Remote Realty: Starting A Virtual Real Estate Brokerage

What it is, why it matters, and how to do it

Remote work is quickly becoming the standard for many businesses, and real estate is no exception. 

It is no longer necessary for a business to operate from a physical office space, and remote working usually presents a more flexible and cheaper option. 

In this article, we cover how a remote real estate brokerage works, as well as its benefits and pitfalls. We also explain what you need to set up a virtual brokerage, and how to move an existing brokerage into the cloud. 

In the current climate, a remote brokerage is often a wise option, especially when starting out. We’ll explain the steps needed to take your brokerage fully remote. 

What Is a Remote Real Estate Brokerage? 

A remote real estate brokerage has no physical headquarters.

All of its staff work remotely, usually from home. Meetings with clients take place via video call, and essential in-person meetings take place at a third-party space like a pay-as-you-use office. 

A remote brokerage is defined in contrast with a brick-and-mortar brokerage. Brick-and-mortar brokerages have dedicated physical offices, and their staff typically work there when they’re not visiting properties or clients.

Having a physical office presents several benefits. These include:

  • Good brand awareness on the high street
  • A greater presence in local areas
  • The ability to get business from walk-ins
  • A way to provide good customer service—for example, customers can drop in to collect keys or ask a question. 

Brick and mortar businesses are still seen as traditional. This often leads people to believe that it’s necessary to have a storefront for a brand new business. This is rarely the case. 

Why Go Remote?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that remote work is both possible and effective. Like many other industries, real estate has quickly adapted to this new way of working. The change didn’t affect sales volumes, which stayed high through 2020

However, surviving the pandemic isn’t the only reason to start a virtual brokerage. Moving your brokerage online offers many benefits to your business—and you can easily overcome the disadvantages.

The Pros: 

It Broadens Your Geographical Scope

Having a physical office gives you a good presence in a local area. However, it will also be harder to broaden your client and property pool beyond this.

A virtual brokerage allows you to expand your geographical focus. For example, you can choose to sell properties across an entire county or state, giving you access to a far bigger market.

It’s Cost-effective

Moving your brokerage online can mean massive cost savings on renting and maintaining physical office space, which can cost thousands of dollars every month.

Not being restricted by a physical office space also means you can scale the business quickly and add agents without worrying about finding them a desk.

Pull Talent

A remote working environment offers your agents more free time by cutting out their commute and providing flexibility in terms of working hours and location. 

For example, remote working has allowed one of our clients to achieve their dream of moving to Hawaii. They run the company from there and only visit the mainland for work occasionally. 

These benefits can be a serious pull factor for working at your brokerage, and can help you attract and retain top talent.

Read our guide on recruiting real estate agents for more information on how to attract top-performing people.

Digital Migration

Digital-first is rapidly becoming the norm in a range of industries, and real estate is no exception. 

While digitising all your essential paperwork may seem like a hassle, most businesses will have to go through this process eventually. 

As your brokerage grows, it only becomes more difficult to move it online, so there’s no time like the present.

This will also give you a competitive edge. Working in the cloud is more efficient and allows you to use apps to improve your workflows. 

Working in the cloud also ensures that you are future-ready and well-positioned to capture new markets—for example, younger people who prefer to do their property business online.

The Cons, And How To Manage Them

No More Walk-Ins

Moving your brokerage online means you won’t get any clients walking into your office off the street. 

These clients would have walked in because they saw a picture of an appealing property in your window, or because they regularly pass your headquarters, and this familiarity makes you their first port of call when they want to buy or sell a property. 

The good news is that you can use online marketing tools to replicate these walk-ins. For example, you can buy online ads that showcase appealing properties you have available. The image below from AdEspresso shows how one company is advertising properties via a Facebook carousel.

People repeatedly seeing your ads online can help you generate the brand recognition that drives social media users to reach out to you for real estate services.

No Client Meeting Space

Another downside to running a remote brokerage is not having a professional space for meetings with clients. 

Pay-as-you-use office solutions, such as Fueled Collective are a good option, offering quality functional office space with a good internet connection and other necessities. 

These facilities are becoming more common and inexpensive worldwide and are likely to become the norm in the near future. 

Pay-as-you-use solutions are often more cost-effective than maintaining an entire physical office when not everyone wants to use them.

Work/Life Balance

Not everyone finds their home to be the ideal work environment.

For some people, home is too full of distractions and other responsibilities for them to fully focus on work. The pandemic has been particularly difficult for professionals with small children, many of whom are looking forward to returning to the office. Others struggle to maintain a healthy work/life balance when working from home. 

