Real estate agents switch offices — that’s a fact. If you’ve got agents working for you, you know that some will leave the business completely, and the ones who make it may leave you for another firm.

  • Never burn bridges because agents sometimes return to the fold, and take necessary steps to protect the office and your reputation.

Real estate agents switch offices — that’s a fact. If you’ve got agents working for you, you know that some will leave the business completely, and the ones who make it may leave you for another firm.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Member Profile, nearly 90 percent of Realtors are independent contractors. It’s pretty easy for a salesperson to pick up his or her license and move to another office.

Agents may be unhappy with their current brokerage for a number of reasons, or they may be lured away by perks or promises of a better pay scale.

Regardless of the cause, there are steps real estate brokers need to take when an agent splits to protect their brokerage and reputation.

Realize it’s business, not personal

Recognize that an agent leaving your firm is not personal, and it’s not the end of the world. Even if the agent is a top producer at your firm, you will regroup and survive.

“It’s a business decision, not a personal affront to your or your model,” said Lisa Heindel, broker at Crescent City Living in New Orleans.

“Don’t hold their listings hostage, don’t try to cut them out of commissions they’ve already earned. In short, be the person you would want your broker to be when leaving a company.”

Ken Brand has been the sales manager at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene in The Woodlands, Texas, for 22 years.

“I’ve learned that people’s circumstances, expectations and aspirations are sure to change over time,” he said.

“This means it’s inevitable that people you like, trust and appreciate will decide to move in new directions. When it happens I always try to understand the core motivation for the decision. If it’s something I can fix, I do. If I can’t, I sincerely wish them well.”

Sometimes, it’s a good thing

One broker, who wished to not be identified, said that losing his top producer was the best thing that happened to the office.

“The agent who left was a drama queen, and I was not aware that the other agents were avoiding her and resented how she treated them,” he said.

“She was constantly asking for more and more perks — and threatening to leave if she didn’t get her way. After she left, it felt like the whole office lightened up and breathed a sigh of relief. What I originally felt was a disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”

Don’t burn bridges

The parting agent may realize he or she has made a mistake and change his or her mind, and you may want to welcome that agent back into the fold later.

“If it is someone I’m sad to see go, then I tell them the door is always open, and I hope they come back,” Mark J. Seiden, broker/owner at Mark Seiden Real Estate Team in Briarcliff Manor, New York, said.

Sometimes the grass turns out not to be greener. Some brokers make promises they cannot keep, or the agent may find the office environment not to be the fit they thought it would be.

“Over the years, I’ve had many of those who left, return to the team when their aspirations, circumstances and expectations turn back in my favor. I never burn bridges, get angry, petty, vindictive, critical, pushy or apathetic,” Brand said.

Protect yourself

After wishing the agent well, be sure to take the next steps to protect the office, files and your reputation.

1. Be open and honest with the rest of the office, both agents and staff.

2. Don’t bad mouth or gossip about the departing agent, but give them a short, straight story. Judy Moriarty, broker and branch manager at Weidel Real Estate in Hamilton, New Jersey, advises “Downplay the departure and circle your wagons around your remaining agents. My standard answer when asked about an agent’s departure is that they made a business decision to go elsewhere.”

3. Ask the rest of the team for help, and you may be pleasantly surprised how they rally around to close ranks and protect the office.

4. Create a checklist of exact steps to take when an agent announces his or her departure.

5. Be sure to address how to handle passwords and alarm codes, and change the locks if necessary.

6. Terminate the agent’s access to company email, online platforms and files.

7. Remove the agent from the phone system, and update the company website.

8. Have a policy for addressing what happens to an agent’s listings and active buyer clients. In your office manual, you should have a policy addressing what happens to the agent’s listings and active buyer clients. Most states dictate that the broker owns the client, not the agent.

  • Will you allow a seller client to terminate the listing contract and move to the agent’s new firm?
  • What happens with pending files?
  • Will you allow the agent to physically close the transaction for any client in process, or will the broker designate an agent to take over the file?

9. Make sure there’s a policy in place for paying agents who leave mid-stream. Finally, it should be in the policy and procedures manual how you handle paying an agent who leaves the firm with pending files mid-stream.

  • Will you pay that agent less than the agreed upon split if another agent in the office must step up to the plate to close the deal?

What can you do differently next time?

Agents who announce they are leaving already have their mind set.

“Generally if they walk in saying they are leaving, they have been thinking about it for a while,” said Laurie Weston Davis, broker-owner at Better Homes and Gardens Lifestyle Property Partners in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

“I ask how we could have served them better. I really don’t try to convince people to stay. If they aren’t happy, it’s not going to work long term,” she said. 

Use the exit interview to learn why the agent is leaving, and what you could have done differently.

Charleston, South Carolina Re/Max broker Jason Peé advises that you treat your departing agents like clients.

Unfortunately, once an agent has made up his or her mind to leave, there is generally no stopping them. Learn from this mistake, Peé said. Agents want to feel like you care about them — and their business.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Email Erica Ramus

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