Over 60% of agents have been recruited so far this year: Intel

Most agents say they’ve heard from competitor brokerages in recent weeks. Intel explores what’s on their mind as they decide whether to stay — or bolt.

This report is available exclusively to subscribers of Inman Intel, the data and research arm of Inman offering deep insights and market intelligence on the business of residential real estate and proptech. Subscribe today.

The number of real estate agents is on a downward trend, and will likely decline further as market forces and industry shifts push newcomers and veterans alike to the brink.

Most brokerages, meanwhile, seem actively intent on growing their ranks with those who stay in the game.

According to the latest Inman Intel Index industry survey, 6 out of 10 agent respondents said they were recruited by a competitor in the first 60 days of 2024. That same share rises to more than three-quarters of real estate agents when you look back to the start of last year.

While respondents alluded to how the constant recruitment push is an industry norm, at least in their experience, others indicated the pace is increasing.

Here is a sample of anonymous quotes from those who answered the question in February’s survey, which included 563 real estate agents among the 811 total respondents:

Recruitment efforts generally grew in tandem with tenure, track record, experience navigating previous downturns and industry knowledge.

The survey did show a pronounced drop in 2024 recruitment for the longest-tenured agents, a group that was nonetheless in line with other veteran agent cohorts going back 14 months.

Recruitment by cohort 2 scaled

The share of agents who said they are likely to change brokerages in 2024 doubled month over month and is now approaching 10 percent. For broker-owners focused on the other side of this coin—retention—the Intel Index survey revealed emerging trends there, too.

Outside of the agents with less than one year in the industry, at least 55 percent of every other group ruled out a company change entirely. Conversely, no group outside of the newest agents had greater than 7.5 percent say they were 100 percent certain they were switching brokerages.

One segment of agents that stands out and may be of particular interest to those on offense and defense is the group with 1-2 years of industry experience.

While a slight majority sat on the most steadfast end of the scale, over one-quarter marked their likelihood of switching brokerages as a 3 or higher. This is the highest concentration among the tenure brackets.

  • Among those who have joined in the past 24 months, nearly one-third of respondents said that a “Better culture fit” would be their top motivator to switch.
  • Another 18 percent chose “Better commission/compensation structure.”
  • 14 percent said improved consumer perception and recognition of the new brand would make the difference.

Change firm likelihood by cohort 1 scaled

Also notable among a group that has only really experienced a housing downturn is it had the highest number of respondents who had changed brokerages in 2023.

The reasons behind their moves largely sync with what this same group said about their drivers for potentially changing this year, with a change of culture and better commission/compensation coming in first and second, respectively. “Better technology and training” also registered with some of those who relocated.

The Intel Index has seen an uptick in agents acknowledging a brokerage move last year, with February the second consecutive month with over 10 percent of agents saying they changed companies.

For broker-owners, recruiting and retention ranks well below their biggest business concern of the day. Nearly 30 percent said interest rates worry them most, a full 10 percentage points higher than keeping their talent or unearthing new stars.

But when asked specifically about recruiting talent, a plurality of owners and executives pointed to generational issues as the biggest pain point. Their answer choice pointed them toward issues that may confront them with younger and older agents, such as work ethic and technological sophistication.


Hardest part of recruiting updated

Intel will explore these insights and more in April in a deeply reported series on the topic of recruiting. The series will be based on new, even more detailed questions that will be part of the March survey, as well as conversations with experts in the field.

Email Chris LeBarton

Methodology notes: This month’s Inman Intel Index survey was conducted Feb. 20-March 3, 2024. The entire Inman reader community was invited to participate, and Intel received 811 responses. Respondents for this survey were directed to the SurveyMonkey platform, where they self-identified their profiles within the residential real estate market. Respondents were limited to one response per device, but there was no limitation to IP addresses. Once a profile (residential real estate agent, mortgage broker/banker, corporate executive/investor/proptech, or other) was selected, respondents answered a unique set of questions for that specific profile. Because the survey did not request demographic information for age, gender or geography, there was no data weighting. This survey will be conducted monthly, with both recurring and unique questions for each profile type.

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