moving on up? The Realities For Market-Changing Agents

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In this monthly column,Anthony Askowitzexplores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. Anthony is the broker-owner of South Florida’s largest RE/MAX office, and a working agent who sells more than 100 homes each year.

This month’s situation: The national shift in work-life-play habits over the past few years not only impacted homebuyers across the country, but also the real estate agents who serve them. Some immediately recognized existential crashes in their home markets and sought greener pastures in states where costs of living were keeping up with income or where home prices had exploded, promising better returns on their expertise and efforts.

These agents were often the “big fish in their little ponds” and struggled at first to meet expectations. How does a broker capitalize on the potential of these proven professionals, while gently helping them realize the “pond” is not only bigger — it’s also filled with sharks?

Agent perspective

My career has really taken off over the last 15 years, thanks in large part to my determination to master the latest technology and tools. My marketing is second-to-none and pays off with a consistent flow of new business.

However, I have come to the realization that my home market is holding down my potential, and that trend is only getting worse. With “luxury” homes capping out at around $1 million, and the demand for those properties at an all-time low, the only way to really survive over the long term would be to vastly expand the number of properties sold.

I automate as much as I can, but there are only so many hours in a day and expanding would mean bringing on team members, and all the headaches and costs that come with them.

With all due respect to Taylor Swift, the problem is not me, it’s this market. After doing my research, I’ve found an out-of-state market to which people around the country are migrating, where I can literally quadruple my income by selling a fraction of the properties.

Sales are sales, marketing is marketing, and I know I will be able to transfer my success to any of these areas. With my record, I’m confident that brokers will be lining up to hire me and offer great splits.

Broker perspective

This agent certainly has amazing potential and a proven background of success in her original market. But her expectations about business dropping into her lap after an easy transition are seriously unrealistic. She has several hurdles facing her, as would any new-to-market agent.

Just becoming licensed in a new state can be a time-consuming complication. Although some state business departments and realtor boards have reciprocity agreements, many do not, and most agents will have to start at the beginning of this process. (Even those that do offer reciprocity often require a test on the state laws and regulations.)

Once getting past this obstacle, the agent will find herself a stranger in a strange land. That hometown network of family, friends, customers and colleagues she has built for 15-plus years will suddenly not be there to support her, and she will be unfamiliar with our market’s unique neighborhoods, zoning codes and types of properties — not to mention its singular culture, traditions and even languages.

She will also have to adjust to much higher costs of living, and the usual personal challenges that come with moving to a new location.

I’m not suggesting she couldn’t overcome these obstacles, but doing so will be very difficult, and she should have a clear understanding of what would lie ahead. It’s very possible that her work ethic, sales skills and marketing creativity will allow her to recreate her base and compete, but it’s equally possible that she will become frustrated, with all of our mutual time and efforts being for naught.

How to resolve

Signing any agent on to join a brokerage is a bilateral commitment. There are several questions to consider:

  • Is it a good fit for both sides so there is a win-win partnership?
  • Does the agent have the dedication and commitment to do the work to achieve their full potential?
  • Does the office have the resources and training to provide the agent with the support they need?

A plan must be put into place so the trust of this agent is not violated when she is thrown to the wolves.

Onboarding and managing agents at different stages of their careers takes some finesse. New licenses need to be told what to do, how to do it, and then be monitored to make sure things are done properly. A cookie-cutter schedule of training sessions works perfectly for them.

But in this case, veteran agents should expect and be given respect for past accomplishments. They are typically self-monitoring and motivated, and will only come for help as needed.

The difference in licensing laws and regulations between states is a stickier issue. Some states are very protective of buyers and require sellers to disclose everything they know about a property, while others adopt the caveat emptor stance Is the mortgage a lien on the property, or does title only transfer when the mortgage is paid? In some states, an attorney is required to prepare an offer.

Both the agent and her broker should understand that it will take some time for the agent to “unlearn” the old ways and adhere to the laws in her new state. The office should also provide new-to-market agents with a list of courses to take, and perhaps share the costs.

Some other road-smoothing options for agents in this category would be a “jump-start” program that introduces all of the tech tools available, an overview of contracts, weekly check-in meetings for the first month and area tours led by a company ambassador.

Anthony Askowitz is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty, with offices in Hollywood Beach, Davie, Miramar, North Miami, South Miami, Kendall, and the Florida Keys, and where he leads the activities of more than 190 agents. Follow him on Instagram.

NOTE: Anthony Askowitz is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.

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