Choosing the Right Investment Sales Broker: Generalists vs. Specialists

This post is the fifth in a five-part series that examines best practices for hiring an investment sales broker.

Think of your investment sales broker as your business partner. This person is part of defining the strategy, structuring the transaction and planning for what’s next, be it capital improvements, revamping property management or identifying the next investment property to buy or sell. Choosing the right partner is key and part of identifying that partner is answering the question: Do you want to work with a specialist or a generalist?

There are generalists and specialists in every industry and investment real estate is no exception. There are firms that cover broad geographic areas and dabble in nearly every asset type, and there are firms that focus on a more specific asset type, class, and location with market share in their chosen field. In turn, the level of expertise and depth of local market insights vary widely among the two groups.

The following is an overview of what you can expect from a generalist vs. a specialist.

Brokers who are generalists:

  • often have backgrounds in residential real estate and purport to have broad networks of first time buyers;
  • are often helpful in sourcing buyers for smaller properties such as 2-4 unit multifamily assets;
  • may be familiar with a broad range of investment opportunities but unable to add value to an experienced investor; and,
  • represent buyers more often than sellers across multiple asset classes.


While a generalist has broad exposure to multiple asset classes and markets, they often lack the deeper level of market-specific knowledge that one can benefit from when working with a specialist.


  • focus on specific asset types, classes, and locations for stated strategic reasons;
  • have market share and experience working in (a) specific geographic market(s);
  • provide leadership in structuring transactions for investors;
  • are well-versed in market trends in the areas they serve and can articulate a fact-based perspective for the client’s benefit; and,
  • have cultivated a network of relationships specific to the markets they serve and asset types they work in.


Because specialists have a more narrow focus, they have deeper experience structuring deals in specific markets and asset classes. Similarly, they are often more familiar with common investor scenarios in a given market. For example, a Connecticut broker who regularly works with New York investors who are seeking to reinvest proceeds in a new market or a Boston broker consistently helping investors who are priced out of the downtown market find investment opportunities in surrounding suburban communities.

For investors who are seeking a broker who can identify potential investment properties and structure sales of existing assets to achieve specific goals, working with a specialist is often the best approach. As an investor, you gain access to deeper market insights and build a relationship with someone who has a real-time pulse on the market(s) in which you are transacting.

The right broker will not only quarterback the buying and selling process, but should be able to contribute analysis and strategy throughout the ownership cycle. It is important to engage a broker who is focused on building a long-term relationship and has the local market expertise necessary to help execute an effective real estate investing strategy.

Are you looking for a new investment sales broker and unsure which questions to ask? Download our whitepaper on choosing the right investment sales broker for helpful tips and key questions to ask during the screening process.