Joining a family-owned real estate agency can be a bit tricky. For starters, the owners all know each other intimately: their strengths, their weaknesses, even their quirks. On the other hand, successful family-owned firms may offer a nurturing environment and could be a great place to work. Here are a few tips for agents thinking about going into a family business or joining one as a non-family member.

Andrew Zuckerman

Observe the family’s interactions to determine if working with the family is a fit, according to Andrew Zuckerman, president of The Zuckerman Group, a four-generation firm. As a family member, for example, if you’re determined to make a difference, but your family members running the business are stuck in their ways and manage the business like a dictatorship, the business probably isn’t for you.

• Look for a family-owned and operated real estate firm that has clear definitions of the roles each family member plays. Also, look for one where all members involved in the firm seem to make a fair contribution to the effort. When lines are blurred about family members’ roles and how much they contribute, fighting often starts, according to Tom Searcy, CEO and founder of Hunt Big Sales.

Tom Searcy

Beware of family favoritism. Ask and observe how leads or new prospects are awarded to agents. “If it’s a family business and there isn’t a clear definition of how this is awarded, I would be very concerned,” Searcy said. “There is more potential than they would favor a family member, and you would get less attractive leads and prospects.”

Ask whether there is separate compensation for ownership than for sales. According to Searcy, if there are two commission plans — one for the family members and one for other agents — that’s going to be a real problem. “There should be a dividend plan that pays the owners that does not impact the compensation plan,” he said.

 Read about The Zuckerman Group’s secrets to longevity in an upcoming article.