Real estate agents in NYC opt to switch brokerages over time for many reasons. Rental mavens may decide to focus primarily on sales and vice versa, but not all firms dip into both areas of expertise. Then you have the rising stars who cut their teeth in the business at a starter brokerage and may be looking to transition to a larger, more established firm. Still, others have no choice: brokerages close or merge in NYC all the time, sometimes leaving agents in the lurch.
So, what can real estate professionals do when the time comes to switch brokers? How do they evaluate which firm is the right fit? And how can they transition smoothly without disrupting their customer base?
At CitySignal, we found that while there’s no one-size-fits-all criterion when it comes to choosing a new broker, there are some key questions and factors to consider.
When Do I Know It’s Time to Switch Brokerages?
“The first step is to determine why you’re looking for a change,” says Yael Dawson, who has worked as a licensed real estate professional in NYC for the last decade. “Brokerages vary greatly in how they treat their agents, how much support they provide, how their commission split works, and how much they trust you to handle your business. You want to be sure that the new firm aligns with your long-term goals and values you as an agent.”
Dawson started her real estate career at Anchor Associates, which some agents may label as a “starter” brokerage. These smaller firms tend to charge a higher commission split, such as 70/30 or 60/40, because they’re taking on new agents who are likely to make more mistakes. These errors can be costly for the brokerage, not only in terms of money but also when it comes to their credibility with landlords across the city.
Dawson recalls a time when a colleague accidentally CC’d their client on an email that was intended for the landlord’s agent only. The client had been upset about how long it was taking to secure an apartment, especially since the landlord rejected their initial offer, and decided to email the landlord’s agent directly.
What the client didn’t know was that the landlord’s agent had a reputation for killing deals whenever there was a breach of protocol. The client should have never been included in the email chain, and when they were, the landlord canceled the deal and threatened to blacklist Anchor Associates.
“Fortunately, that didn’t happen,” Dawson remembers. “Anchor was able to make things right and continue working with the landlord. Our office manager was very understanding and treated the agent involved with kindness. But not all brokerages are as forgiving, so it’s important to find out how a firm handles these types of situations.”
This is just one example in a long list of reasons why real estate agents in NYC may decide to switch brokerages or stay where they are. For Shawn Jenkins, who transitioned from a rental-driven firm to join Corcoran’s luxury sales team, the decision was all about finding a place to grow.
“I was working as a rental agent and wanted to take my career to the next level,” says Jenkins. “Sales [was the obvious choice]. I’m a natural self-starter, so all I needed was a toolkit to help accelerate my career into sales.”
Jenkins knew that Corcoran was the place to be if he wanted to make a name for himself in the luxury sales market, which is off to a great start having already closed a deal over $1 million in Sunset Park. But not all agents have the same sense of clarity or ambition. In some cases, the decision to switch brokerages is more about flexibility or necessity. If an agent’s clients have outgrown their current firm, or if the brokerage is unable to provide them with the tools and support they need, then it might be time to make a change.
But with so many different business models, how can real estate professionals ensure they’re making the right choice?
What Are the Different Brokerage Options and Which One Is Right for Me?
When exploring the different brokerage options in NYC, Dawson recommends making a list of both personal and business objectives. Once the agent has an idea of what those are, it will be much simpler to determine which potential firm is likelier to help them achieve their goals.
“It’s like any other job search,” she explains. “You need to know what you’re looking for and how the chosen firm can help you get there. But unlike a traditional job where you earn an hourly wage or get paid a salary, how much you make as a real estate agent depends on how much you put in. So it’s important to understand how the commission split works and how much support, training, and resources you’ll get for your investment.”
Compensation Models for Brokerages
To illustrate Dawson’s point, here are some examples of the different compensation models adopted by brokerages across NYC:
- Experimental Firm A lets you keep 100% of the commission as long as you pay a monthly desk fee. This fee covers office space and administrative support but does not include training or continuing education. It ranges from $500 to $1,500 per month, depending on the broker’s needs.
- Established Firm B offers an 80/20 split with no monthly desk fees, but the agent would be responsible for all marketing costs associated with their listings, plus other out-of-pocket expenses. At $6 per day just to advertise on Streeteasy, these fees can add up quickly.
- Starter Firm C proposes a 50/50 split. It covers half the cost of marketing and provides continuing education for the agent in the form of webinars and negotiation workshops. But the firm lacks exclusive listings and hasn’t fostered any long-term relationships with landlords. This means the agent will have to compete with thousands of real estate professionals for the same open listings, hustling to secure deals.
