By Tony Palermo

Kelley Skar
Kelley Skar

Kelley Skar, the chief operating officer of Calgary-based Redline Real Estate Group, believes the term “full-service brokerage” is being used too loosely within the real estate industry, including within the pages of REM, and it’s something he finds puzzling.

“In the current model, you have the conveyance, an administrator at the front desk, and a broker – that’s it,” says Skar, adding that this typical model is anything but a full-service offering to agents, let alone a brokerage’s clients.

He believes the main reason agents flock to the larger brands in today’s market is name recognition and the illusion that bigger is better and can offer more. Agents are quick to buy into this illusion, he says, and the assumption that it will make them more successful.

He says that Realtors need to remember that success is determined not only by what they put into their business, but in the amount of support they get from their brokerage as well.



“And, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most brokerages – like 95 per cent of the brokerages out there – are not providing any real value to the agent other than the name that they have.”

He says in today’s ever-changing market, Realtors should be looking for greater support from their brokerage and their brand, just as it was a few decades ago, when full-service meant true support from the brokerage to both the agent and the customer.

He’s on a mission to restore what he believes a true full-service brokerage should be, just as it was years ago when Skar says the brokerage played a bigger role in fostering success.

He says to consider the real estate transaction: as it is, most people believe the success of the real estate transaction is based solely on whether the agent can deliver the value they promised. But not so, says Skar, explaining the success of the transaction (and what the consumer is ultimately going to say about it) doesn’t rely solely on the agent, but the role the brokerage plays as well.

As an example, Skar says Redline has developed a proprietary system called The Drop-and-Go Listing, which uses a backend checklist, of sorts, to automatically split duties up between the agent and the brokerage administrator. When the agent takes a listing, all they have to do to get the ball rolling is meet with the client, get the listing contract signed, pull open the web form, fill in the required information, and check off any add-ons like drone photography.

As soon as the form is submitted, the brokerage’s administrator takes over, ordering things like measurements and photography, and then touching base with the client to make sure the scheduled dates and times are still convenient.

“Literally, the brokerage administrator starts organizing everything and making sure the client is aware of what’s going on and communicated with on a regular basis,” says Skar.

But that is only one side of it, he says. The way the software works is as soon as the agent goes in and does something to service the property, the client automatically receives an email from the agent showing exactly what has been done.

“The whole idea is we’ve identified what the seller’s journey looks like and the biggest component we found that was missing from every real estate transaction was communication,” says Skar, adding that with this system, the client can see that both the brokerage and the agent are actively working on their listing – all while the brokerage also supports the agent to become more efficient.

He says agents do pay a nominal fee for use of the system, but only enough for Redline to recoup their costs. As he says, all of the photography is done professionally, there are marketing sheets created by Redline’s in-house marketing person, there’s a listing put on Facebook targeted to a custom audience, a website gets created for each property and the property gets syndicated out. And, at the end of the day, those hard costs have to be recovered.

“We can’t be dependent on fulfilling those hard costs based on whether a property sells or not,” says Skar. “It’s all of these marketing and communication layers that agents don’t typically do. And, we believe an agent’s time is better spent going out on appointments, generating business and getting listings – not editing and staging photos, as an example.”

Skar says this is only one example of a true service offering that benefits all parties: the brokerage, the agent and the client.

Another, he says, is marketing support – an area where he believes “a lot of agents fall down.”

“Many agents have a hard time staying in front of their clients and keeping in touch with people they sold a house to four, five or six years ago,” he says. “So, another thing we do is take the agent’s database and market it for them, all while making it look like the agent is doing it themselves.”

Skar says emails are sent out on a bi-weekly basis, there is a direct mail package sent out four times over the year and that Redline hosts four or five client events every year. It works out to over 30 client touches a year.

“And, I would be willing to bet that most agents don’t even do half of that,” he says.

Skar says there is a statistic that is thrown around that says approximately 88 per cent of sellers say they would use the same agent again who helped them buy their property, but that only 11 per cent actually do.

Why is that?

“Well, we know why,” says Skar. “It’s because agents suck at following up. They suck at staying in front of the client. They suck at communicating. Well, at Redline, we don’t.”

While they currently only operate in Alberta, Skar says they are looking to franchise out their model across the country and already have plans to expand into the Ontario region in the third quarter of this year.

Skar describes Redline’s model as a true full-service offering that is bringing back old values and making them new again.

  • Teresa Smithson

    My question is what does it cost? to have the brokerage do this for me….

