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The Real Estate Retirement Plan: How To Build A Business You Can Sell

You can retire happily and profitably from real estate—but only if you start preparing now. The key is to build a valuable business that you can eventually sell. You also need a solid plan for how you will go about transitioning your book of business.

This blog post pulls key findings from an Inman Select Special Report: How Real Estate Agents Can Live Happily Ever After In Retirement. The report took a close look at how agents are valuing their businesses and creating succession plans.

Whether your retirement is still decades away or right on the horizon, start learning now how you can make a graceful, profitable exit from the industry.

You can retire from real estate happily and profitably

Real Estate Retirement Options

There’s no one-size-fits-all retirement plan, so you’ll need to consider your options.

  • Sell your entire business. If you’re an individual agent, that would mean selling your database of clients, processes, workflows, templates, etc. If you’re a broker, you would sell your entire company. Inman reported that 11.83% of respondents plan to sell their business whole.
  • Keep your database active and sell referrals. This is the plan for 34.82% of agents, according to Inman.
  • Just quit, and don’t sell anything. Some agents plan to live off of savings, real estate investments, 401(k) plans, Social Security, a spouse’s retirement plan, etc. But even if you have a nice and cushy IRA, it’d be a shame to waste what could be another huge chunk of money.

How To Build A Valuable Business...That You Can Sell

Create systems and processes, and document them in your CRM.

Every aspect of your business—from your hiring process to your marketing plan to your past client followup—should be clearly defined and documented.

We believe the best platform for documenting your processes and systems is Realvolve. More than just a CRM, Realvolve has a unique feature called Workflows that allows agents to map out and automate their processes.

When your entire business is memorialized in a platform like Realvolve, you can easily pass the torch to whoever ends up taking over your business.

Maintain records of your cash flow and profit history.

Prospective new owners of your business don’t care about how many transactions you close in a year. What they care about is the long-term profitability of your business.

Chuck Boles, president of The Chuck & Buddy College of Business Knowledge, urges real estate agents to perform an annual valuation—“a rolling five-year historical average of their business growth patterns and values in key areas of their practice.” (There’s a great article by The Balance Small Business that explains how a business valuation works.)

Boles also suggests assigning a value to each of your clients. Inman provides this example: “For instance, an A+ client is someone who has bought a home with you twice and referred you twice, so is worth, say, $1000, while an A client is one who has done one transaction and one referral, worth $750.”

Build a database full of valuable client intelligence.

Throughout your career, you should maintain an evolving record of ALL of your contacts, listings, and transactions. If your database is full of years-long communication records, notes on clients’ personal lives, and milestone dates (60th birthday, 25th wedding anniversary, etc.), you have something of value that can be sold—something way better than a list of names purchased online.

Of course, clients don’t want to be sold. To do this retirement thing right, you need to slowly transition your clients into the care of your replacement. You might choose to partner with a junior agent for several years prior to your retirement, giving you time to mentor them on your processes and introduce them to your clients. Whomever you choose as your replacement, make sure they fit with your current business culture. If they are compatible with you and the way you do business, they will likely be a good fit for your clients and employees, too.

Technology plays an important role in retirement prep

To sell your business, you need to be able to package it up and say, “This is everything you need. Here are my processes, nicely laid out in my CRM, with templates and automation and instructions on what to do. Here is a record of my profits for the last 20 years, and a valuation of my book of business. Here is my database of clients, and everything you ever wanted to know about these people and my interactions with them.”

It’s not just a matter of building a successful business (although that’s the most important part). You also need to invest in technology that will allow you to make your business salable.

Find the perfect tech stack for your business. It might be a blend of CRM, Google Sheets, and an IDX website. It might be an all-in-one platform. Just make sure you start working on this sooner rather than later. One day, when you’re retired and sitting on a beach on a Thursday afternoon, you’ll thank yourself.

If you’d like to start your technology search by learning more about Realvolve, give us a shout!


Sammy Harper

Sammy Harper is a regular contributor to the Realvolve blog. In addition to a decade of digital marketing experience, she's spent the last five years immersed in the world of real estate and CRM. Fascinated by the real estate industry and inspired by agents’ stories, she vows to provide only the most valuable of content to help agents thrive.


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