At first glance, most people outside the real estate industry will say that selling houses and finding the next client are two of the biggest challenges facing Realtors. But upon a closer look, maintaining cashflow for this solely commission-based industry is likely the biggest challenge for both new and seasoned agents.
Negative cashflow becomes a formidable reality for a lot of agents at the end of every month, especially in spring and early summer when the housing market picks up speed after emerging from its winter thaw. That’s when phones ring off the hook for Jim Trainor and his team at Agent’s Equity, a company specializing in commission advances.
In real estate, a deal can become a no deal quickly. Even when deals close, agents must wait for weeks or sometimes even months before they can cash in on their commission. Meanwhile, they rack up monthly bills that include CREA and other provincial real estate board and membership fees, listing fees, staging costs, office rents, staff and admin salaries, insurance, marketing and business development charges and other miscellanea expenses that are integral to running a successful real estate business. Indeed, agents have been known to fold their operations under the pressure of negative cash flow.
“Why not get hold of that commission, less our fee, today and smooth out your cash flow?” says Trainor. It’s at times like these, he says, that a commission advance helps to generate cash flow and peace of mind.
“Real estate income is extremely unpredictable but when times are slow, you have to keep investing in your marketing efforts,” says Martin MacFarlane, a sales rep from Sutton Group Heritage Realty. “Agent’s Equity’s commission advance service has allowed me to stabilize my marketing efforts and thus made my income more predictable. It has allowed me to focus more on selling and acquiring new leads without worrying about all the expenses involved.”
In any given year, Agent’s Equity’s family-run business advances commissions to upwards of 5,000 agents. And yet, their service is one of the industry’s biggest secrets. After crunching the numbers, Mike Trainor, vice president and general manager at Agent’s Equity and Jim’s son, believes that “only about two per cent of Realtors actually utilize the service. As we find out at many of the trade shows that we attend, many are unaware the service even exists.”
When agents think commission advances, some may think they are like payday loans. But unlike payday loans, a commission advance doesn’t incur heavy interest fees and unsecured debts. It’s the sale of an asset, says Jim.
“Once a deal becomes firm and binding, a Realtor would have a commission receivable to be paid out in the future, after lawyers have processed the sale. The Realtor would sell this receivable (the asset) to Agent’s Equity to tap into funds that would be paid out upon completion of the real estate transaction,” says Mike. The brokerage then repays Agent’s Equity on closing.
When used to grow an agent’s business, commission advances are tax deductible.
The process at Agent’s Equity is as straightforward as they come. After agents submit a request for an advance, they are approved within 15 minutes, following which funds are transferred into their account the same day. Typically, the company advances commissions for transactions closing between 45-90 days but have accommodated up to 150 days in some cases. Ninety-nine per cent of their transactions deal with single-family residential resale properties.
“Someone in a pinch on a Friday afternoon can send in a request and we can have the funds in the account around 6:30 that evening. Clients of Agent’s Equity range from the top 10 per cent of earners to agents who are firming their first transaction,” says Mike.
Celebrating 30 years this year, Agent’s Equity has weathered several downturns in the market, but its well-oiled systems have not just kept them afloat but have made them one of Canada’s leading and longest-running commission advance services.