Well-known business coach Dave Ramsey and his company appear to have gone on the offensive against eXp Realty, telling the firm’s agents that they will no longer work with them unless they switch to another brokerage.
Agents began learning they’d have to choose between their brokerage and their coach’s firm last week, according to multiple people who spoke with Inman. One of those agents was Justin Ford, who leads an eXp team in Michigan and who has been working with Ramsey’s company Ramsey Solutions for three years. Ford told Inman that during a call last week, his Ramsey coach said eXp’s “recruiting model takes away from the customer experience” and the company would no longer work with any eXp agents.
Ford also recalled the coach telling him that if he switched to another brokerage he could keep working with Ramsey Solutions.
Ford said he never received any documentation of Ramsey’s shift in policy, and all the communication happened on that phone call. Ford replied that he wouldn’t leave eXp, and shortly thereafter, he lost access to Ramsey’s digital resources.
“They immediately cut me off and deactivated my [customer relationship manager],” Ford said, adding, “I’m pretty shocked at how they’re handling this.”
Inman reached out multiple times over the last week to Ramsey Solutions, but never received a response to emails or voice messages seeking comment on the situation.
EXp and Dave Ramsey have no formal relationship, and the agents impacted by the situation appear to have been those who were independently using Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Partners (ELP) program, which promises “quality referrals” for “top-tier agents.” Among other things, Ramsey Solutions also claims on its website that agents using the ELP program do “at least 3x more closings than the median agent.”
Ford was an ELP user himself and said he was bringing in “over six figures a year in commission” from the program.
Robyn Heathcock, a Dallas-area agent who switched from Keller Williams to eXp just weeks ago, also said her coach told her last week in a call that she could no longer work with Ramsey Solutions as long as she remained at eXp. According to Heathcock, her coach pointed to eXp’s recruiting efforts, saying such a practice could “affect customer service” and meant the brokerage was not sufficiently focused on selling real estate. Heathcock did not receive any further explanation despite asking for more information.
After the call ended, she received an email — which Inman reviewed — in which a vice president from Ramsey Solutions wrote, “we are sad to see you leave.” The email goes on to state that Heathcock is still obligated to pay referral fees.
“As for clients and referrals — any leads you’ve received from us, whether you’re serving them now or plan to do so in the future, will still be subject to the 30 percent referral fee at closing,” the email states.
Heathcock said her contract with Ramsey’s firm requires her to pay referral fees for two more years, even if she’s no longer a client of the company. Despite being presented with a choice, however, Heathcock told Inman the episode “actually strengthened my resolve to stay at eXp.”
EXp headquarters began learning about the conflict late last week. Glenn Sanford — company founder and CEO of parent firm eXp World Holdings — told Inman the situation “took us a little bit by surprise.” And Sanford confirmed that numerous agents have been told “that unless they change brokerages from eXp they can’t continue to receive leads.”
Sanford said he “didn’t know how big a deal Ramsey was” to some agents, but has since learned of instances in which agents were earning significant sums — including one person who reportedly brought in $400,000 in commission income over the last year — just from Ramsey’s referrals. As a result, the conflict has become a significant and potentially costly issue for some eXp agents.
“This is a big deal,” Sanford said. “There’s a lot of money here.”
Sanford said Ramsey has also not reached out to eXp about the situation, and that the cause of the conflict remains unclear.
“There’s something else going on that we just don’t understand,” Sanford added.
The agents who spoke with Inman shared Sanford’s sense that there was a component to the situation that they didn’t grasp.
“It didn’t make sense to me,” Heathcock said of her coach’s explanation.
Though it’s not entirely clear how many eXp agents were using the ELP program, an eXp spokesperson told Inman that as of Thursday about 150 had come forward to say they’ve been impacted. The company also estimates that between 50 and 100 additional agents used the ELP program at some point in the past.
It’s not uncommon for both brokerages and agents to team up with prominent coaches. Earlier this year, for example, eXp announced a new partnership with Grant Cardone. And Ramsey himself has teamed up with other real estate behemoths, such as when he spoke at a RE/MAX conference earlier this year.
Sanford said his company’s lawyers are currently reviewing the situation, though eXp is not “aggressively” pursuing a legal remedy. Instead, the company is currently trying to understand why Ramsey cut off eXp agents.
“If we’re being badmouthed in the marketplace, we want to know why,” Sanford added.
In the meantime, the company is taking steps to compete with Ramsey. Sanford said that after eXp learned Ramsey Solutions was cutting agents off, eXp leadership spent the weekend working on a rival program that could serve as a replacement for Ramsey’s ELP. The new offering has since been named “SUCCESS Experts” and is being built out of the infrastructure of Success Magazine, which eXp acquired last fall.
The new program works by running internet ads targeting consumers who have expressed an interest in real estate services. Though the program is only days old, a company spokesperson said the ads are up and running now.
Sanford went on to say the new program will be available to the kind of top-performing agents who were working with Ramsey, and that eligibility “matches up to a large extent with our Icon agents” — a reference to an elite status agents can earn at the company.
Agents generally appear to be sticking with eXp for the time being, with both Ford and Chuck Fazio — who leads an Arizona-based eXp team — saying most of the agents in their circles are staying put.
But even so, the situation has produced significant disappointment. Fazio, for example, has worked personally with Ramsey and said he shares Ramsey’s Christian beliefs. But Fazio also sees these latest moves as cutting against that Christian messaging.
“What I am doing is calling to light the fact that the people he’s hurting are his brothers and sisters in Christ,” Fazio said. “My beef with Dave is not, ‘Are you allowed to do this?’ Or, ‘Can you do this?’ It’s, ‘How do you give your brothers and sisters in Christ an ultimatum based on the brokerage they’re at?’”
Ford, too, was saddened by the conflict. He said he was a Ramsey fan even before joining the ELP program, but based on the way the situation has been handled that’s no longer the case.
“It’s disheartening for sure,” he said, adding that on the call he told his coach, “You lost a fan in me.”