"Agents Decoded," Jill Leberknight, The Austin Holistic Real Estate Group, eXp Realty.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Agents Decoded: Burned out? It’s time to slow down 

Constantly reacting to real estate market whiplash — or industry-shaking news — takes a toll, and veteran agent Jill Leberknight suggests a different approach.

March 23, 2024
5 minutes

The direction of your business depends on decisions you make every day. Agents Decoded can help you by presenting the perspectives of seasoned pros who have been there, made mistakes, and found success.

February was my anniversary in real estate, and that already had me full flow into my annual ritual of "new year" expectation planning. Then the NAR settlement news hit. Honestly, it's been a wild and soul-stretching 19-year journey building what some imagine to be a job with lots of freedom and no pay ceiling. 

The reality is a little humbler. As I write this five days after NAR's announcement, I simply hope that the inspirations I see in my morning social media feeds spill over into my to-do list preparations — and it doesn't take more than five minutes to recognize the request of my soul in the planning task ahead.

The cycle of reinvention

Every real estate agent faces the subliminal goal to reinvent themselves in the first quarter of the year. When message boards are filled with mentions of "top-producing" and "highest-ranked" colleagues, we quietly whisper in our heads, "I need to do more this year" — and the reinvention exercise launches. 

And now, after last week's industry-shocking news, we are all facing a whole new dimension of reinvention — whether we were prepared for it or not.

And this, my friends, is where the burnout begins. The burnout we never let heal, that continues to percolate as we face another reinvention of our profession.

I've made more pivots than a professional athlete in the past 4 years, and my metaphorical knees are shot. Real estate agents have reorganized how we do business a least a dozen times through and after the pandemic. I restructured how to stage and list a home in the spring of 2020 when our city went into shelter in place. I developed hospital-level showing kits for home tours in the summer of 2020 when we didn't want to touch anything. 

Over the next two years, I changed coaching methods almost weekly to respond to the demands of the market — then spent most of 2023 undoing all those changes after the market shifted again. 

I have had to change offer practices, negotiation practices, consultation practices, closing practices, counseling practices — you name it, we changed it, and we saw our clients facing shifts too.  

A pivotal moment for the industry, and an identity crisis for agents

"We respect your time and expertise, but we've decided we're not comfortable signing a buyer's representation agreement with you."

These were the words I heard from luxury buyers at the end of last year. They were a perfect match for our Austin Holistic Real Estate Group's high-education, customer-centric, individual curriculum approach to real estate that usually yields a 99% conversion rate. They clearly understood and respected our authentic value proposition. They were educated buyers referred to our team from an active repeat client with a strong relationship to both parties.

This scenario, sadly, was not an isolated incident, and as more clients ask about the current landscape of commission lawsuits during listing appointments, I find myself wondering, "Who am I now?"

A marathon, not a sprint

We all know the fable of the tortoise who wins the race over the hare by taking it slow and steady. But the part of the story that often gets missed is the choice the tortoise makes to travel his own unique journey. 

This little story has been echoing in my "mody" as I call it — mind and body — since the pandemic. My mind and body are telling me to slow down and find my new race, slow down and find my journey so I can make it to a finish line much further in the distance, slow down so I can continue to fully advocate for all who wish to enter homeownership or who are daydreaming about their future. 

"I am tortoising out my race," I say to colleagues who ask how I am doing. 

It's time to rediscover the joy in the work

As I focus on slowing down, I've been doing a lot of self reflection, asking questions like: 

  • Am I looking for opportunities to have fun?

  • Do I know how to practice self-care?

  • Am I listening and looking for ways to hear my clients' needs with new ears? 

And I'll tell you, it isn't easy asking my decades of experience and expertise to sit on the bench while I look at the work with a new lens and play with new rules. But this classically trained actor and former theater teacher is telling you this: Reflection and play are exactly what is needed. 

So, as I step into the reinvention phase of my year, do you want to join me and tortoise your race? Do you want to slow down and focus on what matters, discover the joy in the work, the core of our calling, the purpose of the role we play in our communities? 

If your "mody" is responding with a resounding "yes," then come play with me. Our colleagues and neighbors are struggling right now in diverse ways, so instead of putting bandaids on our injuries and sprinting past them, let's carve out time to be in creative play with them — for their sake and for the health of our future selves.

And that just might give us the space to find and choose a new story, one that serves this new landscape and moment. 

Jill Leberknight is the founder of the Austin Holistic Real Estate Group and leader of the Agent Jill Team. A former theater teacher, she began her real estate career nearly 20 years ago alongside a career in acting and describes herself as "an enthusiastic creative guide to finding real estate solutions that feed the soul and fit your story."

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