A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a group of would-be real estate agents when I was asked if a real estate agent can work for two brokers at once. When I was formulating my answer, I was reminded of how complicated some areas of real estate can be, especially with so many overlapping and interchangeable terms. So I thought this would be an excellent question to thrash out here on Real Estate Info Guide.
Can A Real Estate Agent Work For Two Brokers At Once? A real estate agent who does not hold a brokerages license cannot work, as a real estate salesperson, for two brokers at once. The exception is when an agent holds licenses in two, or more, different states and they work for one broker in each. Different rules apply for licensed brokers.
Why is “as a real estate salesperson” in italics? Because, as with many areas in the real estate profession, there are potential loop-holes and different rules depending on the state in which you live, and the professional level you have attained.
Can A Real Estate Agent Work For Two Brokers At Once?
To answer this, we have to take a step back and look at how real estate agents, brokers, and brokerages work. So, a quick rundown of this is that:
- A broker is an experienced real estate agent who has undertaken additional study and passed extra exams.
- Brokers can work:
- For themselves as an independent operator without any employees or employer
- As the managing broker of their own brokerage
- As a managing broker in a brokerage owned by someone else or
- As a broker associate for a brokerage where they operate solely as a salesperson, without the additional brokerage management responsibilities.
- Real estate agents must work under the supervision of a broker or brokerage and cannot operate independently. However, real estate agents are not usually, technically speaking, employees of a broker or brokerage.
- A brokerage can be a:
- Single broker operation
- A small to midsize company that has a managing broker who employes associate brokers and real estate agents
- A larger organization which employes multiple real estate agents, associate brokers, managing brokers, and support staff.
Going back to the original question, a real estate agent cannot work for two brokers at once because of the requirement to “hang their license” with a broker or brokerage. This is not just a flowery way of saying an agent must join a broker; they do actually have to physically hang their original, not photocopied, license on the wall of the registered office of the brokerage.
Can A Real Estate Agent Hold Multiple Licences To Hang In Multiple Brokerages?
A real estate agent can only hold one active license in a state at a time. Some states have reciprocal agreements where they recognize the education and training requirements from another state, and this allows an agent to transfer their license from state A to state B. In these cases once the license is active in state B, it becomes inactive in state A.
But Guess What?
It is possible for a real estate agent to hold an active license in a number of states at once, as long as they have completed each states training, passed the exams, and made a successful application for a license in each.
In these cases, it is possible for a real estate agent to hold a license in two brokerages at once as long as they were in separate states and they were only employed by one brokerage in each state.
In fact, this arrangement is relatively common in some parts of the country where a real estate agent might live and work in, for example, Florida for part of the year and Idaho for the rest.
Is There Anyway It Is Possible For A Real Estate Agent To Work For Two Brokers, In The Same State, At Once?
Greater legal minds than mine have been wrestling with this very question, and most of them have come to the conclusion that they do not want to commit themselves to a definitive yes or no.
Their Conundrum – The “Salaried Employee”
Some real estate agents, brokers, and others in the profession have attempted to argue that a person working as a real estate agent in “brokerage number one” may also be able to work in “brokerage number two,” in the same state, under certain conditions.
The rationale behind this is that a real estate agent is considered to be a “salesperson, licensed to sell real estate” and is usually paid through commission.
If a real estate agent was to hang their papers at “brokerage number one” and work under the terms of their real estate license, they could also work in “brokerage number two,” as long as the terms of their employment included the fact that they were a salaried employee. In these circumstances, the agent would receive a regularly scheduled, fixed salary and as such would not be an independent agent.
The problem with this arrangement is that, while working for “brokerage number two” the agent could not:
- Carry out any duties that should only be performed by a licensed real estate salesperson
- Use the title “real estate agent” while at work, in front of other staff or clients or outside of work in connection to their role at this brokerage.
- Undertake any professional development activities during their scheduled work hours.
- Perform any task, including checking email, taking telephone calls, etc., in connection with their role in brokerage one.
- Accept any form of bonus, commission, or special payment in relation to a property sale.
If the agent were to do so, they would be a risk of losing their license, as would brokerage number two.
Not only that but by working with two brokerages there is instant potential for a conflict of interest, and whether this was actually to occur or not, the appearance of impropriety would be enough to render this arrangement inappropriate at best.
How About Different Offices Of The Same Brokerage?
There are plenty of real estate businesses with multiple offices which may raise the question “Can a real estate agent work for different branches of the same brokerage?”
The answer to this would be yes, but with a caveat.
Think of it this way.
If the real estate agent concerned worked for “The Small And Friendly Real Estate Company” which had one managing brokers but three offices across town you could safely argue that as all transactions at all three offices take place under the watchful eye of the one managing broker, it doesn’t matter which physical office the agent works out of.
Theoretically, they could work out of all three, and their home office, although how you would every keep track of everything under these circumstances, I don’t know.
Now this agents friend works for “Super Big Nationwide McCorporate Real Estate Company” which has multiple offices not just across the city and across the state, but all around the entire country. In order to make this work, the company has hundreds of managing brokers, each of which is responsible for a particular geographical area, and a group of agents.
An agent working for them would only be able to work for an office under the control of their managing broker. If they were to do otherwise, they would not be acting under the supervision of the managing broker with whom they had hung their license, and this would be a violation of the rules which could have repercussions for both agent and brokerage.
Can A Broker Work For Two Brokerages At Once?
The answer to this one varies a great deal from state to state. In some places, it is a clear and simple no, while in others a broker can work for two, or more sperate brokerages as long as the managers for both are aware of the arrangement and both approve.
This type of situation sometimes arises when, for example, a broker will perform the role of a managing broker of a commercial real estate company while also working part-time as a property manager for a second real estate brokerage.
This is not possible for a real estate agent because most states require a real estate agent, or brokers license to take on a role as a property manager, and there would still be the “can’t hang my license in two places at once issue.”
The long and the short of it is that a real estate agent cannot work for two brokers at once unless they are operating under separate licenses held in different states. Any attempt to circumnavigate this rule, by embracing salaried employee status is fraught with problems an has the potential for both agent and broker to lose their license.
In most states, the rules for brokers are a little more elastic, and those professionals with a brokerage license may, in theory, work for two firms, Whether you could get his to work or not though, now that’s a matter for another post.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.