By Jeff Stern

Tell me if this sounds strange to you.

In many professional industries, such as financial planning or insurance sales, the consultant does not simply dash off into the fray after training. They become apprentices, practicing in real time with real clients under the mentorship of a seasoned professional.



Yet in real estate, where we walk people through legal contracts and the sale or purchase of what will likely be the largest asset of their lives, this is not always the case.

Construction, financing, legal aspects, for Pete’s sake – many industries require real-time training under a mentor. In the real estate industry, however, apprenticeship isn’t a given. Does that sound weird to anyone else?

In Manitoba, aspiring real estate agents must become trained through our provincially mandated education in order to be licensed. Then they head off to their broker’s office, pick up the phone and start on their path of working for clients.

While annual re-licensing education is required of licensees to keep them up to date on industry happenings, I feel we need to also incorporate mentorship or apprenticeship for new licensees.

The issuance of a license should not be enough to hit the ground running. It is kind of like reading a book about surviving in the woods and then thinking you know how.

There’s knowing information, and then there’s understanding how to apply that knowledge in real time in the midst of a transaction, especially when conflict, confusion, emotional upheaval and legal anomalies surface, all of which are daily fare for the real estate professional.

This is what needs to change.

I’ve had the honour of training soon-to-be real estate professionals for many years. As often happens, a new agent then would contact me with questions or invite me for coffee and we talked shop. As I listened, I heard a lot of familiar questions that plague many a new professional.

In one instance, an agent was troubleshooting a particular situation with a transaction, he was nervous and unsure about how to move forward. The responsibility that rests on an agent’s shoulders is big. He had reason for caution. He had an advantage over most new agents though, in that his broker was eager to mentor him, and he had courage and willingness to reach out to another seasoned professional and ask me for advice.

Most new agents are not so lucky to have that mentorship built into their place of work. And, because it isn’t a thing, leaving the implication that what you learned in class is enough, many don’t pursue advice from the more experienced.

This is the situation many new agents find themselves in, and it can be a catalyst for a blunder of contractual proportions.

We can do better.

We owe our industry professionals more. I feel we owe homeowners and homebuyers more. We owe excellence in knowledge and service, and it starts with thorough training. I strongly feel it starts with bringing mentoring to our industry.

But maybe I’m singing into a pail here.

What do you think? Should the real estate industry introduce an apprenticeship program?

Jeff Stern, a 27-year real estate veteran with Re/Max Performance Realty in Winnipeg, received the 2017 CMHC/MREA Distinguished Realtor Award. He is an instructor for the Provincial Real Estate Licensing program, a member of the Education Committee and sits on the Professional Standards Investigation and Hearing Committee at MREA. He gives back to the community as chair of the MREA Shelter Foundation and writes stimulating and enlightening articles on his blog. The opinions expressed are those of Jeff Stern and not the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Coming from the Trades it did seem strange I could blast through a course in 8 weeks and be able to help someone buy or sell a home putting their life savings on the line. It makes a ton of sense to structure the entire training process like an apprenticeship. You’ll have 1st year trainees that should become proficient in the paperwork and marketing side of things working for more experienced agents and assisting with all facets of the industry while being mentored by a seasoned agent. You’ll have to unlock different sections in order to be able to work in that park of your market. IE: Strata/Condos, Farms, Commercial, Waterfront, Recreational, Leases etc. By the end of your 2nd year if you’ve passed the appropriate sections with sufficient hands-on experience the seasoned agent will sign off and away you go.

    • Real estate sales is very competitive, commissioned based career. In my experience a seasoned realtor does not want to give new realtors a fast track into this career. New realtors have to earn it through their own efforts and time and a lot of money. The most successful mentoring exists, when you have a family member working with another family member, for example husband and wife, etc etc

  2. Until brokers take back their original role of recruiting training and mentoring I don’t see apprenticeships taking off. I deliberately recruit newcomers to the industry as they have no preconceptions and see value in our training. I do in return insist on a firm and prolonged contractual commitment from them.

  3. You wrote, in part:
    “The team is where multiple realtors produce sales and post the commission under the team leader so that the team leader can attain his/her company awards, in return the new realtor is getting the training.”

    How does this work with CRA? With the team leader claiming all the income numbers for reasons that can be simple or complicated… Eg. the brokerage pays the team leader solely; the team leader pays the team members – pays their “invoice” as a subset independent contractor, and the team leader gets to write off that “expensed” invoice as at the date recorded as paid? against the leader’s own gross income??? Where does the hst (in ON) fit into the equation? Seems like it could be begging for an audit to clarify???

    Could be a massive accounting nightmare undertaking but makes it simple for the brokerage who only has the team leader’s income to deal with. Never having been part of a team, of course it all might really be very simple.

    Kind regards
    Carolyne L 🍁

    • Team leader does their own HST collection remittance and payments between agents on the team. Like you said it reduces the amount of work for the Brokerage by downloading to the team leader.