    • I think the better question is, Teresa, what would it cost you in time and money to do all of this yourself and where is your time best spent? Is it creating content? Is it sitting down and filling out cards? Is it taking your own photos and doing your own measurements? If the answer is yes, then that’s great and I won’t try to convince you of the simplicity of our systems. If you’d like to chat, I’d be more than willing to jump on call with you to let you know what our plans look like. ;)

  • Andrew Crook

    Great article, we agree with a lot of your premise and have built a similar system for our team as well.

    It’s all about specialization. The days of a jack of all trades realtor being uber successful are over. We need to leverage the power of team and the economy of scale from a brokerage to add further cost savings and efficiency.

    By using a partnership model, similar to what is described here, we are able to generate great returns and keep costs in check while providing the opportunity to build a true business.

    Great stuff :)

    • Awesome Andrew! Love to hear that you guys see the power in this, team without a team concept

  • Lana Waller

    This is similar to what we have been doing for some time as a Full Service Brokerage at Waller Real Estate Group in Calgary. We are a small team of real estate professionals with Tom Waller a veteran Agent and Broker with 30+ years real estate experience in Calgary. We are using Infusionsoft which is in my opinion the best CRM out there so we provide the right information to the right person at the right time whether you are a new prospect or a past client. These emails are all branded to the specific real estate agent the contact or client is assigned to. We not only send out email branded with the team member, but also send them (team member) tasks in the CRM to contact the person by phone as well. So we are using multiple forms of communication. We have been following up with past clients for 7+ years as well as personal contact with them quarterly. The benefit of being an independent brokerage is Tom is always available for anyone on the team as well as mentor them on how to negotiate, what to watch out for in order to protect their clients and answer any questions so they can be successful in the business and confident that they know what they are doing. We have heard from other real estate agents that this is typically not the case when it comes to the large franchise offices. We have been a successful independent brokerage for 20 years and have the CRM system, training and tools for our team, as well as a total marketing system and checklists for Listings and for Buyers. With being a boutique brokerage we can adapt on the fly and make changes quickly to adapt to any market condition. We provide our team with everything they need to have a successful real estate career.

    • Yup that’s what it is all about Lana. Sounds like WREG and Redline Real Estate have a lot in common ;)

  • Brian Martindale

    Why do brokerage owners (and most others in this business) constantly describe registrants as “agents”? This is a misrepresentation of the truth. It is an unethical statement. Every wannabe is schooled during real estate university days that the ‘brokerage’ is the agent, not the registrant. Why is this misnomer constantly being repeated by professionals? Oh wait…I know…it makes the registrant seem to be more important within the consumer’s mind, and what the hell, the consumer doesn’t know the difference anyway. What the consumers don’t know won’t hurt them, will it? This is a great example of fraudulent misrepresentation, perpetuated by in-house ‘professionals’ who cant’/won’t take the time to get it right.
    Skar states “We…take the agent’s data base and market it for them, all while making it look like the agent is doing it themselves.” A real communication professional would have said “We…take the “registrant’s/salesperson’s” data base and market it for “him/her”, all “the” while making it look like the “registrant/salesperson” “produced” it “himself/herself”. People pick up on these not-so-little incorrect linguistic ‘things’ as a reflection of the speaker’s apparent lack of education and/or just plain laziness, something that should be of paramount concern for ‘professionals’ who want to be perceived as professionals by other(s) than themselves.
    I know that I sometimes (often?) come off as some kind of politically incorrect nit-picking wacko critic herein, but WTF, a professional should at the very least take the time to edit one’s publicly proffered message of “We promote professionalism” in an effort to make sure that it is worded correctly, especially on the internet; it is lodged here forever. The folks in this business are measured by their speech patterns as well as by their actions and visual appearances. They are also measured by their apparent willingness, or not, to get things right, because no one “gets it right” first time around ‘all’ of the time. I certainly don’t. That goes for publicly proffered mission statements such as the one referred to herein.
    I don’t believe that creating an atmosphere of accepted in house endorsement-of-misrepresentation (we will do it for you and make it look like you did it yourself) on the part of agents…I mean registrants…is a good way to encourage the public trust by way of public pronouncements such as what has appeared herein. The word “forgery” comes to mind. I should think that a professional would think twice about the sound of/appearance of his/her message before engaging his/her mouth and/or keyboard respectively for public consumption. There is an old saying: If you want it done right, do it yourself. There is another: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Here is my saying: If you don’t know how to do it right, and you know that you don’t know how to do it right, take the time to learn how to do it right; it will be an investment in your personal development future. Of course, these sayings only apply to the not-so-lazy, already-knowledgeable-about-their-shortcomings among us.
    P.S.: I could be available for an arm’s-length ad hoc here-and-there editor’s position if anyone is interested. Seems I have nothing better to do. $50.00 (fifty dollars CDN) per hour, up front. Line starts to the right. Applicants must display a willingness to be critiqued (both positively and negatively) without taking it personally. Short-cut-seeking let’s-get-rich-quick misrepresentation jockeys need not apply. One must display an aptitude to learn quickly, or the words “Y’er fired!” will be politically-incorrectly uttered. The desire to take the time to get it right is what really counts though. An attitude suggesting that assuming/accepting no one will notice one’s gaffes and/or degree of displayed illiteracy will not cut it. Laziness is not an option, especially when one is ‘not’ functionally badly illiterate.
    It seems that I take more time and put in more effort to get it right via my rants herein (with nothing in it for moi) than those for whom the bell will surely toll. One will never know how many minds out there will be conditioned toward the negative perception by way of one’s words, both spoken and written.
    To be able to impress others positively, one must be impressive inherently, not simply, easily, amateurishly, at-arm’s length.
    By the way, why would anyone give up control over one’s private data base to an overseer? Is the laziness quotient being appealed to here…again? Carolyne just emailed me on that score. She is right. Masqueraders are among us; there is a fungus among us.
    Back to working on my boat…got to make sure it won’t sink ‘before’ I launch it.

