O'Conor sets guaranteed income offer Agents will have to meet strict qualifying standards; Cost could top $250,000; Firm calls program only one of its kind in the country


In an effort to attract higher quality candidates and to help ease new agents into the real estate business, O'Conor, Piper and Flynn will begin next month a program which the company calls the only one of its kind in the nation.

Introducing the Guaranteed Income Program. A check of $1,500, perhaps even $1,800, every month for a year. No waiting for that commission check. Less worrying about making ends meet at home. OPF believes it has come up with a program that will allow specially selected new agents who follow a rigid program a fighting chance to get their business up and running.

"What we're aiming for is a younger person who is starting out in a career that needs help to get going, not the person who's been in an office for a number of years and who just hasn't cut it," said James P. O'Conor, chairman of the company. "We really want to get the person and mold them to the business and have them committed to the business. And this shows our faith in them."

All new agents at OPF go into the company's Fast Start program, which is devised to help them to set up their business. But because agents are independent contractors, there is very little the company can demand or require them to do. It is, for all practical purposes, that person's own business to manage.

And many times, as soon as an enthusiastic new agent would come into an office, he or she would fade.

"People come in with real high expectations, and all of a sudden they realize how much work there is to do and how long it takes to get a check, and they have to put food on the table and make mortgage payments and car payments," said Jean Quattlebaum, OPF's career counselor. "It's very difficult to attract somebody away from their current job and say, 'Come and do this.' "

So, Quattlebaum said, OPF sought a way to attract quality people to the company.

First, OPF considered a "scholarship" program that would have given new agents approximately $1,500 to cover start-up fees. But the projected cost of that program eliminated it from consideration. Finally, after months of research, OPF came up with the Guaranteed Income Program.

To qualify for the program, a candidate must:

First interview with OPF's career counselor and two sales office managers.

Be eligible to hold a Maryland or Pennsylvania real estate license.

Be sponsored by an OPF sales office manager.

Not have had an active license within the last two years.

Have an office manager and regional manager's recommendation if the person has already affiliated with OPF or any other real estate broker for 30 days or less.

Agree to be a full-time agent and derive her primary income from real estate sales.

Then, if all those requirements are met, OPF will have the candidate sign an agreement that specifies the agent's responsibilities and grants her access to the program. In turn, OPF will:

Advance the agent all the money needed to start her business, which includes local board as well as multiple-listing access fees. That advance, however, must be paid back within six months.

After graduation from OPF's Fast Start program, the company will issue a check for $1,500.

But to continue to get checks, the new agent must have two transactions (either a listing or a sale) within the first 30 days.

If the agent doesn't have two transactions, in the next 30-day period the check is cut back to $1,200, and the agent must have four transactions. If not, she is expelled from the program.

If that happens, the agent remains with OPF, but has to rely strictly on commissions. However, OPF will not require the agent to pay back the company.

On the other hand, if an agent maintains at least those two transactions per month, the $1,500 will be considered as an advance against future commissions, and OPF will reimburse itself. If the agent does more than two, the amount is raised to $1,800.

The company also will require the new agent, who will have a mandatory mentor, to do a number of specified activities relating to obtaining listings, marketing and selling property.

"This is giving them direction and a discipline that they wouldn't have otherwise because they are contracting to do things a certain way with us," O'Conor said. "And if they do it they will be a success."

And Jenna Porter Tucker, vice president and director of marketing, added that the agents "will be watched. They are going to be looked at. This is such a tight program to make it stay on track every day.

"In real estate, we don't normally give them money for anything until after the fact. It's a very different type of philosophy that we have put in."

O'Conor says the cost of the program could exceed $250,000, but "we bit the bullet and said this was worth it to do. Now, hopefully, we have made the right decision, and I'm sure we have."

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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