Real estate offices are typically not the most attractive places in the world. A row of agents sitting at desks doesn’t act as a great draw to people new in town who wanting to get a taste of the place. But an architecturally designed space with lots of fun things to do — like Google Earth Liquid Galaxy map technology, coffee, information from local experts on interesting things to do in the area? Now, that sounds more like it.
- The Source is a lifestyle center set up by independent real estate company The Group in Fort Collins, Colorado.
- It provides information to visitors on things to do in the Fort Collins area as well as real estate advice for those thinking of relocating to the area.
Real estate offices are typically not the most attractive places in the world. A row of agents sitting at desks doesn’t act as a great draw to people new in town who wanting to get a taste of the place.
But an architecturally designed space with lots of fun things to do — like Google Earth Liquid Galaxy map technology, coffee, information from local experts on interesting things to do in the area? Now, that sounds more like it.
From New Zealand to Fort Collins, Colo.
It was on a trip to the picturesque town of Queenstown, the Aspen of New Zealand, that Larry Kendall, chairman and founding partner of North Colorado’s The Group Inc Real Estate, first came up with the idea for The Source Fort Collins. He visited a tourism information office there, called an i-SITE. It was next door to a real estate agent’s office, which was “kind of connected,” Kendall remembers.
“I saw that and thought, ‘What a great concept,’” said Kendall.
Just over a year ago, Kendall — an entrepreneurial type with his own sales-training business, Ninja Selling, within The Group — opened The Source, a lifestyle center, in the heart of Fort Collins’ Old Town. It was cannily located just across the road from a town visitor center.
“One thing we didn’t want was to have it look like a real estate office — we wanted it to look like a combination of a Starbucks and an Apple store,” explained Kendall. “You can get a coffee there, and in the evenings, a beer.”
Top priority: Information
Kendall stresses The Source’s first priority is to tell people about the area.
“You will not see any agents sitting at a desk like a normal real estate office — though there are a couple of agents on hand,” he explained.
The marketing literature of The Source states: “We are here to help you discover where to live, places to go, and things to do.”
Kendall elaborated on his approach. “About 25 percent of our business is relocation — people are moving from someplace else. These people not only need housing advice, they also want to know what the place has to offer.”
When he opened The Source, Kendall appointed experienced marketing and PR operator, Marge Brodahl as the site’s Certified Tourism Ambassador.
“The real estate side is secondary. The primary goal is to use it as a branding tool and reach out to the community,” she said.
Growing town, rapid development
The Colorado town is drawing in a new population thanks to active hiring from some of its successful local employers. Fast-growing tech business OtterBox has its headquarters just a few blocks away. Another local company, Woodward Governor, manufacturer for the aerospace and energy industries, has grown to a substantial size, said Kendall.
As a consequence, new housing is underway in the town.
“This is very rapidly growing residential market, there is a lot of loft development in the Old Town,” said Kendall.
The Source has proven a strong attraction not only to visitors to Fort Collins but also to staff from The Group, who enjoy holding events at the space. Kendall has taken the second floor above The Source for a number of departments from The Group.
Relocation and marketing resources on-site
“What I noticed was most of the people coming in were moving here so we moved our relocation office there.”
He also noticed The Source was providing potential for The Group brand, so he has moved his marketing department to the location.
Agents from The Group come and “work the floor,” said Brodahl. “They love it. It’s great lead generation,” she said.
“Between September 2014 when we opened and December 2014, we had 43 walk-ins seeking real estate information,” Brodahl added.
Paying the rent with ad revenue
“We also offer advertising and marketing at The Source — there are displays for listings and local builders. The ad revenue from this pays for the rent,” said Kendall.
After being open just over a year, the momentum continues to build, he added.
“We have just had someone join from another company, and The Source was the primary reason she came. She wanted to be in that vibe,” said Kendall.
Kendall runs a Ninja Selling training class in the 1,800-square-foot space eight or nine times a year; this introduces a large number of agents from all over the country to the concept.
“Agents who are in city markets like Chicago and Austin have been very taken by it,” he said. “They would like to have a storefront like this.”