Why Real Estate Agents Change Brokerages (and a Checklist to Do It Right!)

Services for Real Estate Pros with Adwerx

Here at Adwerx, our customer success folks often get calls from agents who have changed brokerages. And not being in real estate originally myself, I thought that was interesting, so I did some digging.

Turns out, it’s not that uncommon. In 2015, one-third of Realtors started at a new firm. That’s up 67% from the previous year, according to NAR.

That includes new agents and current agents who were looking for a change. It’s something for brokers to keep in mind as they look at their recruiting and retention efforts. And considering the same report says 44% of brokers are actively recruiting, it’s fair to say change is in the air.

Why do real estate agents switch brokerages?


The reasons that real estate agents change firms are as varied as the agents themselves. And I wanted to learn more about that, so I talked to some of our customers about it.

For Laurie Weston Davis of The Geeky Girls, it was a gradual process.

She was a Keller Williams Realty agent and team owner. And while she was very busy, it became more and more apparent that she needed a better alignment between her own goals and the goals of the brokerage. But it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I worried about the possible backlash of leaving a company that I was highly identified with in the real estate community at a national level,” Laurie said.

Laurie braved the backlash and joined Scott Lincicome Properties in Southern Pines, NC. It was a great move from the get-go. The brokerage has since transitioned into Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Lifestyle Property Partners. And Laurie’s personal brand continues to strengthen, with her expertise in cultivating relationships and a focus on real estate tech.

Making a move to expand real estate expertise


Lynn Johnson was buyer’s agent, and enjoyed her role on the team to help her hone her skills. When the time came to expand to full agent at a new firm, she did have hesitations.

“I wasn't sure how much of a learning curve I would experience with the transition,” she said. “I didn't want my business to slow down or suffer because I was switching firms.” It might mean losing her client base. It might mean having to rebuild her brand. The doubts plagued her.

“I had to rely on my inner voice that was saying, ‘People love you regardless of what firm you are with, so why not?’”

That faith in the people around her encouraged Lynn to join a brand new brokerage called Bamboo Realty.

“I loved the fact that Bamboo was a small boutique firm with amazing leaders like Sarah Jones and Zach Schabot,” Lynn said. She also liked that she would be on the ground floor with the opportunity to learn and grow as an agent. But what really convinced Lynn to make the move was the promise of complete support.

“Being with a company that I felt would be and is going to stay fully invested in me and my business regardless if I sell one home or a hundred helped seal the deal.”


Advice about changing real estate brokerages

Any agent who wants to make a move can use some words of encouragement. These agents  had some to share.

“Change is inevitable and staying somewhere that no longer meets your needs isn't going to help you grow your business,” said Laurie. “Don't be afraid of making a change if you are not happy in your current situation. Find a broker that shares the same vision.”

It’s no secret there are risks in moving. Understanding your own reasons is the first step for thinking about a change. Is it about commission? Is about technology? Or is it philosophical?

“Someone once told me that if you're not uncomfortable, you're not growing,” said Lynn. “Comfortable doesn't grow. Challenge yourself to see that there is always another side to the coin.”

But what about from the broker’s perspective?


Bret Calltharp, Director, Talent Attraction at BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS REAL ESTATE sees it from the brokerage perspective.

“For many agents, changing the brokerage you’re affiliated with is like changing a gym,” said Bret. “It may be a different location, perhaps with a different payment schedule, but if you do the exact same workout, you’ll get the exact same results.”

Bret wants agents to examine their own personal value proposition.  What makes you unique?  What are your business strengths and weaknesses?  Only by doing the hard work first can agents then evaluate brokerage options to see which can help through education, strategy or tech.

 “One of the things I love about the real estate industry is that agents can truly build the career that they want,” Bret shared. “Not all agents want to grow a large team or become a top producer. Many like the flexibility a real estate career gives them to travel or spend more time with family and friends.  It’s your business to craft the way that suits your dreams, not someone else’s.”