    • Carolyne L

      Brian:
      It’s so hard to be succinct. Someone said a long time ago in a psychology article, that men speak in direct terms of yes, no, and maybe, followed by: Next.
      Women often make their point in story-form, relaying personal experience. Sometimes showing warts and all.

      Someone who thought in 1980 as owner of his office of 25 agents, that I would never succeed in real estate, much less become an area dominant player; nearly fifteen years later he told one of his two years in the business agents who had not succeeded, to make an appointment to see “me.”

      She called to tell me his suggestion, that perhaps she could learn something from me if I would take her under my wing. I called him to confirm and learned he didn’t have time for her. But she was honest and a good person. Initially he had suggested she leave the business. Sadly, he was right.

      She was clean, polite, soft-spoken and seemed to be willing to learn. Sadly she didn’t want to learn apply herself in the background grunt work. But it seemed in her two years under his specific monitored one on one tutelage, her self esteem had eroded, her self confidence was the problem. He (d) could be quite caustic on occasion; a dominant personality, although a little man he often filled a room with his magnified sometimes omnipotent presence.

      There have been recent REM discussions on the worth of an agent, subject to their time in the business. I took her in, took her with me everywhere I went for several weeks. I was always calm, cool, and completely collected as the expression goes.

      I gently made suggestions, explaining why I did certain things in certain ways, always subject to modifying to suit the client needs and requirements.

      Here’s just one simple example: put right on the listing as well as at reception desk that the seller requires appointments only at specific hours or days (could be a shift worker or for medical reasons; doesn’t matter but must be acknowledged addressed; one of sometimes, a team issue). She said if he wants to sell his house he must make it available. Compassion-related?

      After a few weeks of shadowing me, I gave her actual listings and buyers: would-be clients who were on the geographic verges of my farm areas, with thinking over time she could develop a farm of her own, maybe; and I went with her, initially, at her request. It was that lack of confidence thing…

      I should have seen the writing on the wall. I was being used. (Carolyne, you do the work and give me a paycheque.) “I just don’t have your “way” with people… Hmmm.

      I welcomed her initially, and sent a dozen roses to her at home, wishing her much success, a boost to her ego, and in a few months again, more flowers as her daughter graduated high school. Her husband immediately called me to say: “thank you for giving me my wife back,” oh, dear! What had I done?

      I wanted to reinforce what she was doing right and adjust what she was doing wrong, not much actually, just scared. Because my corporate sign was on the lawn, with her name tag, I also wanted her success.

      In only several months I had literally given her 60k worth of gross commissions, (and I continued to check behind the scenes carefully) paid her promptly on closing. And had the appropriate trade records to prove it. We were in a rather ordinary market but my signs and direct mail marketing pulled in a steady stream of business, and buyer agency in our area was not yet in vogue.

      She and my long term unlicensed secretary didn’t see eye to eye, and she accused her of passing all incoming calls to me. Huh? I thought that was an unacceptable discussion.