  4. Correction: “office manager’s job is to be the mentor”

    In addition new salespeople have access to all kinds of training. The difference between the ones that succeed and the ones that exit real estate in their 1st year is good old fashioned hard work.

  5. To start a meaningful apprenticeship, current brokerage models are not adequate. Brokers want to collect monthly fees, agents are looking for low fee or no fee model. So who pays for the apprenticeship costs? Change the brokerage model and make it same across the province. Only differentiating factor for new or switching agents to choose should be who is the better teacher, not the cheapest of free.

  6. I’ll admit first off that I don’t often read REM but the headline to your write up resonated with me. The industry definitely lacks true preparation for the profession when coming out of the gates with your licence in hand offering few resources to increase the learning curve of success. One can take Jumpstart programs and so on but the fact is you can’t simulate all of the variations of real time scenarios in the field or office.
    I myself was brought under the wing in a small office of 12 agents to whom 3 or so including an amazing broker who gave me guidance and instruction when I started. Over the years I tried to emulate the positive habits of some great Realtors® and since becoming a veteran so to speak after 16 years have continued to pay it forward to any new agent that comes into our office seeking direction. And why not? Their success often leads to further success of others including oneself. Sure, some won’t have it at the end of the day and drop out but it is still time not wasted as I’ve always felt it keeps one sharp to reiterate knowledge through experience plus reinforce those good habits and checklists that earned one’s own success.
    Possibly some are too selfish to share or feel they are giving away their secrets but I hope that wouldn’t be the case. Often it is a time consideration I suppose. Maybe the provincial regulatory bodies could offer educational credits or some incentive to inspire more mentor-ship. I’ve often thought I could teach new Realtors® a course, for our area at least, as the clerical side may be similar and how you treat people should never change but knowledge in many areas are specific to the practice with variations in geographical conditions, zoning bylaws, & riparian factors etc…
    Anyways, thank you for the article and I hope we can strive to make a change for the better while preparing our growing industry to reach improved standards for new licensees.

  7. I agree with you, Jeff. I was approached by a good friend who became a licensee in 2015. She asked me to apprentice her. Her Dad was a 30+ year veteran so they both knew this was a good idea and felt that the separation from family would be the best solution for all. Since then, I have successfully mentored 5 new agents to 6 figure production and yes, for a percentage fee per transaction. I get a lot of satisfaction watching new licensees fledge. We licensed the rights to a mentoring program developed here on the west coast which helped to give substance and structure to our mentoring program. There are many benefits to me as a mentor. I get to re-visit the basics with plenty of opportunity to see and develop new possibilities, strategies and techniques for helping our clients. It keeps my 11 years old business fresh.

  8. I’ve been saying this for years, an apprenticeship program is what’s needed to better educate and equip new agents for long term success. An effective way the program will pay for itself is by simply introducing some type of referral fee back to the mentor for his or her time. If you think this is giving money away and the new sales representatives will not embrace this, than we also educate the new reps to the fact that they will lose a lot of potential business dollars do the fact they are new to the industry and just by virtue of competition alone. If that is the case, it should be made mandatory for the Broker of record to facilitate such environment if they so choose in order to attract new sales Reps. I see it as a win win!
    I would like to add that the apprenticeship program should be introduced during the schooling program and continue after licencing, also the broker of record should be interviewed by the student to make sure they are the right fit and picked as a registered sponsor prior to signing up for the Real Estate Courses. Of course there are lot of talking points to be discussed and agreed upon with lots of different scenarios at play. It could work and changes are needed!

  9. Jeff, I think you are totally right in suggesting that an apprenticeship phase is needed. I had an excellent mentor when I started (she was a huge part of my success), and it only makes sense for the government to implement the model you suggest as standard. If a new agent can’t cut it under an existing successful agent who is liable and responsible for their apprentice’s work, they shouldn’t be allowed to practice for others. Keep lobbying for this – you have my support!! Maybe we should develop a real estate “ring” like engineers get after they have completed their 4 years of residency/engineer in training articling.

  10. The solution is already available! It is in place with EXIT Realty. There is built-in mentorship in what is called The EXIT formula. New agents are sponsored into the Brokerage by experienced agents who mentor them and receive a residual income distributed by head office which is NOT taken from the new agents income…but the Brokerage itself. It creates an environment of sharing and caring… a rarity in this business. It truly is a system that resolves a lot the issues mentioned in this article. Extensive agent training is also organized on a regular basis by head office, and brokerage training is the norm. I cannot figure out why more agents and Broker/owners aren’t exploring this alternative business model.

  11. The problem is there in no effective way to pay for apprenticeship of salespeople,
    it is currently unprofitable to train licensees further than presently done.
    Changes ahead? There are always changes!

    • Clearly a clever newbie would sign on with an old-fashioned brokerage at a 50/50 or 60/40 split???

