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How to change real estate brokerages without burning bridges

According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2021, the median tenure of an agent with their current firm was five years.

As a real estate agent, in most cases you’re an independent contractor, and you have an agreement with your brokerage that is reciprocal in both benefits and responsibilities. Of course, most of the time, that agreement may be be easily terminated by either party. Are you considering changing real estate brokerages?

With so many different business models, career paths, compensation structures and brokerage-provided tech stacks, marketing offerings, training and support structures and, frankly, personalities in our business vertical, it’s likely that you’ll work for more than one brokerage during your tenure as a real estate professional. 

So, how do you make a smooth, peaceful, and — dare I even say — mutually beneficial exit from one agency to hang your license with a competitor? It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible.

First and foremost, communication is everything

Depending on your relationship with your current leadership, you may let them know that you’re changing real estate brokerages via whatever internal communications platform your company uses, over the phone, or even just by email, but it’s really important to communicate why you have decided to make a move. 

This typically falls under two umbrellas:

1. You’re not getting what you need from your current brokerage, so you looked around and found one that you think will better serve your career goals.

2. You’ve been happy with everything, but you’ve gotten recruited with an attractive-sounding offer. 

Either way, it’s polite and professional to communicate this to your broker. It’s valuable information for their business, and even if it’s hard to hear, constructive criticism or intel about what their competitors are offering is super helpful. Consider this your parting gift, and an act of gratitude for what the people at your brokerage did help you with or do for you. 

Spread the news with grace and humility.

No matter where you’ve been working, and regardless of where you’re landing next, think about how you want to come across when announcing your move on social platforms. If it’s appropriate, a spirit of gratefulness for the past as well as excitement about the future is a nice balance to strike.

“As much as I have enjoyed and appreciated working with the team at ABC Realty, and will really miss my colleagues there, I am excited to announce that I will now be selling property for DEF Real Estate!”

If there were specific mentors, managers, staff members or company owners who taught, supported and kept you out of trouble along the way, it might be nice to mention them with a special thank you as well. 

Don’t leave behind a mess

If you’re transferring your license in the middle of any transactions, make sure that your files are as clean and organized as possible, and that you are communicating with the staff. Be sure to follow brokerage procedures, standards and protocol as you tie up loose ends, even if you’re no longer on their roster. You’ll be respected and remembered for your professionalism (and it will make it a lot less awkward when you swing by to pick up those last commission checks!) 

Don’t talk crap

As you’re onboarding at your new brokerage, keep it positive. Rather than speaking in a negative way about the things your old brokerage didn’t do or have, stay focused on embracing the systems that you’re looking forward to learning about and using at your new real estate home. You’d be surprised at how often the word gets back and can be hurtful — why spread bad vibes?

Stay in flow

Ninjas will know what I’m talking about here, but sometimes agents forget how important it is to maintain and nurture relationships not only with their clients, but also with industry people — including brokers and agents you have worked with in the past. Add those folks to your handwritten card schedules, engage with them on social platforms, and keep that bridge intact. Real estate is a small town, even in big cities, and you never know when you’ll end up on the other side of a transaction from someone on your old team.

Hopefully there will be hugs at the closing table, not hostility. And, you never know, your new brokerage might not deliver on their promises, and you’ll be knocking on that door wanting to go back, so make sure it’s open to you!

As an independent contractor, you deserve to work where you’re happy, appreciated and supported. It’s also one of the benefits of our business to move your license as many times as it takes to find that for yourself. Just keep in mind, bridges are good to have when you need them, so try not to burn too many down along the way.

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