'll have a much greater chance of capturing buyers and sellers using your broker's help and prestige.
  • Are your kids driving your decision to work from home? Real estate can be a flexible field, and a lot of people choose to get into the profession because of that. Working from home allows you certain opportunities, such as attending your child’s ball game or recital even if those events are during “regular business hours,” and volunteer at your child's school — it's a great way to prospect. You can get familiar with the federal Teacher Next Door program to help local teachers become home owners. But again, you must have strong discipline to work with your kids in the house. You have to limit interruptions so you can devote time to customers and clients. You must watch your time closely to ensure that what should be a full-time job with flexible hours to turn into a part-time job.
  • Have you considered all of your expenses? If your broker provides you with a place to work, you can't write off your home office on your income taxes. If you could prove to the IRS that you don't have an office anywhere else but home, that's a different story. The write-offs could be substantial, but so are the costs. Setting up shop on the dining room table isn't going to work. You need a dedicated office space that's yours and yours alone.
  • Do you have the tools to stay connected? At the very least, today's computer networking software, hand-held devices and e-mail-ready cell phones means it's easy to stay connected. If you’re intent on working at home, make sure you have the tools to be efficient: a wireless laptop you can slam shut and take to the car, a cell phone with Bluetooth technology, wireless e-mail, and a headset.
  • Will you stay committed to networking? Networking is an important part of the job; make sure you attend all MLS, brokerage, and industry events that you can. To keep your name in front of people, make sure you include a lot of networking phone calls to your colleagues in your daily prospecting routine.

As you begin to answer these questions, you may find that making a decision is more complicated that it first seemed. Working from home sounds like a time-saving, convenient option — and it could be.

But it requires a lot of discipline not to fritter away the time you're saving by not commuting. You may start out with enthusiasm, but quickly find yourself wandering around the house in your pajamas, unfocused or unmotivated, drinking coffee and doing the laundry.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.