In the fast-paced world of real estate, brokers are often at their most competitive when it comes to battling for the best agents. These are the men and women on the front lines of the industry, representing the company and tasked with bringing in revenue.
Keeping agents happy and motivated to do the best job possible is in everyone’s best interest. However, the more they earn, the more desirable they become to the competition, and brokers might find themselves in a bidding war of a whole different nature—the fight to keep their agents from bringing their talents and contacts to another broker. To successfully tap this talent pool and keep it full, brokers have to connect with agents on both practical and emotional levels.
Let’s start with the practical side of the equation. Brokers must ask themselves, “Will an agent sell more real estate and make more money if he or she comes to work for me, rather than another broker in my market?” While offering the most favorable commission structure is important to attracting talented agents, it’s not the only metric that will prove your brokerage is the best fit for them financially.
“Success today requires you to be running your business on all cylinders,” says Bruce Ailion, a veteran Atlanta broker with RE/MAX Town and Country.
According to Ailion, brokers need to beat their competition on a wide array of differentiators, including: vision, reputation, enthusiasm, brand, marketing, technology tools, training, a facility with modern furnishings and equipment, compensation and location—attractive to the agents and in an attractive market area.
Brokers usually won’t be superior in every single category, but being able to win at a majority of the categories will give your company a significant advantage in the war for talented agents, Ailion explains.
Patrick Ryan, managing broker and senior vice president of Related Realty in Chicago, aggressively recruits agents and brokers to his company, which launched in 2013. In a relatively short amount of time, he says he’s brought in top producers who average more than 10 years of experience and whose sales volume average is more than twice that of competing brokerages. Ryan says he does this by promoting Related Realty’s advanced global resources, its data-driven approach, collaborative culture and high level of service to agents.
“Related Realty boasts a staff-to-agent ratio of 1 to 6, which allows brokers to allocate more of their time to the client, helping them determine the optimal list or offer price and deliver customized marketing strategies that achieve desired results,” Ryan says. “Our high-earning agents realize our ability to help maximize their success, and consequently, are loyal to the firm.”
Keeping an agent loyal and motivated is just as important—and often more challenging—than getting them to sign with your company in the first place. Each year, brokers are doing more to improve organizational morale and looking for unique ways to keep their top earners.
Going after that emotional component that is found in an agent’s day-to-day satisfaction, Huntsville, Ala., broker Matt Curtis of Matt Curtis Real Estate says culture is the key to talent retention, specifically for high-earning agents.
“We provide the right balance of not meeting for the sake of meeting, and quick, weekly, one-on-one check-ins to provide quick course-correction when needed,” says Curtis. “We offer optional training that focuses on advanced buyer and seller psychology that you can’t find in your typical real estate training. We also provide all of the things agents do not enjoy doing, like listing sign installation, installing 50 open house signs for an open house, listing input, marketing, and closing coordination.”
Additionally, Curtis offers his agents a series of fun perks likely to keep them coming back to Matt Curtis Real Estate instead of taking their talents to a competitor. These include:
- Celebrating together as a team. This year, he closed the company to go to Six Flags, hosted a food truck party at his office, and threw a pool party at his home. The next team outing he’s planning is a zipline trip.
- Offering little extras like a free snack bar, Keurig machine, weekly team lunches, team margarita machine, free beer, a ping pong table and a PS4 on a 96-inch projector.
- Rewarding excellence with hand-written notes and gift cards.
- Sending team members on a vacation for achieving record sales.
- Giving free concert tickets to top performers.
Of course, not all markets are the same, and brokers in major cities will have different challenges to keep their best agents. These often involve curbing the risk of having agents take active listings with them to a new company.
In uber-competitive New York City, start-up brokerage Compass is looking to disrupt the current practice of exclusive listing contracts by including a “key-person clause” that allows agents to take their listings with them if they leave. That freedom can be seen as an incentive to sign with Compass, even though it also incentivizes agents to leave. The strategy has been successful so far, and the company has attracted a number of top agents over the past three years, including 68 top agent teams.
In real estate, attracting and retaining top talent is an ongoing battle that will often reward the broker with the most creative approach to satisfying an agent’s practical and emotional needs. The broker who wins the talent war will be the one who stands out with the strongest mix of incentives in markets small and large.
Andrew King is an award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience with the Gannett newspaper company, appearing in The Journal News (Westchester, NY), Asbury Park Press and USA Today. He also contributes to The Real Deal, TheLadders.com and TechPageOne.com.