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Sanford, other execs talk leadership in a slow housing market

Brokerage executives share what they feel agents want from firm and team leaders in 2023

The saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” At eXp Realty, when the housing market got tough, the firm called on Glenn Sanford, the founder and CEO of eXp World Holdings to return to the helm of the brokerage portion of the firm.

“What is taking place is we’ve got competition. The market has gotten a little soft in terms of agents and transactions, so it is a great time to see where I can make a bigger impact,” Sanford told the crowd of attendees Wednesday morning from the Inman Connect New York main stage. “I play a little faster and looser than a lot of folks in this space. Founder-led businesses tend to outperform non-founder-led businesses because there are always ingredients that a founder brings that they can actually make decisions outside of making decisions by committee.”

Sanford continued on, stating that he feels eXp has built the most agent-centric brokerage model.

“Part of the reason why I’m coming back is I want to make sure we continue to be the most agent-centric model,” Sanford said. “I started as an agent on a team, and I’ve done the work in the field, so I know what agents need. Sometimes we get a little heavy handed on the compliance and control side, which is important for things like risk management, but we’ve been through slowdowns before without anybody getting into any legal challenges. So, we are recognizing that agents are the ones out there, and we need to be able to give them the flexibility to do the business that they need to do.”

Being there to support agents was a common theme Wednesday morning. The panel following Sanford’s talk, which included Hoby Hanna, the president of Howard Hanna Real Estate; Christy Budnick, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services; and Sherry Chris, the president and CEO of Anywhere Expansion Brands Portfolio, discussed the topic in depth.

“At the end of the day we are all in the business of giving our agents confidence that they can achieve their goals and that their families can have the income they want,” Hanna said.

Chris added: “The first person an agent is going to turn to [in a market shift] is their broker-owner, and if the agent sees fear in the eyes of their broker-owner, then they are going to start thinking where do I want to be next. And so that leadership piece and that confidence is very important.”

The panelists also expressed that it is important during challenging times to show employees that you value them, which they acknowledged can be challenging at a time when many firms are undergoing layoffs. But one strategy the panelist suggested as a way to express consideration for their employees while reducing costs is to take executive pay cuts.

“I think the senior leadership taking cuts in their pay sends a resounding message to not only to the agents but also to all of the other employees that you value them and you are doing everything that you can to keep your team intact,” Budnick said.

As brokerage, franchise and team leaders look to help their agents navigate the 2023 housing market, the panelist stressed that communication is key.

“You have to have a communication strategy and a communication plan for times like this and always, because overcommunicating in a systematic fashion is very important to your agents, and broker owners expect to hear from you regularly,” Chris said.

Also, having a plan in place for what to do in the event of a major change in the housing market is key.

“When we are in a good market, we want to plan for the tougher times,” Budnick said. “That is one of the things I always encourage our broker owners to do. Have a plan of what to do if you were to fall off a cliff and need to cut back for 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% and 50%. In 2008, our company had to go all the way to cutting back 50% in order to remain viable. We came out the other end much better because we had the plan in place, and we weren’t trying to make quick decisions on the fly when we were panicking.”

And while many brokerage leaders and executives may be feeling pessimistic about the 2023 housing market, the panelist reminded attendees to focus on their goals.

“You should have three to four goals in total, and 80% of your energy should go toward working to these goals,” Budnick said.