Real estate agents and brokers still like to argue about whether we work more effectively out of our homes or at a real estate brokerage office.
Some say they’re most productive in an office environment. Buyers and sellers may perceive that agents who work out of real estate offices are more “professional” than those who do not.
There are some jobs where it is really important to go into work. I have never heard of a heart surgeon who telecommutes or a bus driver who works from a home office.
Some agents work with clients who are impressed with opulent offices and dark suites. But I’ve had plenty of clients express relief when I offer to come to their home or office to meet with them, or in a coffee shop that is close to their home.
What others call “unprofessional” I call personalized service.
Where we work should really be a personal choice. We should focus on what we can accomplish, instead of where it is being accomplished.
When I work with clients, I work all over town. I go in and out of houses all day, and spend a lot of time in my car. Much of my work in marketing homes happens on the Internet, as does most of my prospecting for new business.
Most of the time, I’m too busy to go in to an office to work. I do most of my office-type work in my well-appointed, but modest, home office. No one ever has trouble finding me if they have a question or need some help.
There are people who do not have a place to work at home. I know of a couple of agents who live in smaller condos and who have young children at home. They need places to go to work. For them a real estate office is where they are the most productive.
My children are adults and I don’t have any more interruptions at home than I would have in an office. Most of my interruptions come in the form of phone calls, text messages, emails and the occasional tweet. I can be interrupted anywhere, and I don’t find working at home at all distracting.
If I’m working at home, I do take care to confine my work to my office, and out of other parts of the house. When I don’t want to work in my home office, I go to a coffee shop or a co-working collaborative I belong to, CoCoMSP.
As a CoCo member, I can drink the coffee and use the space to meet with clients. I occasionally use conference rooms for meetings or presentations. I spend my days in the community. As a result, I know a lot of people. Sometimes they ask me to help them buy or sell real estate.
There are collaboratives that are just for real estate professionals, but I don’t understand why anyone who is a real estate agent would want to spend their days with other real estate agents. Opportunities to network and to socialize with other agents are plentiful both online and off. There are so many other people to network with, it’s hard to find the time.
Real estate agents from the same office rarely collaborate with each other. We collaborate with clients and with agents who are representing the other party in a real estate transaction. We may work together for hours and days or even weeks and never see each other or meet in person. We share information electronically and sometimes resolve problems via telephone.
Office meetings are important, but only if you work in an office. The rest of us do just fine without ever going to a meeting. We get our news on the street and through the associations and over the Internet.
If I were running a real estate office, I would focus on making it a comfortable place to work for the agents who need a place to work. I would not provide a lot of space because most productive agents don’t sit in offices all day.
My comfortable workspace would include strong Wi-Fi, great coffee and an assortment of stand-up desks, a large table, a wall of white boards or glass, and perhaps a treadmill desk or two. There would be some meeting spaces with tables and chairs, and a comfy chair or two with some decent lighting for reading. I would provide at least one large flat-screen TV with Chromecast and an Apple TV.
Having special spaces for teams would be a great way to pay for the rest of the space. There would be parking and 24-hour access, because real estate is not a 9-to-5 kind of job.
The most important factor for me in choosing a workplace is that I have everything that I need to be productive.
Some days I’m not productive no matter where I go. Other days I get massive amounts of work done while everyone else is in bed or driving to work.
Sure I could step away from my computer and reach out to people in a more personal way — if I liked people, and if I could get them to look up from their phones long enough to have a conversation.
If I worked in a real estate office, I would probably have less contact with the general public than I do working from home.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.