Laughing and cheering at the expense of others, whether those others are real estate professionals losing their jobs or celebrities embroiled in abusive situations, has no place in this industry, says Jay Thompson.

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Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018, but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His Inman column is published every Wednesday.

Within minutes of Compass and Redfin announcing layoffs, the commentary from agents rolled in.

From those choosing to display some empathy, you saw heartfelt messages offering condolences and help. That’s how it should be, isn’t it? We’re all in this thing together. After all, one of the things that separates the U.S. real estate industry from much of the world is our system of cooperation between agents and brokerages.    

Sadly, the dark and ugly side of human behavior soon reared its head. Comments like this proliferated across the social media space:

“Good. Maybe they’ll go away now.”

“Couldn’t happen to a ‘better’ company!”

“That’s what you get with a discount brokerage. Part-timers and poor service.”

“Real agents don’t get laid off. We can’t be because we’re independent contractors!”

One commenter on Inman’s Redfin article even blamed their attraction of low-income, uneducated consumers with poor credit for Redfin’s layoffs.

“Based on my experience, Redfin seems to attract a high percentage of low-income buyers looking for inexpensive properties. Most leads result in dealing with people that are uneducated in real estate and have limited income and poor credit.

“It is the same with sellers. Redfin doesn’t seem to attract sellers with desirable properties to sell.”

Adding the caveat, “Although I’m happy to work with these people, this is not the customer base that will make the best use of an agent’s time,” doesn’t make this comment OK and acceptable. It’s throwing an entire brokerage under the bus. A brokerage, by the way, that in 2021 did $52.5 billion in sales volume and 76,680 transaction sides — with a fraction of the agent count of the four brokerages listed above them.

So the fifth-largest brokerage by sales volume serves low-income buyers with poor credit and sellers with undesirable properties. Really? 

Pathetic commentary like this went on and on.

Basking in the glory of someone losing their job is hardly a professional response and is about as far from being a decent, empathetic human as one can get. Denigrating an entire brokerage quite likely violates the Realtor Code of Ethics.

But hey, why let ethics and empathy get in the way of a prime opportunity to bash another brokerage?

And what, exactly, is the point in these absurd comments? Does it make you feel better to see Redfin and Compass (and Zillow, and Realtor.com, and Side, and Better, and Homie, and REX and other companies agents love to hate) suffering a downturn and having to lay off staff and agents?

These snide comments do nothing to advance whatever your agenda is. They do nothing to help the industry you work in. They do nothing for your business, yourself or your clients. All they do is make you look like a bitter, petty, unprofessional fool.

We can be better. We have to be better. Newsflash: The economy is rapidly spinning into a recession. Inflation is out of control. Mortgage rates are climbing. No one in this industry is immune. Think about it.

The No. 1 and No. 5 brokerages in the country by sales volume just announced layoffs. Whine about their business models all you like, blame the clients they attract, but the economic impact isn’t limited to these companies. If they are feeling it, you and your brokerage or company can, too.   

Questionable recruiting

At the same time there was cheering of the layoffs, some brokers jumped on the recruiting bandwagon to snag people in tough situations. Both Redfin and Compass agents started getting cold calls to join other brokerages.

How do I know they were cold calls? Consider these two things:

  1. Neither company making these announcements published a list of those affected
  2. Compass’ layoffs do not include any agents

Why are you calling Compass agents with a bullshit line of, “I’m trying to help those that got laid off?”

Look, I get it. Recruiting is important. It’s one way to grow your business, even in a troublesome economy with the market in flux. But for Pete’s sake, display a little empathy. Show you care about the agent, not just your bottom line. 

This isn’t the first time

This nonsense happens every time there are layoffs announced. I wrote a similar piece as this in 2020 when eXp and Redfin announced furloughs and layoffs in the beginning stages of the pandemic.

Same insensitive commentary, same smarmy recruiting tactics.

This isn’t the first time and, sadly, there’s little reason to believe it won’t happen again when the next reduction in force is announced. And odds are pretty overwhelming in my opinion (and others‘) that there will be more announcements. 

Think before you speak

Stop. Just stop with giving standing ovations to your laid-off peers. Think your independent contractor status makes you immune from losing your job? Think again. I’d bet big money that somewhere in your IC agreement is language for ending that agreement.

We’ve been in an insane market the past couple of years, and like everything in real estate, market conditions and dynamics are cyclical — and that cycle is dipping.

Another thing I’d bet big money on is the majority of agents will make less income this year than they did last year, all while inflation is jacking up prices across the board. Look no further than all the images and memes being posted about inflated gasoline prices for evidence that your expenses are rising.

Speaking of memes, and saying foolish things, there’s been a Johnny Depp-based meme being repeated endlessly in the real estate space. It makes light of the Depp-Heard trial and verdicts while prompting the reader to call you for real estate services.

Seriously, we’re going to use some celebrities slugging it out in court, which was instigated from accusations of domestic violence, to promote and market ourselves? Domestic violence is not funny. Playing off of it isn’t funny. Or effective. It’s just gross. 

We’ve got to stop gloating about job loss and making light of things like domestic abuse. At a minimum, we should at least slow down and think about what we say and do. About how we present ourselves to the public. About how we treat people.

Laughing and cheering at the expense of others, whether those others are real estate professionals losing their jobs or celebrities embroiled in abusive situations, has no place in this industry.  

Please. Stop. 

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life, he writes, speaks and consults on all things real estate.

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