Some consumers will now be able to go to their local supermarket and pick up a more substantial purchase than dinner — a house.

RE/MAX of New England is teaming up with a large supermarket chain to open "micro" real estate offices in grocery stores, the franchise real estate brokerage announced this week.

The company has signed an exclusive, five-year agreement with Quincy, Mass.-based Stop and Shop Inc., one of the largest supermarket chains in New England with more than 375 stores throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, according to Stop and Shop’s Web site.

"The (real estate offices) will be at the front of the store. We wanted to have facilities where we could have additional awareness to our brand and our agents. Stop and Shops have such a large traffic volume that they seemed to be a perfect fit," said Jay Hummer, executive vice president of RE/MAX of New England.

RE/MAX plans to open 17 micro offices within the first year: 15 in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, and one in Rhode Island. The first one will open in about four months at a yet-to-be-determined location, Hummer said.

The company envisions that the offices will expand awareness of their brand and services.

"I don’t think anybody is going to go in for a loaf of bread and come out with a colonial," Hummer said. "(But) will somebody who’s shopping for dinner go in to view some homes through Yeah, probably. Will they ask an agent a real estate question? Yeah, probably that, too."

Consumers will have access to computers connected to, and, per the agreement, the offices will be open at least 50 hours a week.

Office size will be somewhere between 200 and 400 square feet, compared to a typical RE/MAX office, which is typically between 1,000 and 10,000 square feet. Offices will be prefabricated, with identical furniture and layouts in order to give customers a uniform experience and cut down on costs for franchisees.

All franchisees have to do is add staff, Hummer said. …CONTINUED

The company expects the small size and central location will attract both new and current franchisees looking to expand with the familiar RE/MAX brand behind them.

"It’s a smaller physical location, but allows for high visibility," said Robert Morey, broker-owner of RE/MAX Enterprise in Ridgefield, Bethel, and New Town, Conn. With at least half a dozen Stop and Shops between his three offices, he says opening up his own micro office in the future is a possibility.

"(This model) is the most efficient way for a broker to deliver access to services and for a real estate company to deliver services to its clients. It’s brilliant," Morey said.

The number of staff at each office will depend on the franchise, Hummer said, but he does anticipate agents will mainly use their offices to meet with clients, not necessarily for day-to-day operations.

"Agents are more mobile now. They have BlackBerrys, laptops and cell phones. They don’t necessarily live in the office anymore, but they do like to meet clients in their office. What better place to meet a client than in one of the most widely known places in their town — the grocery store," Hummer said.

In the early 1980s, retailer Sears, Roebuck and Co. set up in-store offices for real estate subsidiary Coldwell Banker and stock brokerage Dean Witter Reynolds.

The retailer closed most of the in-store offices in 1989 for lack of traffic and sold Coldwell Banker in 1993.

”We have found that you don’t sell stocks and bonds and real estate in the stores,” Douglas Fairweather, Sears’ director of corporate media relations, told The New York Times in March 1989.

RE/MAX of New England does not believe it will share a similar fate.

"We believe a grocery store is a little different than a clothing operation. People are in and out of grocery stores on multiple occasions during the week. Grocery stores are a centerpiece of the community."


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