      Would such a brokerage (if one existed today) might recruit a little differently? When I first arrived in the industry four decades ago all offices worked that arrangement. Agents didn’t know how lucky they were back in the day. No expenses. And the broker got to approve every piece of marketing material (because HE was paying for it; aside from the monitoring rules that are still in place but today rarely used).

      The agent was meant to concentrate on buying and selling. And was expected to produce or be gone. Some recruits were officially given a produce-or deadline (maybe six months).

      One of the recruiting questions was: “are you thinking of selling your own house this year?” (That would get at least one corporate for sale sign on a lawn) and if the answer was no the broker might be inclined to suggest the recruit might want to give the idea some consideration (quid pro quo?) After all, that sign might produce sign calls or ad calls to help the recruit get their feet wet – maybe doing an open house?

      With no personal expenses that independent contractors are responsible for, it might be a great recruiting device? And of course the recruit would be required to attend educational conventions and such, sometimes even paid for by the brokerage. But worth every penny if paid for by the recruit. I paid for my own extended education that was mostly provided by travelling Americans. I learned quickly to only take away “concepts” not specifics because often American ideas (as are still today) forbidden in Canada).

      Carolyne L 🍁

  12. I’m for an apprenticeship format of some kind. I know the value of an apprenticeship program first hand. I served a five year apprenticeship before attaining my steamfitter’s license, wayyyy back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, when a man was a man and a woman was a woman, when political correctness had not been invented, and when one had to know what one was doing before anyone would pay for his/her services. I doubt very few Realtor wannabes have ever been subjected to an apprenticeship program, and thus are unaware of its value.

    All apprenticeship programs allow for the apprentice to earn an income whilst engaged therein. The income is gradually increased on a yearly basis (from a starting point of about forty percent of a journeyman’s hourly wage) at a rate of ten percent per year, until maturity is reached after the candidate passes a final licensing exam, and in some cases has proven his/her hands-on mastery of the relevant vocation to his/her employer’s satisfaction.

    The above situation would be a difficult row to hoe for real estate sales brokerages. They would not want to dish out an income to newbies without gaining some sort of return on their investment. “Investment” is the key word. Brokerages, as things stand now, do not have to worry about providing any kind of a financial investment in their new hires. They actually provide little, if anything at all, beyond words of encouragement, in the form of an investment in new hires…because…they know most of them will be gone…bye-bye…sooner than later. Therein lies the problem with the never-ending churn of failures-in-waiting. It’s simply cheaper to turn ’em loose, let ’em flounder, let most of ’em fail, in pursuit of landing a big one once in a blue moon. It’s kinda like fishing in a lake wherein there is only one big lunker, and one thousand pan fish. it’s a crap shoot.

    If Organized Real Estate could somehow establish a fund from which weekly payments would be made to carefully selected apprentices, matched on a 50/50 basis by the apprentices’ brokerages (read all brokerages), then maybe O.R.E. would be on to something toward creating a bona fide profession. The never-ending press toward becoming a big-time commission earner by multitudes of unqualified wannabes heading for the cliff might just come to an end, and real estates sales would become populated with a stable cadre of long-term professionals.

    Outside-the-box thinking? Absolutely!

    • We had a mentorship program for a while in NS. It didn’t work out because some Brokerages had someone to do it but many Brokerages did not and didn’t see the value to them to have someone. Which is too bad because new agents need help. Instead of paying the apprentice, some renumeration should go to the mentor. That would encourage good experienced agents to mentor.

  13. The Ignorant Teaching The Ignorant?

    Ignorance is defined by a lack of knowledge in a subject matter which is universally how the real estate
    sales profession has operated for decades. Ask a REALTOR how the price of homes rises and falls
    you get some crazy belief that it has something to do with home prices. This of course is simply ignorant.

    This is why today’s Desk Rental Model that funds American Franchisors Shareholder value at the expense
    of CREA members and the general public must end.

    If you cannot explain the mechanism that causes home prices to rise, you really should not offer to train
    another sales rep.

  14. The Office Manager’s job is to be the apprentice.
    However in my experience most offices sign up realtors, collect monthly fees, and most do not provide hands on training. There also exists a form of apprenticeship in most offices…..the team. The team is where multiple realtors produce sales and post the commission under the team leader so that the team leader can attain his/her company awards, in return the new realtor is getting the training.
    I don’t think we need to create an apprenticeship program, we already have a lot of options.

    • I agree with you. In hindsight, I was probably very lucky to have chosen the brokerage that I did. For the first few years I attended weekly in house training, went to our board for any and all training that was offered and in the first few months my broker would give me homework to get very familiar with all documents, clauses etc. To this day I know I could call him at 11 at night and still get an answer (I try not to do that though…lol). After having read all the other comments posted until now, I can’t see a realistic program that could work. Apprentices have to make a living too.

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