      Back then we didn’t have agent (registrant:employee) contracts. (I’m one who doesn’t so easily give up the agent moniker.) Knowing full well what it means. To the public often the term registrant means nothing. Old dog habits die hard.

      I evaluated each call and distributed ones to her, according to my professional judgement. Most calls not in my farm area went directly to her after the first few weeks. Oddly enough, most turned into business. My corp for sale signs got MLS co-oped sold riders quickly. I didn’t have ten contract expiries in ten years.

      I didn’t require the agent to make phone call solicitations, canvassing or to door-knock. I had more business than I knew what to do with. My phone never stopped ringing.

      I was a heavy direct mail marketer and my success and my good name were well-known in my trading area. I was happy to train her and have a reliable stand-in if required, thinking way down the road.

      After several months, she appeared one day to tell me she was leaving, (after having told my secretary first, so I was forewarned), partly because I refused to let her cut my corporate commission fee, but mostly because her group of friends were leaving her prior brokerage to join a new CB brokerage in town, and they had told her: that I was only “giving her” the overflow, “all the good stuff goes to Carolyne,” and if they were her, they wouldn’t stand for that; they would leave. So she did, and joined them at the new brokerage owned by a well-respected quiet fellow.

      I knew the broker, although not personally, and told him in a specifically placed phone call, precisely how I had handled things. And wished him well with his new brokerage in another part of town.

      He was kind enough to say: “I don’t have that kind of business to give away to the whole office.” C’est la vie.

      Six months later she was officially gone. I never followed her career at her new office. I had more important things to do. Went to work at Home Depot, I heard on the grapevine. The real estate business was too demanding, and her relationship with her friends didn’t put any money in her pocket, and neither did her new broker. No gifting business. There were plenty of agents in her new office to accommodate her need for office social interaction. I was all only about work. Boring to a fault.

      Once again, at her new office, she would have been required to go out and get her own business. She wasn’t even “given” fringe geographical business before or after she was with me. It was very sad. I felt enormous empathy for her. The local market wasn’t as brisk as it had been, but I personally didn’t see any slowing down.

      But when she insisted that I was wrong not approve to cut commission when people asked her to do so, I tried to explain, they weren’t just getting her services, but my personal “on site” professional expertise service time as well, even if sometimes her offers had to be presented in my office boardroom if I had office engagements with clients of my own.

      Overall I tried three times; a pleasant fellow, likewise was referred to me who apparently was some sort of bookie business operator (unknown to me), and no way I would have known, except for discovering his use of my office not for real estate (according to my hawk eye secretary), and I only kept him a few weeks due to constant alcohol on his breath, and my secretary was offended by him several times in succession; and my unsuccessful third attempt I wrote about in a REM comment, where I even provided the agent with access to a brand new vehicle, I guaranteed. Ultimately I decided I was better off with my well-trained secretary who although she did no real estate work per se, she ran my office like military precision clockworks, professionally, allowing me to do what I did best.

      So there’s more than one way to run a company and more than one method of operation. It was never my intent to grow the company the way new companies often aspire to, and I am proof positive that success can be had, 38 years later, as a boutique.

      The success of anyone in the real estate business, as individuals or as a corporate entity has nothing to do with size, but rather mostly about attitude, enhanced with that all important [personal] follow up and follow through that is referred to in the current article. Yes, the public hires the company (agency), but what is really most often in their minds is that they are hiring the specific person (to represent them in all facets of the process).

      My comment on that new system as noted, although it sounds useful, might lack the personalized touch of a specific agent who developed the initial business rapport, leaving the seller or buyer perhaps feeling they are being serviced by an automaton. It will be good to hear the results eventually. I wish them well, indeed. It isn’t an easy task to undertake.

      It sounds like a good recruiting tool though, by which to engage agents who either don’t want to do that part of the job or simply don’t understand its importance.

      As to the turning over of database information: who actually owns that database? the prior corporation, the sales rep? What did agent’s prior contract say, and what’s in the new contract as regarding ownership of that database info. Betcha most agents don’t even read their contract fine print, or know where they filed it, maybe even not knowing that independent contractor status is a CRA relative term only.

      On that topic: this is one important reason that agents need to have their own private site with easy to reach contact information identifying in large print the corporate affiliation. If agents rely on the corporate brokerage website and to do the work supplied as noted in this article, one could expect the corporation would own the rights to the given over, existing agent database info, turned over obviously under the guise of taking the workload off the agent.