 When evaluating a company shift, Bret wants agents to separate the fluff from the stuff. And he wants agents to know that compensation plans and splits are usually the worst factor on which to base a decision. He’s seen too many agents focus primarily on what the expense difference would be and not enough look at what they may net via expanded business opportunities.

Bamboo Realty Head Coach Alyssa Hellman agrees. She was the Education Director at GO School and she knows that recruitment is a top priority for brokers. “They want their front door spinning faster than their back door,” she pointed out. “But what if your back door stops spinning?” As in, what if brokers focused on keeping the agents they have?

Get organized before you go: a checklist for changing real estate firms


Timing is everything for agents who want to change firms. When do you tell your clients? When do you tell your coworkers? What about your social profiles and your business cards? It’s easy to lose sight of critical details in what can be an exciting and extra-sensitive time.

That’s why we created a handy checklist to help you cover your bases and manage the move from one real estate firm another in a controlled, common sense manner. The list is below, but there’s also a downloadable version


-> Download the Changing Real Estate Brokerage Checklist for Agents


Stage 1: Before you announce

Export your data into new sources:


  • Calendars

  • Contacts

  • Spreadsheets

  • Client list

  • Referral list

  • Ongoing workflow spreadsheet


Order new collateral:


  • Business cards

  • Brochures

  • Signs

  • Name tags


Stage 2: After you announce

Update platforms you use:


  • Esign platforms such as Docusign/ or Dotloop

  • Zip forms

  • Dropbox

  • National and local MLS changes

  • Local real estate associations


Update your digital collateral with new logo and contact info:


  • Landing page/website

  • Email newsletter

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Snapchat

  • Pinterest

  • Instagram


Stage 3: Spread the word

Take care of your current clients:


  • Terminate listings

  • Resign with new brokerage


Inform your past clients:



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Mick Michaud
Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107 - Granbury, TX
Your Texas Lifestyle is Here!

The list is a start.  Be sure you know that "your" clients are not yours.  They belong to the brokerage.  Review your severence agreement before you bail.  What is the status of active listings you have?  Will the broker let you take them?  Will you have to pay a referral to take them?  Will the broker keep them?  What about contracts in escrow?   How will those be handled? 

Sticky questions.  Be sure you're on good terms when you leave. 

Apr 07, 2017 08:34 AM #1
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

It is like any employment.  While some stay on at same office all their life with name changes, many look and shop around see what is best for them.  Some hop from one brokerage to the other to avoid paying desk fees. Ask for 6 months for free and move to another brokerage.

What makes a brokerage unique?  After a few firms they are all the same. A brokerage is a brokerage trying to squeeze most out of agents. Agents need a place to hang their license.


Apr 07, 2017 08:50 AM #2
Amy Kramer
Reilly Realtors - Austin, TX
Realtor serving Austin and surrounding communities

Great post.  Each brokerage office has a unique personality and offerings. Finding the right environment is important to help individuals excel.  Thanks for the post Jed Carlson.

Apr 07, 2017 01:37 PM #3
HOMEiZ.COM - Los Angeles, CA

The internet changed the way we do business.The real estate industry is changing its face and many brokers will be out of business.Many brokers do not invest in their agents, since it is very expensive and very hard.Many brokers recruiting for quantity and not for real quality agents.Brokers who will offer high value and high quality service, will stay in the business.The rule of the agent is changing. The agent is not a source of information anymore. Agents will have to become experts advisors to bring high value and to be 100% transparent to stay in business. I also see the commission model structure we have today will change. That will reduce profits for the brokers and for to agents. 

Apr 07, 2017 02:15 PM #4
Curt Hess
ExecuHome Realty - Annapolis, MD
Luxury Home Consultant, Team Leader & CEO

I'll be honest - I did it SOLELY for the money. My team is very self-sufficient and we save more than $60,000/yr in commission splits, maybe more in 2017. In the many years I've been an agent, NOT ONCE has someone said "Well, because you are with xyz-company, I'll do business with you. Not once. All the years I was a "capper" and put $21k+ into the Broker's pocket, not once did he take me to dinner or even buy lunch to thank/congratulate me or any other member of my team. Sigh.

