Erica Ramus is an indie broker and a tech geek in Pennsylvania. Her regular monthly column publishes on Thursdays and covers and array of topics including recruiting, independent brokerage, technology and social issues.
Sometimes agents leave a firm in an explosive meltdown that surprises everyone. A straw broke the camel’s back and the agent picks up and walks out in an angry huff. It happens, shocking the broker or manager and everyone in the office.
But more often than not the opposite happens: An agent is unhappy for various reasons, starts looking around for another broker to join and carefully plans his or her exit.
Here are seven signs one of your agents might be preparing to leave.
1. Decreased productivity
If a regularly producing agent suddenly has fewer new listings flowing in or buyer sales on the books, what is going on? Are they going through a temporary slump, or are they stalling for time?
Agents planning an exit might push off new listings to sign them under the new firm. They might be writing up buyer deals under the new broker’s license (yes that is illegal and unethical, but that’s fodder for another column).
If an agent who normally has a solid pipeline suddenly starts to peter out, you might want to take a closer look at their files and have a check-in conversation.
They might simply need a nudge or some coaching, or they might be on their way out the door.
2. Listings disappear
Along those same lines, pay attention when one agent has listings that are being withdrawn or taken off the market: The seller suddenly decided not to sell; they changed their mind and don’t want to move; they are considering going in a different direction. Listings belong to the broker, not the agent.
In some offices (and MLSs), only the broker can withdraw a listing or allow it to be terminated while in others the brokers might give agents this power. If someone normally takes six- to 12-month listings starts taking 30- or 60-day listings, this is a huge red flag. If you see a pattern appearing with one agent, what is going on?
3. Loss of focus
Are leads not being followed up on promptly? Are buyer deals suddenly falling through at a higher rate than normal? Frequently an agent with one foot out the door is distracted and loses focus.
They are busy getting new headshots done and business cards ordered. They might be training on the new broker’s systems in advance of the change and might be informing their clients and close circle that they are changing companies.
All of this secrecy zaps their time and energy, and things start to fall through the cracks.
4. Cool attitude
An agent who is leaving starts to distance themselves from the group. They skip meetings and might stop answering the phone when a colleague or manager calls. They don’t want the office to know they are leaving yet, but they don’t want to engage with anyone either.
Social functions, office meetings and trainings become painful to attend, so they start backing out of the group. They don’t want to be a part of your culture anymore so they avoid coming in.
5. Negative attitude
As they progress through the steps of thinking about leaving to planning to leave, a negative attitude can build up.
This negativity might be expressed not only to the broker but also to staff, other agents and to clients. Frequently colleagues notice something strange is going on with the agent and might notify the broker that something is up, if the broker hasn’t witnessed it already.
This is especially telling if someone who is normally a positive person and a team player suddenly turns into the negative Nelly of the group.
6. Questions authority
An agent who no longer cares about what the broker or manager thinks may become combative in the end.
They are reading their independent contractor agreement (maybe for the first time) and trying to figure out the best way to leave without losing any commissions that they feel are due to them. They might realize the broker may not release the listings to take with them, and they might take offense to that.
They are calculating how many closings they have on the books and trying to plan the exit with those closing dates. If they disagree with how they are paid after leaving the office, now is the time these questions come to the surface.
Agents don’t tend to disagree with the policy and procedures — until a break up appears on the horizon. Suddenly those policies they thought were standard operating procedure and fair might not look the same upon leaving.
7. Office disputes or issues
Finally, an agent who has an open dispute with a broker, manager or another colleague is easy pickings for another broker to recruit. If an agent feels cheated over a commission or slighted in any way (leads given out, advertising or marketing provided to another agent, etc.) this source of pain is the way another broker can pull away one of your agents.
If an agent is vocal about their gripe, pay attention. You might not be willing or able to fix it, but this is another sign they may be leaving soon. If they are grumbling in your office, they may be grumbling at closings or in conversations with other agents. Address the problem, and if it’s not fixable (or justifiable), accept the fact the agent maybe would be better off at another brokerage.
Agents might rarely pick up and leave at the drop of a hat, but the exit can be swift. The pressure and unhappiness builds for some time. Then something happens that sets them off, and they use that as the excuse to walk out the door. If you pay attention to these warning signs, hopefully you can head off future problems.
If not, wish them the best, and show them the door. Sometimes an agent leaving can be the breath of fresh air an office needs — especially if the agent was a prima donna or drama queen who sucked up more than her fair share of oxygen in the room.
An agent leaving (especially a high producing one) can feel like a punch in the gut. But other times, it’s just what your team needs to pull together and become even better. Sometimes things work out for the best.
Thank you, next!