      I wrote this very old article for my own web site visitors:
      • Should I list with a large company or a small company?
      (Or what company size does have to do with it all, anyway)

      http://www.carolyne.com/bigorsmall.html

      Before going into real estate 38 years ago, I had no clue, either. And not immediately wise about such after licensing. There are certain things the public just does not know; then some of them join forces in the real estate business and realize what all they still don’t know.

      Not criticizing; just sharing historical situations.

      Respectfully
      Carolyne L 🍁

      • Great comments Carolyne, thank you for the context.

        The systems that we have in place are designed to enhance the client experience, coming from the fact that a lot of Realtors don’t communicate as regularly as they should. The automation aspect is not to replace or supplant the Realtor communication with the client, but to enhance it. To let the client know exactly what is being done or what has been done to market their home. Our administrators are also in regular contact with the client so the client really feels like it is a team taking care of their needs and not just a solo agent.

        As for the database, the agents own their database, if an agent leaves we give it to them and delete their lists. In fact our admin group updates the agents database as they help buyers and sellers, if they do wind up leaving, they will leave with a more complete database than what they likely came to us with.

        We come at the real estate transaction from a consumer centric focus as well as from the attitude of how we are going to make the life of an agent easier and more efficient to allow them to do more business. Our concierge attitude with a mix of systems and processes allows us to offer that to our Realtors. (Took Brian’s advice above and didn’t want to stir up another hornets nest by using agent! lol)

    • Thanks for the comment Brian…to address your final question: “By the way, why would anyone give up control over one’s private database to an overseer? Is the laziness quotient being appealed to here…again?”
      We provide this as a service and an option to each agent at Redline. We don’t see it as an agent being lazy we see them as being efficient with their time. We have been creating content for a long time and it comes a little easier to us. As such, we wanted to offer this to our agents as an opportunity to leverage our expertise in email marketing (among other things) so that they have more time to service their current clients and to build their business without being bogged down with content creation.

      • Brian Martindale

        My apologies to you Kelly; you are not fraudulently misrepresentative vis a vis your local/provincial “agent’ designation. In Ontario (where I am located) the registrant is not the agent. I was unaware that this is not the case in Alberta and elsewhere per agentblair’s and Neil’s statements. Maybe there should be a national education/licensing system; then maybe I wouldn’t sound so dumb…maybe.

        • Carolyne L

          Brian, we in Ontario sometimes forget we are not the centre of the universe in regard to real estate. One of the saddest things I learned repeatedly in 38 years is that our National Ass’n is not representative of all Canada, in a real life way, although they do manage copyright and registered trademarks, and advertising coast to coast (TV and such) that are in and themselves often owned, and sort of “borrowed” “rented” what have you from the American system mothership. Imagine: NAR controls the American system and just look at the number of individual states involved, not unlike us, each with local subset management systems.

          Imagine we have ten very differently organized and run provincial entities, subset by breakdowns within, one of which is a local Board, who summits to the provincial ass’n.

          Manitoba is a good example, among others. Manitoba is governed by the Securities Commission (does that mean CREA has no control over the province at all?). And then there’s the Quebec differentiation, not just re a sometimes language barrier. (They are wonderful people, in my experience.)

          If we truly had a mothership in control likely the NFLD entourage end result a couple of years ago that almost overnight changed the industry completely, might have been
          different. Of course, we’ll never know.

          Was it RECO or our Ontario Ministry who coined the use of the moniker “registrant.” (In Ontario?) It’s horrid, and not given to being properly designed and understood even within our own day to day working. It might well be legal, but it’s often not practical and several generations might have to die off before it becomes the daily accepted norm.

          Merv Burgard, counsel at OREA at the time, wrote me a long time ago inquiring when I was going to change all my points of reference in my often twenty year old consumer education articles, from agent to registrant.

          I did install a disclaimer on my website, but my reply was – as soon as he went back through all Merv’s notes and made like changes. And when newspapers were warned to comply, and when McGraw Hill and other major publishing houses pulled their textbooks off the shelves, having been copyrighted moons ago.

          Respectfully
          Carolyne L 🍁

        • Not a problem Brian…it is confusing to call you guys in Ontario, Brokers, when that term here in Alberta means Broker of Record. You’re right, it would be nice to have it universal across the country.

    • agentblair

      in BC individuals are Designated Agents of the Brokerage. This is clearly spelled out in the Listing Agreements and ‘Working with a Realtor’ brochure.

    • Neil Stopher

      Here in Alberta, we are ‘agents’, particularly if contracted to work with a designated agency brokerage. Most definitely not ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’.