Like the vast majority of agents, real estate wasn’t Mark Raumaker’s first career path.
Before he led a team of 24 agents in five cities with eXp Realty, he and his wife Sarah spent their time performing with Broadway tours and at Walt Disney World. But when the couple had their first of four kids, they were ready for more stability.
Today, Mark and Sarah have brought together their powerful presence and charisma to build a truly formidable real estate brand.
The Orlando Home Squad team closed $94 million in homes last year. And the key to their success has been their carefully crafted brand and super strong team.
As union performers at Disney, Mark and Sarah’s full-time work schedules meant they were actively performing for 20 hours each week. This gave them the ability to take steps to move into a field they’d long daydreamed about.
That’s right, real estate. They each spent their free time getting their real estate licenses, and even joined a Keller Williams expansion team together.
While still employed full-time with Disney, Mark sold over 50 homes. And Sarah? She sold 27 homes (plus, gave birth to their first child!).
“It blew up. We were using sphere, I was doing FSBOs, I was doing some old school, some new school. At that point, I felt like I had a good hold of what my business was, even though I was still fairly new. I wanted to figure out how I fit into this real estate world.”
With the momentum building, Mark and Sarah changed brokerages to eXp Realty. From there, Mark drew inspiration from his experience auditioning to start building a real estate brand.
Casting directors want to see what makes a performer special — actors have to both fit the role requirements and stand out. He knew real estate was the same.
When a client started to refer to him as a “negotiation ninja,” the nickname became his first brand: The Real Estate Ninja.
Mark commissioned an artist to illustrate a cartoon character of himself and Sarah. She became the transaction coordinator — and her five-foot stature inspired her cartoon avatar, “The Tiny Closer.”
Those first steps really set them apart, Mark recalls. “People remembered us, it was good for social media, it was a good conversation starter,” he says.
The branding fun continued when Rob joined the team and picked his own character, the A-Lister, standing on the red carpet and offering “five-star service.”
By now, Mark’s wheels were really turning. He brainstormed, what if our team keeps growing and we became “the Avengers of Real Estate?” He loved the idea that each hero does their own individual saving-of-the-day, then comes together under a bigger name to collaborate as a team.
Branding efforts were an important early investment for the Home Squad. Commissioning artwork like they did for each team member wasn’t cheap. But Mark knows that the importance of your brand goes well beyond a fun illustration.
“It’s your reputation. What do you want people to see you as? The more people trust you and like you, the more they’re going to use you. We kind of mesh that fun and lighthearted piece with ‘I’m a serious businessman’ too.”
“Yes, it’s a cartoon, but at the same time, I know how to sell a house and my agents know how to sell a house at a high level. We know how to negotiate, we know the contract. But the brand just keeps it more relationship-based than simply, ‘we’ll be your real estate agent’,” he explains.
In 2019, the Home Squad was made up of Mark, Sarah, their friend Rob, an additional agent, Jonathan Speagle, and one agent in Louisville, Jennifer O’Brien. They had a simple model to add agents as needed, but they weren’t actively focused on growth.
When 2020 hit, Mark and his team saw a spike in interest, as individuals looking for a career change due to layoffs and other disruptions sought out a career in real estate.
So Home Squad started to invest back into the team. And that’s when everything changed.
Between 2020 and 2021, the team tripled in size from five to 15 agents in just one year. Their sales nearly tripled too. The Home Squad had increased from 70 sales in 2019 to 85 in 2020, but in 2021, they sold 238 homes.
“It’s been crazy,” laughs Mark.
Prior to 2020, the process of building a real estate team seemed like more stress than Mark and Sarah were willing to take on.
But when their success grew, others quickly took notice.
“We realized we could help people to help people. We have enough knowledge that if we build the systems and we put the right people around us, we can do it.”
For Mark and Sarah, the key has been hiring the right people and creating a culture that empowers agents to build their own businesses.
Mark breaks it down to four fundamentals that help him run a truly self-sufficient team:
One of the keys to success for the Home Squad is striking a balance between providing structure and hiring agents who are self-starters.
For Mark, it’s like the show director who doesn’t tell the actors exactly where to go. “They just direct you. The talent is what comes up and what you figure out on your own.”
