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Industry Relations: Solving for Professionalism in Real Estate with the W-2

by Greg Robertson on April 18th, 2018

Would the woes of the real estate industry be resolved if agents were employees rather than independent contractors? At Inman Disconnect, Rob posited that shifting from the 1099 to a W-2 model would give brokers more control and allow them to address several of the fundamental issues in the space, raising the standards of professionalism by eliminating incompetent or toxic agents—without risking their livelihood.

Today, Rob, Greg and Sunny debate Rob’s proposal, discussing the challenges brokers face in mandating trainings and mentoring for new agents who are independent contractors. Greg argues that leadership is at issue rather than employment status, contending that employees and independent contractors alike are only motivated by leaders who inspire buy-in. Rob, Greg and Sunny address the broker’s responsibilities around professionalism in the industry and weigh in on whether or not brokers can afford to fire top producers who are toxic to the business.

Rob breaks down the revenue structure in a brokerage, explaining how the shift to a W-2 model would give brokers more autonomy and abate the head-count-driven model that fuels a lack of professionalism. Listen in as Rob and Greg come to an unprecedented agreement on the role of leadership in raising industry standards and learn how the law firm model—with its division of employee-associates and partners—might be adapted for real estate.


What’s Discussed:


Rob’s proposal that the 1099 is the cause of many industry woes

The history behind the shift to agents as independent contractors

Sonny’s take on the broker’s challenge in mandating trainings

Greg’s argument that the issue is leadership vs. control

The broker’s responsibility around agent professionalism

How great leaders attract great talent

Why it’s difficult for agents to move brokerages

Why brokers are hesitant to fire toxic agents

The breakdown of revenue in a brokerage

-Don’t make money on top producers

-Earn on 60/40 agents (five deals/year)

How the W-2 structure would give brokers more control

What triggers the head-count-driven model

-Companies compensate for recruiting numbers

-No cost to keep agent who does two deals/year

-Brokers make LESS from superstar top producers

How the law firm model might be adapted for real estate



 Inman Disconnect


Connect with Rob and Greg:

Rob’s Website

Greg’s Website


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One Comment
  1. Thomas Wissel permalink

    It seems to me to also be a crisis of perception. People flock to the real estate industry as a way to make “easy money.” Brokers are continuously “HIRING NOW!” Agents that are even doing marginally well have to “look the part” to attract clients. What is the actual hourly rate of a real estate agent; do they even make minimum wage? If that were widely known, would so many people flock to the industry?

    Brokerage depends on volume of sales, more agents regardless of their skill level, means more bites at the apple.

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