A guest perspective from Ashfaq Munshi, co-founder and CEO of Terabitz.
Tough times call for critical thinking.
Real estate broker – if you are dedicated to the brick-and-mortar brokerage office, but seek to change it up either to reduce cost or create an environment that infuses a spirit of change for customers and agents, you are not alone.
Brokerage office case study: Intero Andare
Silicon Valley California: In the popular, high-end retail / residential development known as Santana Row, you’ll find Intero’s flagship Andare office. This 3,000-square-foot space is a minimalist hub of modern style and consumer traffic. Gone are the catacomb of cubicles, replaced by communal areas with rich leather sofas and chairs, cafe tables and a large central work console equipped with a power and data conduit from the ceiling.
The front receptionist’s desk has been replaced with a retail-display-quality glass window, where Intero features resort properties and high-end homes from development partners broadcast on high-definition flat-screen TVs.
For developers, this serves as a localized space where they can create awareness of upcoming projects.
For agents, this modern space sparks a discernible energy that turns it from vanilla office into a hub of positive activity. Now it’s a convenient place to meet clients who are out shopping in the area already, check email and go over contracts (which are conveniently and securely stored online).
Agents plug into Web-based transaction management software enabling them to manage entire client files online, eliminating the need for paper and storage — hence the absence of copy machines, printers and the lasso of leases that hogtie their P&L.
For consumers, the Andare office emits an air of difference offering a beckoning invitation to come in and see what’s on the market while enjoying a cup of coffee, high-speed Wi-Fi, or meet with their agent to sign a contract. All without the threatening scent of sales.
For Intero brokers, all this traffic, interest and excitement came with a price. A reduced price. 70 percent less to be precise compared to Intero’s larger 7,000 – 11,000-square-foot offices, which have been part of the Bay Area landscape and part of the company’s brand identity. Andare was more than an experiment. It was a bold move during a year when most of their local competition buckled down, stopped spending and cut, cut, cut everything without replacing with anything new, different or better.
It was a move that sent a loud and clear message to their agents that evoked the type of leadership that makes them want to participate and do what they can to support.
It was a move that sent a renewed message to the public that real estate is not mom and pop, backward and dated but instead, concerned about enhancing the experience of anyone with even a remote interest in houses.
Still convinced your old brokerage office is getting the job done?
Part 1 of this article, Fashion Trends for real estate challenged the notion of office space for brokers, agents and consumers. In it I suggested replacing the terrestrial office altogether for a virtual one as the most cost-effective and absolutely doable approach in today’s networked world. But for those brokers who are still convinced they need office and seeking alternatives, Intero Andare stands as a beacon.
While I herald the merits the virtual world offers brokers, office space can make sense today and find itself home on Main Street creating brand awareness and brand experience for the consumer and a magnet for career minded agents searching for a progressive place to work.
And as I have learned from Intero, all of this can be acquired for price that is too good to pass up.
If you’ve ever dreamed of cutting cost and removing that large retail monkey from your back but never thought it possible to fit your organization inside a few thousand square feet, think again.
Lose the cubicles. Lose reception. Go completely wireless. Invite the public to use your machines and access your information. Give the agents couches to work on, coffee to sip and place this in the center of town. Then sit back and watch what happens.
Andare is an idea come to life. An experiment with a remarkable yield. And for Intero, just the beginning.
Interested in contributing a perspective to FOREM? Please send your submissions to futureofrealestate [at] gmail.com.
Photo by Mr. Greenjeans