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Should You Choose a Franchise Or Independent Real Estate Agent?


Century 21, Ray White, First National, Raine and Horne, Elders, L J Hooker, Professionals Group, Re/Max, PRD Nationwide, Hockingstuart, Jellis Craig, Barry Plant, Harcourts, Noel Jones, Biggin Scott, Fletchers…the list of popular real estate agents goes on ad infinitum. According to current statistics from, there are over 8,500 real estate agents and franchises around Australia. The question remains, should you choose a franchise or an independent real estate agency to help you sell, buy, or rent out a property?

Like most things in life, the answer here is not clear-cut; there’s simply no right or wrong answer. Both big name franchises and independent agencies can be worthwhile services depending on the specific situation.

In the case of franchises, it is often believed these companies have access to larger databases in which to source homes, buyers, sellers, or people to rent out your investment property. Theoretically, these large branded franchises have extensive referral networks of affiliated real estate offices in which they (if motivated) can access more people and homes. How many L J Hooker signs have you seen around town, or around Australia for that matter? If these different outlets pool their knowledge together, it can definitely work in your favour.

The other main advantage of choosing a large franchise estate agent to work with is that in many instances these companies have bigger buyer power for marketing and advertising. Their websites are often more in-depth and elaborate, they have better brochures and pamphlets, offer more services, and can utilise multiple forms of media to make a property visible in the wider community.

Brand recognition is a huge part of marketing success. If the company has been around for a long time, their ads on TV and in other media are often subliminally ingrained into the collective consciousness of the populace. These organisations also have systems put into place that have evolved over time. It’s been proven that systematised businesses have a very high success rate when compared with fledgling organisations, which often have a lot of trouble building a foundation to work with in their first few years.

On the other hand, hiring an independent real estate agent can often be a much cheaper alternative when compared to the price schemes of major franchises. On top of this fact, there’s a good chance you’ll receive more attention from your estate agent, as well as a more intimate experience and relationship based around consistent one-on-one interaction.

Independent real estate agents have gained a lot of momentum in the industry over the last ten years or so, and this could be for numerous reasons. Online listings via the internet have meant that anyone with a presence on the web can become visible enough to sell or buy homes. Australians traditionally like working with people from their local area; we like the personal touch of family-owned businesses, and real estate now is no longer an exception. Some people believe smaller niche-based companies are finding a foothold in the market these days because they are able to focus on a single product category, instead of the often more generic approach of larger organisations.

In the Sept. 2008 Consumer Reports survey on real estate brokerages, the report concluded there was no indication of any difference in levels of satisfaction when people selling their homes used independent real estate agents or those from major real estate franchises. The survey also showed that independent agencies had more freedom to do all that clients asked of them, and they could often lower their commission rates more easily when customers enquired.

The 2009 National Association of REALTORS Member Profile states over half of all real estate agencies in Australia are now independently owned, which is a great break from the traditional franchise-dominated market of former decades. Competition is greater than ever before, and the ability to use the MLS (multiple listing service) on the internet to find a property is accessible by all, so a lot of hard work that estate agents had to do previously is now obsolete.

Interestingly, independent agencies often market themselves as being ‘boutique’, or of higher class. Whether this is true or not varies agent to agent.

The truth is every real estate agent, franchise or independent, needs to be qualified. The real differentiating factor when hiring an estate agent is how you relate to the individual person, and how well they do in their occupation. The survey shows neither group sells more houses; it’s the individual real estate agent’s track record that will bring results. Whether you want to try and save money on fees, or make use of a large brand name and network, finding a good estate agent is the most important factor to a successful real estate campaign

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