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Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Orange County, Calif., is banking on a new breed of office to satisfy agents’ and clients’ needs while providing more efficiency in operations.
This week, the brokerage opened a new office, which the company dubbed an "entertainment conference venue," in Huntington Beach, Calif., to serve as a satellite to a larger office in Newport Beach.
The 1,850-square-foot satellite office features a coffee bar, Wi-Fi, three lounges, two conference rooms, and a 42-inch flat-screen monitor for viewing properties, among other amenities. About 50 sales associates will work out of this office.
"Think of it as a very high-end boutique Starbucks type of facility," said Jeff Culbertson, regional executive vice president for the Southwest and Sacramento Region of NRT LLC, the parent company of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage that oversees company-owned operations for Realogy Corp.
Culbertson noted that while there has been a general trend in office closures and consolidation throughout the industry, the facility represents a "new wave of office environments for our company as it transitions away from the bricks-and-mortar brokerage firms of the past."
He said that there are dramatically fewer real estate offices in commercial spaces now than there were just three years ago, toward the peak of the latest real estate boom.
"I would have to believe — if you were to analyze it — there are maybe two-thirds fewer offices today than there were then," he said.
The Huntington Beach office is not the first Coldwell Banker satellite office of its kind, and it likely won’t be the last.
Culbertson said the latest office follows the example of an office in Manhattan Beach, Calif., that is a satellite to the company’s Palos Verde office.
Other examples include a La Canada office, which is tied to a larger Pasadena office, and a Fountain Hills, Ariz., satellite office.
The satellite offices typically share managers with a larger regional office, Culbertson said, and lack the staffing level of those larger offices.
"Most of the business is done outside of the office anyway," he noted. Technology is a big enabler — he uses a BlackBerry device for mobile voice and Internet communications and his son, who is also in real estate, carries an iPhone.
He said he told an audience at a California Association of Realtors conference that "if you don’t have one of these in your pocket you will no longer be in the business a year from now."
In many cases the company’s agents are drivers of the new office structures, Culbertson said, and it was not a matter of "build it and hope (the agents) would come."
He added, "We had agents come to us and say, ‘Why don’t you do this? If you did this we would definitely support that.’ "
While there are opportunities to bring new office models to other regions, that "doesn’t mean all of our offices are going to look this way," Culbertson said. Realogy executives have been supportive of the efforts, he also said — Realogy President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Smith flew out from New Jersey to get a first-hand look at the new office.
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