Location: Newmarket, Ontario, CA | Launched: 2010 | Number of agents: 130
A flat-fee model that leads agents to success
It was in 2010, after watching nearly 50 agents walk out the door of a Canadian franchise brokerage, that Mike Cartwright made his decision to go independent.
He noticed over his years working as an agent that traditional brokers were lowering their commission split with agents, and in turn lowering their services. “There was a disconnect between brokers and agents,” Cartwright said.
He opened Main Street Realty in 2010 to breach that disconnect.
While the flat-fee brokerage model has been creating chatter in the US for several years, it’s a newer concept in the Canadian real estate market said Cartwright, where traditional franchise models dominate the brokerage landscape.
Cartwright’s mission in launching Main Street, which now has five offices surrounding the Toronto area, was to empower agents to think differently about their work.
“I opened up a brokerage to give agents the training and support that I didn’t feel they were getting from traditional brokers,” he said.
Cartwright says the flat-fee model gives his agents that power, and allows him to provide more services as a brokerage. And it gives his business an advantage when it comes to recruitment, he said. “It gives [agents] more money in their pockets.”
When the model works, that extra money goes toward more marketing to give sellers more exposure, he added. It’s a competitive advantage for his agents—recently it helped one win a for-sale-by-owner listing against nine competing listing agents.
You can lead a horse to water
Cartwright was inspired to start a career in real estate as a teenager while managing his father’s neighborhood market. It gave him his first taste of entrepreneurship.
He tries to foster that same entrepreneurial spirit in his brokerage through the training and mentoring he provides. At the end of the day, he respects the independence of his agents to run their businesses how they want. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” he said.
Main Street offers free training to agents on a weekly basis. Courses are both workshop and curriculum-based in format. The focus is on real-world advice, relationship-building and talking to people.
His approach pushes agents to think more creatively about how to nurture relationships with buyers and sellers. “Most agents hold open houses on Sundays,” he said. “I teach them to knock on doors during the week to advertise a special VIP open house, just for neighbors.”
Ontario has a multicultural consumer landscape, so marketing has to cross language barriers. Main Street provides agents tools to translate their marketing into several languages, as well as tools to generate data visualization for neighborhood stats.
Cartwright says that, when it comes to technology, he usually has to look stateside for innovation. The brokerage landscape in Canada is made up largely of franchises, so resources for smaller, independent brokerages tend to be slim.
Ultimately, it’s up to the agent to develop a marketing plan for every listing, but Cartwright tries to guide and influence good decisions through the technology and services he provides. “As a consumer, [the brokerage] doesn’t give me anything. If the agent doesn’t want to do something, they don’t have to. I try to get the agents to think differently.”
In it’s nearly nine years since launch, Main Street has grown to 130 agents. Cartwright attributes his success in growth to his business model, and his approach to managing agents.
He respects their independence and sees his role as a broker as that of a motivator, recognizing that they were drawn to their careers for the same reasons as he was. “We have one rule in our office,” he said. “Nothing is mandatory.”