OKC brokerage leverages its reputation to lure two teams
Rob Allen, CEO of Sage Sotheby's Realty, says a slower market has agents wondering if they're at the right brokerage — but he doesn't sign just anyone.
- Allen boosted his agent count by more than 20% with the new additions, but he's more focused on sales and quality of service.
- Attracting agents is similar to attracting clients: It’s about nurturing relationships.
- The booming market was good for profits, but it "created soft agents," said Allen.
Let everyone else fret and doomscroll about the state of real estate in 2023. Oklahoma City broker Rob Allen is using the moment to significantly grow his team with agents willing to do the work in a challenging market.
Allen recently lured 13 agents from two separate teams to join his Sage Sotheby's International Realty brokerage — and he says three more agents will onboard soon.
Even in good times, it's a big move for a brokerage to grow its agent count by more than 20% in a matter of days. It's particularly bold when the overall market is contracting.
"There's a smaller pie," Allen acknowledges. "But it's still a pretty big pie."
And he believes the market slowdown is a boon for brokerages looking to add experienced agents. "Everybody's happy with their brokerage when everybody's making money," he said. "When things slow down, that's when agents start looking around."
The two teams joining Sage Sotheby's are the David Oliver Real Estate Group, formerly with Keller Williams, and The Duncan Group, formerly with Engel & Völkers.
Sales, quality more important than agent count alone
Despite the extraordinary growth of his team, Allen says he's not focused on growing agent count for its own sake. "My goal is to sell as much real estate as possible with the fewest number of Realtors," he said. "It's a delicate balance. We don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity. Particularly in an industry that seems to value quantity over quality."
Allen said he's not interested in filling seats with "weekend warriors" or hobbyists. "Our brokerage isn't a brokerage where you just go hang your license," he said. "You show up and you close deals. We expect you to sell houses."
But Allen is open to further agent growth. Just as there are still homes to be sold, Allen says there are still agents to be recruited. "Just for perspective, there are 6,000 or 7,000 Realtors in Oklahoma City. I just happen to have 65 of them," he said. "There are still a lot of good Realtors. I just haven't reached them yet."
The best recruiting tools? An 'impeccable reputation' — and networking
Despite his recent success, Allen insists he's not doing anything particularly new or revolutionary to add agents. "We stay consistent with what we do for our clients and our Realtors, and we let those things speak for themselves," he said. "We have an impeccable reputation in our market. We just want to be there when somebody's considering making a move."
And he's not looking for just any agent. "We meet with Realtors regularly and don't sign them," he said. "Our brokerage could be double the size we are now if we took everybody that walked in the door."
Allen said his agents rely on him to "be a gatekeeper" to make sure everyone who joins the team meets the same high standards. "Water rises to meet itself. Agents like being part of a brokerage that has high standards because it's an endorsement of who they are," he said.
"I have zero tolerance for drama, so I don't mind cutting an agent loose if they're disturbing culture," he said. "But I've only done that a handful of times."
The search for new agents isn't about the hard sell, said Allen. "I know most of the top producing agents in our market because I go to networking events, broker's opens, fundraisers, stuff like that," he said. "I'm just out and about. Just like when we're attracting clients, we're attracting agents. It's all relationship-based."
A hot market 'created soft agents'
He said the pandemic-fueled real estate boom, while good for profits, isn't something he hopes to experience again. "I think that it created soft agents that didn't hustle. Agents that didn't sit on open houses, didn't do lead generation," he said. "They were beneficiaries of a hot market and they're now faced with actually having to go out and get business and they don't know how."
The flood of new agents to the market also made it more difficult to close deals. "You had brand new Realtors negotiating with each other with no idea what they were doing."
As for what it takes to succeed in today's market, whether you're an agent or a broker, Allen said it's the same thing: "You've got to go get it. You've got to hustle," he said.
"2023 is the year for the hustlers, the grinders, the people making the phone calls. Because if you're not eating somebody's lunch, somebody's eating your lunch."