- Salary Firm D offers a base minimum of $50,000 per year with monthly bonuses based on KPIs (e.g., lead-response rate, closed deals, customer service ratings, etc.) Put another way, the firm holds onto most of the commission in exchange for providing the agent with a steady paycheck and additional incentives.
Agents who have built a strong referral network and generate a steady stream of leads might be better off going with Firms A or B. On the other hand, agents who are just starting or take a more passive approach to their business might benefit more from Firms C or D. It depends on the agent’s level of expertise, customer base, whether they need hands-on support, and how much time and money they’re willing to invest in their business.
But these aren’t the only factors that differentiate NYC brokerages. Some firms specialize in specific neighborhoods or boroughs while others have a more global reach. Others embrace new technologies like DocuSign, chatbots, and marketing automation, making it easier for buyers and sellers to engage with the firm. Hidebound agencies, on the other hand, are being left in the dust as more and more firms adopt these cutting-edge tools.
All that said, some real estate agents will prioritize company culture over everything else, including the potential for higher commissions.
How Important Is Company Culture When Switching Brokers?
Fern Kamins, a former agent at Anchor Associates, didn’t choose to join Elegran two years ago. She just happened to be sponsored by Anchor when Elegran acquired the smaller company in 2020. The warm welcome she received from her new broker was one of the main reasons she decided to stay.
“The company culture at Elegan is wonderful,” Kamins says. “The management team is forward-thinking, empathetic, and always available to answer questions. It’s a great place to build relationships and grow your real estate career.”
Kamins has been selling real estate in Brooklyn and Manhattan for over 40 years, recently closing several deals at 225 Adams Street in Brooklyn. She’s witnessed how the industry has changed over time and believes that company culture plays a vital role in the agent’s success.
“Everybody thinks that [real estate agents] are stabbing each other in the back,” she remarks. “If you go to the right firm, that isn’t true.”
She continues: “Sadly, many agents prioritize the deal over each other. A toxic company culture perpetuates the stereotype of the agent as a selfish individual whose only goal is to close deals. But Elegran breaks that stereotype. It creates a supportive and respectful environment where agents are valued regardless of their experience level. That’s why I’m still here.”
We asked Kamins if she’s ever worked at a cut-throat real estate firm like the one depicted in David Mamet’s 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross.” In one scene, Alec Baldwin’s character famously delivers an eight-minute speech about how “it takes brass balls to sell real estate” and how “coffee’s for closers only.”
Kamins laughed. “I’ve certainly heard of scare tactics used at some brokerages to keep agents ‘motivated,’ if you could call it that,” she said. “I haven’t worked in a place like that myself. I think that if the brokerage environment is clearly toxic, agents shouldn’t hesitate to switch. You don’t need someone yelling at you to do your job.”
Has Kamins’ transition been smooth? “For the most part, yes,” she assured us. “Most of my business is referral-based or working with repeat clients, so I never had to worry about how the switch would affect my business. When I make a switch, I bring my clients with me. It’s that simple.”
When we asked her what advice she had for agents who are considering switching to a different brokerage, Kamins was adamant:
“Figure out your goals, research different firms, and don’t get too hung up on the commission split,” she said. “The most important thing is to find a place that feels like home so you can build meaningful relationships with colleagues and clients alike.”
What Steps Should Agents Take When Switching Brokers?
If you’re a real estate agent who’s just decided to switch brokerages, here are some tips to make your transition as smooth as possible:
- Notify your current broker before officially resigning (this can be two weeks or 30 days in advance depending on your employment terms).
- Discuss your current listings with your broker to coordinate how they will be handled after you leave. In some cases, you’ll need to wait until the listing expires before it can be transferred to your new broker.
- Email your current broker a list of any pending commissions and CC your personal email. This is a great way to keep track of how much money you’re owed since brokers can take time to process commission payments.
- Bring any documents and information related to your current listings with you when you go to your new broker.
- Get a confirmation from your old brokerage that your real estate license is no longer sponsored by the firm before you submit the necessary paperwork to your new sponsor.
- Notify your clients about your move and make sure they know how to get in touch with you at the new brokerage.
There’s a lot to think about when switching real estate brokerages. One of the most important considerations is finding a firm that provides the support and culture the agent will need to succeed in this ultra-competitive industry. Setting realistic goals and choosing the most effective compensation structure to meet those goals is also essential.
Finally, agents should carefully navigate the process of switching brokers by asking as many questions as they need to feel comfortable with their decision. Taking these steps will help make the transition to a new brokerage as seamless and successful as possible.
Ivan Suazo is a copywriter and SEO blogger with over ten years of experience in the real estate industry. He's also the founder of a wellness blog, QWERTYdelight.com, and writes sleep stories for the Slumber App.