Another round of layoffs hits in-house agents

Embattled lender’s brokerage subsidiary reportedly shut down has conducted yet another round of layoffs, though this time its beleaguered mortgage division was spared the hatchet.

The startup lender led by CEO Vishal Garg evidently laid off all of the agents at its lesser-known brokerage subsidiary, Better Real Estate, Inman reported. The number of agents affected is unclear, but the brokerage is licensed in 20 states and Washington, D.C.

One agent told Inman that the brokerage division shut down “with no warning,” while a former  Better Real Estate broker told the publication that former colleagues were contacting him after hearing that the firm had fired all of its agents.

Better informed the brokers Wednesday that they could continue working as partner agents, according to one of the agents impacted, in an arrangement where Better would collect fees equivalent to 20 percent of commissions in exchange for leads.

Better Real Estate was put forth as a pivotal part of the startup’s plan to provide end-to-end services in the residential market. Instead, the company appears to be pivoting to partnering with outside agents.

Better has not commented on the layoffs. The company is offering three months of health care according to one agent, who called the severance package an “insult.”

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As of 2021, the brokerage had 150 agents and was looking to grow its headcount to 500 as it expanded from 12 states to 20. While it hit its growth target — at least in terms of states — it’s unclear if the company ever reached the agent-growth goal.

Many of the departing agents were likely around during the last round of layoffs at Better, and perhaps even the ones before that. In December 2021, Garg notoriously laid off 900 employees via Zoom, a controversial move made worse by an anonymous blog post he wrote accusing the freshly out-of-work staffers of being unproductive.

Last March, the company laid off another 3,000 workers in the U.S. and India, inadvertently revealing the cuts by rolling out severance payments prematurely. A month later, Garg cut the company headcount even further.

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The company is facing lawsuits from former employees and contemplating staying private after preparing to go public in a SPAC merger that has yet to materialize. After peaking at 11,500 employees, the company’s workforce has been reduced by nearly 90 percent, Inman estimates.

Holden Walter-Warner