Virtual real estate brokerage models have existed for a number of years. Generally, a firm goes virtual in acknowledgment of the fact that fixed office costs and chasing technology investments adversely impact profitability and their ability to support agents.

This is especially true in unpredictable or depressed economic conditions. For many, the challenge has been the virtual model’s inability to add real value and accommodate the social and collaborative needs of real estate professionals.

Virtual models, as they’ve come to be understood, can be isolating and uninspiring. Agents are faxing paperwork to someone whose name they probably don’t know and who they’re unlikely ever to interact with. They work alone — in their car or in their home — but they don’t generally have meaningful access to brokers or mentors or peers. This absence of engagement has unfavorably impacted the adoption rate of the virtual office.

In contrast to a virtual office, a cloud office provides an aesthetically stimulating environment for professional development combined with customer relationship management (CRM) and digital end-to-end document management through transaction flow and compliance.

Today’s cloud office has a fully staffed transaction and administration office that agents know and develop relationships with because they interact with them in the cloud every day. Many have individual offices for agents, brokers and teams, a cafe for morning coffee and a lounge for happy hour. Agents can come into their cloud office and attend birthday parties and baby showers, or a book club session. It is a place to “be,” not just a place to work.

A cloud brokerage recognizes that real estate professionals are social people. They are in this business because they like helping people. They like meeting with people and they like working with people. A cloud brokerage creates an environment that not only accommodates those traits but which nurtures and encourages them.

A cloud office can be filled with interactive functional rooms and offices, meeting halls, and indoor and outdoor social gathering spots. Designer sofas, stools, plants and desks can also be among its furnishings. Art and family photos can adorn its walls. Theater-style seating, projection screens, whiteboards and podiums enhance presentation capabilities.

If properly structured and run, a cloud office can provide agents, teams of agents and brokers with all of the training, education, coaching, mentoring, transaction support, broker support, and technical support that one might expect to find in a traditional brick and mortar office. However, with a cloud office, you can attract the personalities, talents, experiences and expertise of colleagues and staff from around the world, where cubemates and colleagues in the traditional brick-and-mortar office invariably live in the same ZIP code.

The cloud office does away with geographical boundaries and empowers entrepreneurs to champion new skills and grow their businesses faster. Every aspect is built around agent and broker business stewardship and income opportunities, including the opportunity to build diverse and scalable teams.

The migration to a cloud brokerage model is becoming more rapid as a result of the following trends:

  • Technology now allows the consumer to be more independent and knowledgeable in his or her search for properties (but they still desire the advice of a professional and adviser during an emotional process).
  • Brokerage profits, agent compensation, and professional development and technology budgets continue to be impacted by brick-and-mortar expenses associated with offices (which agents are becoming less and less dependent upon).
  • More and more agents are recognizing the opportunity to learn from, and work, share and develop lasting friendships with people from around the globe in a cloud environment

The distinctions between a cloud brokerage and a virtual company are profound. A cloud brokerage is a home to agents who recognize the evolution and ever-increasing sophistication and knowledge of the consumer, and who seek best to utilize technological advances to enhance the consumer experience and level of service.

Jason Gesing is president of eXp Realty, a full-service, cloud-based real estate brokerage. He holds broker’s licenses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

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