Your business is humming along nicely. Then, at the weekly office meeting your manager announces with tears in her eyes, "I’m sorry, but this office is being closed."
As real estate companies change hands and offices are consolidated or closed, an increasing number of agents are being forced to ask, "Where do I go next?"
Anyone who does real estate recruiting salivates at the thought of a management change in a local office or a parent company being acquired by a competitor. They know that this a prime time to successfully recruit agents. The agents know they will have to change their signs, change their websites, and change all their other marketing material.
If the agents are the slightest bit dissatisfied with their current situation, there’s a high probability they will go elsewhere.
Our coaching client who had this happen to her was faced with some difficult choices. First, she is extremely brand-loyal. Going to another company was virtually out of the question. This meant, however, that she had to drive 30 minutes to one office or 45 minutes to a different office. The only offices in her immediate area were those of competitors.
If you were in her position, how would you decide? Here are a few key points to consider.
1. The commute does matter
While wanting to stay with your brand, if this agent went into the office four days a week, she would add a minimum of 24 hours of driving to her business each month. If she wanted to meet her local clients at her office, they would have a minimum of an hour drive round trip. She could choose to work virtually, but would the benefits of being with the brand outweigh the loss of almost 300 hours a year spent commuting? That time would be much better spent doing lead generation or even just taking time for self-care.
2. A competing manager
In this agent’s case, the manager in the office nearest to her was also actively selling. The other manager was not an active agent. In most cases, it’s better that your manager is not a competitor. Like it or not, if you’re going after the same listing, there’s bound to be hard feelings for the person who doesn’t get the listing.
3. Personal connection
A real estate office, especially one that you are in almost daily, is akin to a family. If everyone gets along and they’re friendly, you have the opportunity to build a strong network of personal connections. If people are loners or not team players, there’s less opportunity to have a support network.
In this particular case, a top-producing agent who was the least liked person in the old office went to the office where the manager was a competing agent. As our coach told the client: "You attract who you are. If this manager attracted someone who was difficult and unpleasant, you can probably expect to find other people like him in her office."
4. Market dominance
An important fact that many agents don’t know about is that while buyers will work with an agent from almost any firm, when it comes time to sell, they normally choose one of the top three listing offices in their area. If you’re considering making a move, look at who has market share locally. Those offices with high market share numbers will have more listing leads as well as more demand for their services.
5. Competition in your preferred niche
If you have established specific niches for your business, avoid any office where another agent is a key player in your niche. In addition to your personal unique selling proposition, having a different brand proposition will make it easier for you to convert more leads.
6. Don’t just look at commission splits
Judging offices exclusively on their commission split can be a serious mistake. A better approach is to look at how much you will net with various commission models. For example, assume you are considering going to a small office that offers you a 90 percent split as opposed to going to a larger office that offers you a 70 percent split. The 90 percent office has little market share and requires you to pay for virtually everything.
In contrast, the 70 percent has a full-blown, automated marketing program that will save you time and money, a call center that distributes leads, and a strong online presence. In the long run, you will probably net more with the lower-commission office due to the additional services it provides.
7. Reputation matters
When you are changing brands and/or offices, it’s important to talk to your clients and sphere of influence about their perception of the company where you are considering moving. Pay special attention to any complaints. If you hear of problems from more than one source, it may be smart to consider a move elsewhere.
8. Old and tired, or cutting-edge?
What is the office culture? Has the office gone paperless? Are they using the latest technologies and online marketing tools? Do they have a transaction coordinator and/or online transaction management system? If you want to be with a firm that will be in business five years from now, look for an office and a brand that is constantly striving to innovate. Otherwise, there’s a chance the old tired firm won’t be around much longer.
Changing firms and/or offices can be a scary business. Choose carefully and it can be a huge win for you. Choose the wrong office and you will be looking for somewhere else to go in the very near future.