In short, some of your agents might not want to work from home. You can manage this issue by providing people with a membership to a pay-as-you-use office or co-working space.

What Do I Need to Go Remote?

Remote brokerages rely on having the right tech stack to keep them running smoothly. 

In the next section, we look at some of the tools that are particularly useful for starting a remote brokerage. 

For more information, read our complete guide to building a real estate tech stack. 

Work-From-Home Facilities

Remember to buy everything that you need to work at full capacity from home. 

This could include suitable home office hardware; for example, a high-quality webcam. We recommend the Logitech C920, as it offers 1080p HD image quality, a built-in microphone and adjustable settings—yet is still affordable.

You’ll also need a good smartphone, a high-spec laptop and business-appropriate security software. For the latter, we recommend Norton Antivirus for small businesses.

Get a website

A good website is fundamental for any brokerage; however, it becomes even more crucial when you go virtual.

Most real estate brokerages use their websites primarily to show their listings; however, most property searches take place on portals like Zillow these days. 

Your website should therefore focus on establishing your credibility, building your brand’s identity and ensuring that customers can easily contact you.

A good example of this is Megan Probst, a real estate agent in Florida. Her website is an excellent example of an agent using her website to build credibility, rather than selling properties.

On the homepage, she explains her experience, expertise, the market she serves and the unique services that she offers.

Megan also includes videos of herself interviewing local business owners, links to her social media channels and quotes from happy customers.

She also features guides to the different neighbourhoods, establishing herself as an authority on the local real estate market. 

Additionally, your website needs to carry out all the functions that an office normally would: easy access to agents, listing the latest properties on the market and facilities for arranging the transfer of anything from house keys to documentation.

For more information on how to build your online presence, visit our guide to writing a real estate business plan.

Get The Right Tools 

Getting the right tools is vital for maintaining the essential functions of your virtual brokerage. Here are some of the most important ones:


Compliance is vital in real estate. To avoid regulatory pitfalls, we recommend you use software from the get-go. 

The right compliance software will:

  • Allow for speedy review of documents
  • Create a transaction-specific record of activity
  • Efficiently regulate your compliance processes

Suggested options: Paperless Pipeline 


Getting good accounting software in place before your first sale will help you avoid stress and save you time when you prepare your tax return. It also gives you an overview of your company finances, allowing you to make informed decisions.

Suggested options: Xero or Quickbooks

Transaction Management

Keeping a digital record of every step in the real estate process is crucial for running a virtual brokerage. 

Systems like Paperless Pipeline are ideal for:     

  • Creating transaction checklists 
  • Managing deal timelines to ensure the process runs smoothly 
  • Reporting on transactional trends and summarising activity over time
  • Easy access, without leaving your office, to documents for perusal and processing
  • Linking to a variety of commonly used apps      

Suggested option: Paperless Pipeline

Commission Management

Once you’re employing other agents, you’ll need to invest in reliable commission management software. This will automatically calculate agent commission earned on sales and enable you to assign varying rates to your agents if necessary. Such software is also critical to the preparation of reports and strategic planning. 

Paperless Pipeline provides a commission management module, or you can try our free commission calculator tool and read our article on how to calculate commission.

Suggested option: Paperless Pipeline

Integration Tools

Well-established virtual brokerages tend to have multiple apps and software on the go at the same time. An integration tool can save you hours by getting all of them to work together and automating some of your core repetitive functions.

Zapier is one of the most well-known integration tools. One of the many integrations it offers is to automatically save client emails from Gmail into your CRM under their profile. This saves you from switching between the two programmes and searching for the email in your inbox.

Suggested option: Zapier 

Cloud storage

Investing in a remote server or cloud storage platform will allow you and all of your employees to access and work on the same documents from different locations at any time of day.

You’ll also need to set up a safe place to store what physical paperwork you still use, and your agents might need the same. Privacy is the top concern when storing documents at home, so you’ll need to invest in safes or lockable filing cabinets.

Suggested option: Microsoft 365 OneDrive


Once the leads start coming in, you’ll need a way to manage and organise your customer data, track your sales and plan and execute marketing campaigns. A CRM gives you access to the latest customer information all the time and allows you to automate common sales and marketing functions.

To begin with, free software like Hubspot may suffice, but once business picks up and you’re managing a significant pipeline, getting a CRM with advanced features.

However, bear in mind that switching data between platforms is complex and can be costly. We, therefore, recommend you begin using your preferred paid-for platform as soon as you can. 

Suggested option: Hubspot or Follow Up Boss 

Get Set Up For Virtual Tours

The pandemic has made virtual property tours a necessity. Despite the increase in clients being interested in viewing properties again, the expectation is that you can also opt-in for a virtual tour first. 

