In a market where many agents are submitting multiple offers for every deal and still struggle to secure a contract, brokers are more cognizant than ever of the need to keep morale high and take care of their agents. At the RISMedia Power Brokers Forum during the REALTORS® Legislative Meeting in Washington, D.C., all four panelists remarked on the importance of taking care of their agents.
The discussion focused on providing a well-rounded approach to guiding and prioritizing their agents. With a new hybrid-first approach to work, it’s important to engage agents where they are and create an atmosphere where they feel empowered to come to the brokerage with their needs and concerns, said Christina Pappas, vice president of The Keyes Company in South Florida.
“People look for safety and security in every relationship,” she said. “Your agents want to feel secure that you’ll help them make more money and grow their business and that they can come to you when there’s a problem.”
A Holistic Approach to Taking Care of Agents
The pandemic took a serious toll on mental and physical health. As communities navigated a major health crisis, parents dealt with school lockdowns, prices soared, and job security waned in many industries, the need for comprehensive care for individuals that including mental health care reached a fever pitch. The real estate industry was no exception.
Pappas said her brokerage took measures to make mental health services accessible.
“We partnered with Wellspring Counseling and offered counseling and financial aid to anyone in the office who wanted it,” she said.
At this point, she said, it’s important that brokers find ways to take care of their agents in a holistic way, rather than focusing only on how to help them enhance their businesses.
“Many agents changed the way they worked, but the pandemic impacted their well-being more than we know,” she said. “So look at the overall well-being of your agents.”
Todd Hetherington, CEO and founder of Century 21 New Millennium in the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia region, echoed Pappas’ sentiments and spoke about the efforts his brokerage was making to take care of agents. It has secured health insurance for independent contractors, offering it to all agents. The brokerage is also looking to expand its benefits in the near future.
Another aspect of taking care of agents is understanding the toll of the current market and providing a reprieve, said Carol Bulman, CEO of Jack Conway & Co., in Boston.
“Things are hard right now, and it’s really important to keep our agents positive and keep things exciting for them.”
Celebrating the wins and acknowledging the positives are as important as education and working through what’s gone wrong.
Many agents have no idea what to do with the current market, said Hetherington, but they want to learn.
“They want to hear from the professionals who have weathered the storm in the past and learn from their peers,” he said, emphasizing the need to make opportunities for this kind of mentorship available.
Providing Financial Literacy to Agents
Though seasoned and discerning brokers know that the highly competitive market of 2021 and 2022 has been an anomaly of sorts, agents aren’t necessarily seeing a need to evaluate processes and maximize the use of their finances.
“Agent commissions are up 40% over the last two years,” said Kymber Menkiti, president of Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington. “Agents are experiencing the highest income they’ve had in a long time and we all adjusted our lifestyles in the last two years, so they don’t understand why we’re saying cut costs, etcetera.”
Financial literacy and knowledge of the historic trends of the market is an important part of agent education, she said.
“It’s time to double down on financial management, wealth management tools, and think about how we are having conversations with them about this stuff,” she said. “We need to keep people focused on what’s happening in the broader picture.”
Hetherington said he has also noticed that agents benefited from financial literacy guidance, and the brokerage invested in programs to help them along.
“We gave financial literacy courses out as gifts to our employees, agents, and their families last year,” he said. “And we extended it for this year because we had a really good response.”
Making Agents Aware of the Value of Affiliated Services
Affiliated services offered at a brokerage, such as title, mortgage, insurance, and staging, offer major benefits to agents to ease the transaction. These services, included under the umbrella of the brokerage, also help agents communicate the value proposition of the brokerage to their clients.
Agents need to know that these services are available to them and that the value of these services needs to be communicated to the client, said Menkiti.
“We’ve recently launched a new initiative called ‘The Power of Home’ that works to help agents understand that they’re at the center of the transaction. It helps them defend their position in the industry,” she said. Being at the center of the transaction, she explained, means having the tools available to them to use so that they can maintain control of the transaction. It’s a benefit to the client since the agent has direct access to all of the moving parts of the transaction.
“We invest our agents into our services like the title company so that they have a stake in that side of the business,” Menkiti said.
Increasing Adoption of Services and Education
A brokerage may offer many services, educational opportunities, events, and tools for agent use, but typically adoption is low.
Hetherington stated that if he sees 20% to 25% adoption of a particular tool or resource, that resource is performing really well.
At a time of uncertainty and rapid change, the panelists agreed, increasing adoption is imperative. The resources and educational opportunities that brokerages provide offer strategies and information that agents need to weather the downturns and volatile times.
A “back to basics” approach might be warranted, said Hetherington. Connecting with agents one on one to find out where they’re at and what they need, he said, is a good starting point.