He provides tactical wisdom when needed, but he also wants agents to arrive at the answers themselves.
Home Squad uses Trainual to provide a variety of training resources to team members, including a branded playbook with chapters for each training topic like, “Homebuyer Transactions” or “How to write a contract.”
They even embed video walkthroughs and gifs throughout the documentation using their signature branded avatars.
The training is self-guided and evergreen, so agents have access to the information whenever they need it.
But Mark’s goal isn’t to train agents from the ground up, only to watch them leave after a year or two. He wants agents who are willing to stay longer, because they have the skills to build their own business under the Home Squad brand.
As you might imagine, the first several agents on the Home Squad team moved into real estate from an arts-based profession. These individuals came into their new path with a natural stage presence and expressiveness that doesn’t come easily to everyone.
“Now, we’ve grown bigger and there are people who have never performed at all,” Mark points out.
Activities like making videos for marketing or customer communications might be second-nature for agents with a background in acting, but for others, it can be challenging.
The good news is, Mark and his fellow actors can train these skills to their uninitiated team members, passing along their experiences for greater results at the team level.
Much of Home Squad’s early growth happened organically.
Along the journey to help people help other people through Home Squad, Mark and Sarah knew that having a team model that empowers leaders to grow their own teams would be key. They implemented an attraction and recruitment tool into their existing system to encourage exactly that.
“If an agent brings somebody onto a team, they get a referral fee for every time that person closes something,” Mark explains. This encourages everyone to be part of building their team.
As an added benefit, this also means passive income opportunities for agents, incentivizing them to be a part of attracting high-performing agents over and over again. “We have some agents making, you know, $10,000 extra a year just from having an agent on the team that has nothing to do with their business,” Mark says.
With all of Home Squad’s growth, you might think managing all of their leads would be quite the challenge.
But Mark and his team have a clear system for that too.
“With tracking lead generation, we’re not the typical group,” Mark says. He uses Follow Up Boss to take a bird’s eye view of lead generation across the team. And because he’s spending money on leads, he wants to make sure his team is calling them.
But he’s also not checking up on agents to ask, how many people did you call?
The right Home Squad team members see themselves as entrepreneurs running their own business, he points out. “If you can't succeed in our world by yourself, you probably need to go to a team that tells you how many calls you're going to make.”
One of the ways Home Squad strikes the right balance is through a first-to-claim lead routing system. “We call it jump ball,” he says with a chuckle.
If an agent claims a lead and doesn’t call within the first 24 hours, the lead goes back up for grabs. This allows agents to take charge of their workload, while incorporating hands-off accountability that keeps Mark from having to micromanage follow-up.
With these systems in place, what do Mark’s days look like?
Even though Mark is in production less than he was last year, he still spends time in the business every day. He jokes about stopping for just a day — but even though his days aren’t rigidly scheduled, he still picks up the phone any time an agent or client calls him.
“I don’t know a day that I didn’t do real estate,” he says.
Looking back, one of the major lessons Mark learned is to invest back into his business.
Mark learned this one the hard way after attempting to edit his own YouTube videos. “Why did I spend two days trying to edit one graphic that came up and said ‘Mark Raumaker’? What a waste of time!”
Mark is still learning to take things off his plate, even if he feels like he could do them himself.
But the way he sees it, outsourcing isn’t limited to hiring out tasks. It often looks like delegating repeatable tasks to systems like Follow Up Boss.
Mark loves how Smart Lists make the agent’s job extra clear: creating a prospect’s stage or timeline. From there, Follow Up Boss puts leads into a cycle to automatically remind agents when to reach out again.
Even in a turbulent market, Mark’s goal is what it’s always been: to do better this year than last year.
He hopes to hit 300 homes total and is confident that the team is on track to meet that.
The Home Squad has come a long way from a team of three former actors who didn’t plan on growing. Now, Mark aspires to be one of the biggest eXp teams in the US. “I do believe we could be — at least within our brokerage — one of the bigger teams. Maybe even bigger than that.”
And with a standout brand that allows leaders to thrive on their own terms, we think Mark and the Home Squad will have no problem reaching that goal.