We recommend Matterport, a 3D technology company that creates virtual tours for you. They make it simple to upload the videos to your site, and you can even include measurements of the space.  

1 – Ensure that you have an Android or iOS device that is compatible with Matterport

2 – Buy a 3D camera. We recommend the Insta360 range

3 – Sign up for an account on Matterport

4 – At the property, switch on lights in any poorly lit areas and set your camera up on a tripod

5 – Take a scan of the property from each viewpoint you wish to feature—make sure that you are not in the shot!

5 – From each standpoint you scan, your camera will gradually build up a 3D image of the property.

6 – Upload your scans to Matterport Cloud for rendering—this usually takes a few hours.

7 – Once you have completed your 3D model of the property, you can then add ‘Mattertags’. These allow you to write notes on areas of interest in the property.  For example, you may want images of a car in the garage to help potential buyers understand its size.

For more detailed information, visit Matterport’s quick guide here.

How to Move Your Brokerage Online

Here are some tips for transforming your existing brick-and-mortar brokerage into a remote one. 

If you want to start a brokerage from the ground up, check out our article on How to Start a Real Estate Brokerage.

Reconsider Your Niche

Moving your brokerage online means you’re no longer limited by physical location, so you might want to take this opportunity to rethink your brokerage’s focus. 

For example, instead of focusing on a specific area, perhaps you’d like to switch your focus to a particular target market (e.g. young people who are more likely to look for property online) or type of property (e.g. houses built in a specific architectural style).

One of our customers, for example, specializes in selling farms and ranches in Oregon. All of it’s brokers have strong agricultural knowledge to back up their real estate activities. It divides its properties by use, including recreational, ranch, farm and commercial.

Another good example is this brokerage, which focuses on selling waterfront properties across Washington. It categorises its listings by different waterways instead of neighbourhoods.

Plan Your Transition

Take time well in advance to consult with all your agents and plan the logistics of how your brokerage will function when it goes remote. 

Each of your agents will need to decide where they will work if not in the office, and figure out what they will need to do so. You’ll also need to decide where to host meetings with clients, and your agents may need time to familiarise themselves with that space.

You’ll also need to plan your finances for the transition period carefully. Although going remote will cut your costs in the long run, instituting this change will incur extra expenses as you set up out-of-office work facilities for each of your agents and your business adjusts to its new target market. 

Set a Date

If you’re an established brokerage, then you’ll need to slowly transition to a virtual model, giving you time to get around any teething problems.

To avoid putting off administrative tasks, plan an exact date when your brokerage will go fully remote. Give your team time ahead of this date to adjust to new operating procedures and fix any problems with these while you still have a brick-and-mortar office to fall back on.

During this transition time, make sure your brokerage has everything it will need when it’s fully remote in terms of workspaces, hardware, and software. Test out these resources well before you’re solely reliant on them. 

Give each of your agents time to adjust to working fully remotely by planning a transition timeline with each of them. This will allow them to find and solve workflow problems before they’re entirely reliant on their remote working environment.

Consider A Franchise 

If you are starting out, you could choose to join a remote franchise. 

Remote franchises provide brokers with brand recognition and help them attract clients quicker.

Franchisees also benefit from advanced tools, including software for lead tracking, email marketing, deal management and commission calculating.

They can also provide you with everything you need to get your business started, from tools to guidance and training. This is quicker than figuring it all out yourself. 

eXp Realty, for example, sets up brokers and helps them with continued education, so they are always at the top of the real estate game. Its cloud-campus environment enables engagement and cooperative learning from anywhere in the world.

The downside of franchises is that they often require a higher upfront payment, and you will have to pay a franchise fee. 

This can be difficult for a small business with limited funds. According to this blog post from a franchisee, eXp Realty charges an initial £149 fee, an $85 monthly fee and a $65 fee per transaction.

You can read more about choosing a real estate franchise in our guide to starting a real estate brokerage.

Remote Doesn’t Mean Robotic

Remember that even though you and your agents will be doing most of their work digitally, you are still working with people. 

Make plans to compensate for lost in-person time between agents and clients and from coworker to coworker. 

Have video calls instead of phone calls and email conversations with clients when you can.

It’s also a good idea to schedule regular in-person activities for your staff, for teambuilding purposes and so that they can discuss and help each other with the challenges they face.


Fully remote businesses are becoming more and more common, and real estate brokerages are no exception.

Moving your real estate brokerage online can help you cut costs, broaden your target market and property offerings, pull top talent with the appeal of remote working, and get a digital edge over your competitors. 

Reaping the benefits of remote realty takes investment in remote working necessities—particularly software.