Brokerage

50 ways to leave your brokerage

Broker Notebook

Let’s face it: Changing real estate companies is pretty common for real estate agents.

Most of us are independent contractors, which is different than being an employee. Independence is one advantage of being an independent contractor.

But leaving a brokerage because “business is bad” and going to another makes no sense at all. Each of us makes our own business, and our own rain.

Real estate companies can be a source of leads, but leads are not clients. If there’s a dry spell, moving to another broker isn’t going to make it rain. It could even make a drought worse.

Some brokers like to advertise that they have a fun and exciting workplace. I think agents are making a big mistake if they rely on someone else to make their work lives fun and exciting.

I would also have some concerns about working with a bunch of agents who spend their time in the office. Being a real estate agent isn’t a desk job. Our work environment generally consists of the inside of our car.

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I have moved a few times myself. I started with a huge big-box real estate company and stayed there for four years. I got a lot of training and great experience.

If there's a dry spell, moving to another broker isn’t going to make it rain. It could even make a drought worse."

I don’t regret leaving, but the move hurt me financially. Like an idiot, I built my business on the company’s domain name, email address, phone number and marketing collateral. Changing companies was almost like starting over.

Some real estate companies require their agents to use the company email and phone number. I would never agree to such an arrangement. There isn’t any law that says email has to be come from a domain name owned by a real estate company in order to be compliant with Department of Commerce rules. Having a title and the real state company name and address on the bottom of each email should suffice.

There are numerous advantages to using a personal cellphone for business, rather than an office phone provided by a real estate company.

The second time I moved, it all went smoothly. I simply changed the logos on my websites. I kept the same phone number and email address.

I changed my physical address, but there wasn’t a desk to clean out or an office to leave.

My phone never stopped ringing. The actual change of company happened while I was showing houses to a new client. I notified my former broker with a phone call — after I was gone.

Opportunities can arise unexpectedly and an independent contractor should be able to move with the greatest of ease to take advantage of them. Otherwise what is the point of being independent?

To some brokers, this attitude seems disloyal. At times it seems as though that brokers want all the advantages of having employees, without any of the expense or rules.

When we do leave a real estate company, we always need to do so carefully. In most cases, giving notice isn’t a good idea, but in every case the independent contractor agreement should be read carefully before moving on.

We never want to take anything that doesn’t belong to us when we leave, and we don’t want to leave anything behind.

On my first move, I lost $1,000 in commissions I was owed because agents who left the firm were subject to a less favorable commission split. If I had waited just one more week before leaving, I would have taken that money with me.

The second company I left took a year’s worth of errors and omissions insurance out of my checking account a week before I quit. They also used a credit card number that I gave them to take care of my monthly expenses.

I was able to get most of the money back, but only after threatening to take the LLC that owned the real estate company to small claims court.

The first time I moved, I sold all of my listings before the move. The second time I moved, my clients relisted with me under my new broker.

All listings belong to the broker, and we are not allowed to ask our clients to cancel their contracts. We simply notify them that we are moving and give them some options.

Brokers should not take it personally that their agents just kind of leave in the middle of the night, or send an email after they’re gone. Usually giving a formal notice isn’t in either party’s best interest.

Agents need to understand that locking an office or having security escort a former employee to the door is a common practice in the corporate world, and should not take it personally if that happens when they give notice.

I can’t think of any reason to keep your real estate license at a company you don’t like.

I’ve heard a lot of reasons that sound like excuses from unhappy agents who don’t move on. Some believe they will fail at another brokerage. But if they looked around, they would see that every real estate company has some successful agents.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.