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How to Build a Successful Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Business

So you want to establish a commercial real estate brokerage?  There are a few issues to look into and resolve, plus plenty of opportunity.  Local area coverage is one thing, but a full understanding of the property market and the competition is really important if you want to get some traction in building your business to a plan and a process.

(N.B. these ideas are also sent out to regularly to our friends in Commercial Real Estate Online Snapshot to help amplify brokerage results…. Get your access here)

Commercial property is good industry, and there are plenty of people who would attest to that.  So you will need a business strategy to get yourself started in the industry.  Here are some ideas to help:


  1. Local region – look at the size of the region and the precincts of property activity both historically and currently. Where are things changing?  What are the predictions for the location when it comes to a property future?  Ideally most agents or brokers in the team should be working a defined area and or property type, and you will require some rules and controls on that.   Through rules and controls you can get the momentum you need with listing and client penetration.
  2. Branding or Franchise selection – some franchise groups in commercial real estate are not as good as others. You can make some comparisons on the things that matter such as support, administration, online marketing, website presence, and database software and or support. The different franchises also charge fees and commissions differently. Look at their policies and procedures relating to regular franchise payments and how those payments will be based on income earned.
  3. Training – there are many things to learn in commercial brokerage. It is something to inquire about and commit to. Will the franchisor support the franchisees with up to date training that is relevant to building market share and supporting clients and business progress?  You never really stop learning in this industry, so understand what sources of training are out there for you to tap into and how much that support will cost.
  4. Property types – look at the local property types and assess them by volume. Certain property types will turn over more frequently than others. Ideally, you should be working with the property types that are in reasonable volume, and attractive to the local property market. There is no point in specializing in something that has no attraction or interest to the local business or investment community. In simple terms, you should focus on the property type that is of attraction and of reasonable volume in the location.
  5. Industry sectors – certain industry segments are likely to be busier than others when it comes to property change and churn. Any changes in property in the region may be a reflection on the economy, the availability of natural resources, the sourcing of labour and staff for industry, and the available local knowledge. Understand how things are changing within certain industry segments. Position yourself as a specialist within those industry groups and then connect with each of business specifically and directly.
  6. Client choices – there are many different categories of client when you consider the overall commercial property industry. You may wish to work for investors, owner occupiers, business leaders, or developers. Each client category will have certain points of difference and levels of interest in local property activity, so your positioning is important. Your brokerage and your team should be structured for the requirements of clients and client services. Choose your team members based on knowledge and professional skills.
  7. Service offerings – the three basic service disciplines in brokerage today are sales, leasing, and property management. Typically, the members of your team can specialize in sales and leasing, whilst building the opportunities for the property management team at the times of property transaction closure and negotiation. Asking the right questions at the right time will help you build a property management portfolio. The consistent growth of the property management portfolio will help you underpin the cash flow for the business and grow the client base for ongoing property activity.
  8. Team development – understand how you can train and develop the team within the brokerage. There are always new things to learn and skills to develop in commercial real estate today. As the property market changes throughout the year, training and development should occur with the team and with the individuals depending on skills and available knowledge. The sales and leasing team should be developed towards listing and commission opportunity. The property management team should be encouraged to convert property management appointments from all available current and recent sales or leasing transactions.
  9. Database – the success of a commercial property business centers in and around the skills and the abilities of the team members, together with their disciplines and focus on client connections. A database will be required to consistently connect with local property prospects and clients. Regular ongoing contact will allow listings and transactions to occur. Make some decisions as to how the database will be sourced and shaped over time. Every broker and agent in your team should be encouraged to contribute towards the database for the brokerage business. You will need some safeguards to protect the integrity of the data, the updating of client and prospect information, together with the use of the information. If you are building a large property database, then you will need to protect the information as staff members come and go from the business. Stealing is a common occurrence in our industry when it comes to property transaction and client list data.
  10. Commission structures – understand how commissions will be learned in the business within the different property types and the transaction types. There are different commission structures for sales, leasing, and property management. The sales and leasing team should also be encouraged to contribute towards the property management portfolio. To achieve that effective connection, a percentage of property management fees should be returned to the sales and leasing operative at the time of property management introduction or conversion of a new client. There are also different commission structures applying to agent or broker experience and improved performance. As an agent or a broker converts more commissions over time, their commission structure should improve so rewards increase.
  11. Marketing methods – when you look at your competitors and the methods of marketing used in each case, you will see some standards and some typical approaches that apply to property listing and marketing. Your marketing methods will need to be equal to if not better than that of your competitors. There are different ways to approach local area marketing, and all the online promotional strategies available today. Every agent or broker will have a website to facilitate listing promotion. They will also have access to the industry portals as part of a property marketing campaign. The point here is that the best agents usually do things to a better level and promotional strategy. Look at what is happening now within the local area with a particular focus on the better listings and the quality properties, and then see how you can improve the promotional story for the listings that you convert. Your approaches to advertising and marketing should be carefully considered and structured for advantage. Ensure that your property listings stand out promotionally for the precinct and the target markets that you serve. The best way to do that will be through a strategy of exclusivity; the team should be trained accordingly to convert listings on that basis.
  12. Constant contact – as you strive to achieve a greater segment of market activity and listing churn, constant contact will be required with the clients that you serve and the prospects that you know. That contact process should be merged into your database and established as a discipline within the team. The strategy can also be structured into the business model and the business plan for the brokerage. Direct the team towards the clients that are available in the local area. Hone their focus to the best clients and the best properties.


So there are plenty of things that can be done here to help the establishment of a professional commercial real estate brokerage business. Your town or city may also create other factors of focus as you work towards finding the right people and developing the business over time.

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