Apr 07, 2017 05:45 PM #5
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Good post!!!  The grass is always greener somewhere else. I work for a great company and can't imagine leaving. 

Apr 07, 2017 06:10 PM #6
Melissa Spittel
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Westminster, MD
"Achieving Results Together "

Read your post with great interest. I transferred my license to a different brokerage last summer with no regrets whatsoever. It definitely takes thought and coordination. 

Apr 07, 2017 07:08 PM #7
Cheryl Dukes . . . . . Intown Atlanta
Solid Source Realty, Inc. - Atlanta, GA

Good job with the research and putting this together, Jed Carlson.

Apr 07, 2017 07:32 PM #8
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

I too changed brokerages this past July after nearly 15 years with the same company. I just couldn't see the value for what I was paying or getting any longer. Very happy with my new company and have absolutely no regrets. Great post !

Apr 07, 2017 08:27 PM #9
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Jed Carlson very good points on why some agents switch the brokerage.

Human beings do need change and variety - and this is one more reason to do so.

Apr 07, 2017 10:23 PM #10
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Basically the bigger better deal right? Why does anybody do anything really? :)

Apr 07, 2017 10:58 PM #11
Mega Team Real Estate
Realty ONE Group Alliance - San Mateo, CA
San Francisco and Peninsula Real Estate Concierge

Great compilation of research. 

Apr 07, 2017 10:58 PM #12
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

One cannot live on bread alone, as they say, Praful Thakkar . It's just really that simple I think. :)

Apr 07, 2017 10:59 PM #13
Don Price
Mid Carolina Realty LLC - Pinehurst, NC

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. "

-Maya Angelou 

That and the split - it takes only a second, a misspoke word, a certain look, an attaboy opportunity missed, to push a good agent relationship off the cliff.   

Good post - odd how it came from outside our ranks - there is a message just in that, I think?? That and some of the agents mentioned and the writer have strong business ties - and there is nothing wrong with that either.  ;) 

Apr 08, 2017 04:22 AM #14
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Interesting post.

I think it should start with knowing who you are and where you want to see your business in a given time period.

Then you find a broker that you feel offers you the help and opportunity for you to get where you want to be. Things change in the business and within ourselves and this can produce the need to find a place that is a better fit.

Apr 08, 2017 08:56 AM #15
Bobby Carroll
Dakno Marketing - Clayton, NC
Real Estate Marketing

Jed, you outline some solid tips to help agents with their transition. I'd like to dig a little deeper on one important area you mentioned and that's regarding an agent's digital footprint.

Be aware that changing your address on your website won’t "auto-magically" change the location of your business on a Google map. Agents must edit each of their business listings at:

  • Google (Google My Business)
  • Yelp
  • Zillow
  • Bing Local
  • Realtor.com
  • Facebook Business Page (this one was mentioned)

And all the other important business listings and citation sites.

At Dakno Marketing, exclusively serving the real estate community, we assist our clients by leveraging the Moz Local tool to see which platforms need updating. Agents would be wise to review their business listings before and after their move to a new brokerage.

Apr 13, 2017 06:53 AM #16
Sybil Campbell
Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia - Williamsburg, VA
REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia

I changed brokerages to find a good manager and an office where there is not a lot of tension.

Apr 13, 2017 07:21 AM #17
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

It's always important to check your settings and really know how to make all your media work for you. :)

Apr 14, 2017 10:57 PM #18
Sybil Campbell
Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia - Williamsburg, VA
REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia

Jed, working for the right managing broker and in an office with good support is vital to success.

Apr 15, 2017 09:31 AM #19
Anne Corbin
Long and Foster - Lake Anna - Spotsylvania, VA
Serving Lake Anna & Central Virginia

I'm currently working on a brokerage switch. I think the money will be the same at any office I choose, so now I'm looking at other criteria. My daughter pointed out that one company has bad reviews, so should I scratch them off my list? Argh ... the decision is tough!

Nov 16, 2018 08:07 PM #20
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Jed Carlson

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