Even as the coronavirus has sparked a seismic shift to remote work environments, Seattle-based Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty President and CEO Dean Jones is confident the future of real estate will still hinge on face-to-face, personal interactions.
That’s why Jones, alongside Chief People Officer Stacy Jones and Realogics team leaders Tammy Gwinn and Lindsey Bundy, are forging ahead with the opening of a new, Mercer Island office slated to officially open in July.
Housed in Gwinn and Bundy’s year-old residential lifestyle coworking space The Home Collaborative, the new office will have enough room for eight to ten Realogics brokers. The rest of the space is dedicated to The Home Collaborative’s members, who include architects, interior designers, loan officers, and other real estate and lifestyle professionals.
“One thing that I don’t think is going to change is [the need for in-person interactions],” Jones told Inman. “In some ways [there’s been] a global reset where so many businesses are looking at how they do business, what environments they need to procure client relationships, and basically where their priorities are.”
“I think it builds off of the trend of working from home,” he added. “The Home Collaborative was already in play well before [COVID-19] and the CDC regulations, and we’re all confident and hopeful that the guidelines that are in place today will be loosened, if not removed, once there is a vaccine and as people get back to business as usual.”
Gwinn and Bundy, who came from Compass to Realogics, said the idea for The Home Collaborative came to them while sitting in a Mercer Island Starbucks. As they worked, the duo noticed a boutique office space and began imagining what it would be like to have a boutique space of their own.
“We were thinking, ‘How can we work right there?’” Gwinn said. “How can we bring in the mortgage banker? How can we bring in the interior designer and the colorist and the stager and life coaches?”
“We found there was a lack of connection between once the transaction was finished to then carrying on to making a house a home,” Bundy added. “We love people, we love our clients, so beyond the newsletters, beyond the coffee dates, the birthday cards, the client appreciation parties, we wanted to go deeper.”
With that in mind, the duo began researching the coworking industry and created The Home Collaborative concept, which focuses on connecting clients, brokers, and other professionals who can provide various real estate and lifestyle services needed during and after a transaction.
“Their home is their lifestyle,” Gwinn said. “It’s more than a coworking space, meaning its more of a boutique and The Home Collaborative does more than serve people who just want to get out of the house.”
“The residential lifestyle services is for the client, once they move into the home,” Bundy followed. “It’s also for the community to really be a resource on the various things we offer through The [Home] Collaborative.”
“In addition to that, we embrace our members,” she added. “We’re here to build their business to community and network and allow collaboration between the members and broker services.”
Although Compass embraced the idea of The Home Collaborative, Gwinn and Bundy said their research pushed them to look at other brands that could offer the correct support in terms of systems and processes.
“What we really wanted to do was build something in addition to The [Home] Collaborative that supported the members but integrating some top-performing brokers that had the mindset of innovation and client-centric focus,” Bundy said. “We started to build, design and brand The Home Collaborative Living, and as we started to get into the systems of processes of what would be needed, we had to take a step back and we started to do some research about the brands out there.”
“We noticed that Realogy was really focusing on with Better Homes and Gardens and with Sotheby’s, was embracing the forward-thinking of how real estate has to evolve not only to only service the market but to service the client,” she added.
At the same time, Dean and Stacy Jones began hearing great things about The Home Collaborative and decided Gwinn and Bundy’s business fit within their brokerage’s long-standing commitment to lifestyle-centered offices.
“We’ve always approached the real estate brokerage business from a very different perspective because neither Stacy nor I come from a real estate broker background,” Dean said. “I’m a developer and Stacy is an executive marketing person that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies, and so we’ve always taken the business approach from the broker up as opposed to the company down.”
“What that’s led us to is truly partnering with our brokers who help guide us build new tools from the beginning including very unique retail environments,” he added.
The husband-wife duo said almost all of their offices have a lifestyle component, with one serving as a wine bar, another one serving as an art gallery, and another serving as a community event space.
“We’ve always understood that culture is key, and if your brokers don’t want to be in the environment then they’re not going to collaborate,” Stacy said. “We’ve always chosen to bring our real estate brands to premier retail locations in fundamentally unique pedestrian locations where we can intermix the broker, the third-party businesses that work with us, as well as the consumer.”
“We know that real estate happens where conversations start,” she added.
The Jones said they expect their place in The Home Collaborative will place Realogics in a prime position to serve clients, connect with vendors, and offer flexibility to brokers as Washington reopens.
“As a company, we’ve invested in a significant cloud system and we’ve offered all of our staff to have the flexibility to work from home, or for those who are comfortable, work in the office,” Stacy said. “We’re providing all of our programs to those who decide to stay at home, [and] we’re insuring all of their computers and home technology can function as if they were in the office.”
“However, I think our whole marketplace is looking forward to getting back to people and culture and connection,” she continued. “This [time] at home has forced us to look and recenter.”
“I think there will be a resurgence in connecting in a new way,” she concluded. “I think getting back to some of the basics of running a business about connections, culture, and people is a really positive pivot.”