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Independent real estate firms come in all shapes and sizes. Some have only a couple agents, while others have multiple offices. Independent companies also have a local authority, with a reputation for offering a more personal touch and deep knowledge of the area.

Because of their size and relationships with other offices, franchises often provide more support for new agents in the form of referral networks and large listing inventories. Due to their corporate nature, franchises also tend to have more formalized, in-depth training programs, as well as brand recognition to help beginning agents make their start. Corporate rigor also means more up-to-date technology and marketing resources.

On the flip side, franchises usually offer less freedom than independent brokerages. Agents must answer to the corporate culture when it comes to how they conduct their business, from the tools they use internally to the ways they advertise themselves and their properties. This all tends to come at a higher cost as well: in exchange for the brand name, agents often have to pay initiation fees and/or a higher share of their commission.

According to the 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile 59% of all REALTORS® are affiliated with an independent, non-franchised company. In fact most Realtors are likely to be affiliated with an independent, non-franchised company. The decision to join a franchise or an independent firm can be confusing. The pros and cons of each option are examined in this updated Field Guide. (D. Winchester, Information Specialist) (Updated June 2016).