The Future of the Real Estate Office... and Company

Real Estate Agent with BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY Home Services California Properties

So, where is this company? I am ready! I love it. Does this mean that this company would have an intelligent, positive, upbeat, up on the latest, qualified, helpful and smart manager with a passion for the industry and a sincere appreciation for her agents? Also would it have staff who actually like their job? GREAT! Count me in. Is there an office like this in the West San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles county? We are so hungry for a new face in our area. I love your conversation at the coffee machine. It gave me the chuckles. I can connect with this ideal. One more thing. How are you going to make sure that the people who used to hang out by the coffee machine will get the right education so we do not have to re-write the entire offer in our counter to make sure everything is done right?

Original content by Matt Dollinger
A note of thanks to Marc and Brian of 1000Watt Consulting, Joel Burslem of FOREM, and Ash Munshi of Terabitz for their contributions to this topic. Picture this…

You own a brokerage in a major city. You are an established name. And like everyone around you, you currently suffer at the hands of the real estate downturn.

Business is down 40% and your costs are spiraling out of control. Costs that include:

Print advertising. A surplus of marketing, IT, managers and support staff. And a lease for office space that provides too much room for too many agents who have no need for it.

This image is filled with roll-top desks, conference rooms and employee break rooms. It could be an office in any town, in any city, in every corner of the United States. And somewhere, in some lonely office within it, the sound of CFO’s weeping only masked by the whispers of agents talking near the coffee pot can be heard.

“So… how’s your business” “Business? It’s really tough out there.” “Yeah. Did you hear about Steve? He went to (competitor X) the other day?” “Really? Wow… Sally took a part time job at Coffee-Joes.” “Huh… That’s smart. Gives you a little cushion.” “Yeah. I’m hoping the Spring Market kicks in soon.” “Uh-huh. Maybe the stimulus thing will help. I wish it was still $15K.” “Well, I spent some money on a program to get some Internet leads yesterday.” “Really? That’s a good idea. I just started a blog.” “That’s a great idea. I heard about that Social Internet. That’s where the buyers are…” “Uh huh… I’m going to focus on the Luxury Market.” “Well… I’m gonna go to some broker’s opens. Wanna go?”

Do these images look and sound familiar?

What it could look like .

Unlock this door and enter a 2,000 sq. foot space. Inside are half a dozen customer service people with varying degrees of specialties that range from sales to legal to mortgage services. Outside, an intern arranges the courtyard space that includes tables and chairs that run along the sidewalk. Outside, music is piped in from satellite radio. Inside the flat screen panel televisions spark to life. The smell of fresh locally-roasted coffee roasted specifically for your company and branded with your logo begin to fill the air as a local pastry company delivers trays of treats.

The agent “sitting floor” dons a headset connected to her computer linked by VOIP to a central server that holds all the company listings, information, and agent contact information. The first call of the day arrives. Since the caller dialed an extension for property information, before the call is answered, the property information, pictures, property videos, neighborhood market information, tax information and comparable properties are populated on the screen.

The agent who answers the call is instantly able to provide all the information to the caller. Since they are part of your “Client Care” group they can communicate effectively and intelligently with the caller on all buying and selling . The selling agent’s schedule also appears on the screen, so the sitting line agent can setup a buyer’s interview an hour before a the appointment, which is sent immediately to the selling agent’s handheld.

A stream of passerby’s stroll through the door taking advantage of the ancillary services made available to them. Whether it sipping coffee, accessing the web from the mini bar of computers, stock quotes, RSS news feeds, and short video spots of properties and the company’s current CSR projects flow across the LCD screens as they wait. For those have brought their laptops they freely tap into the Wifi provided and log in from the companies branded webpage that also includes local news feeds, real estate information, videos of homes for sale, current market statistics, and more.

Outside the brokerage their solar powered sign displays the time, the temperature, current interest rates, as well as the # of kilowatt hours this particular office has saved by doing their part to go green. A fleet of Zip-Car hybrids that sport the company logo on them are parked out front available for both agents and local residents to use upon request. A number of dog bowls with fresh water line the side of the building and in the windows are pictures of local school outreach programs, sports teams, and children’s social responsibility groups that this brokerage has been a part of.

A young couple enters and is immediately greeted by an office manager who answers their many questions about the current real estate market. As a result of this discussion, which reveals them to be first time buyers, their needs are matched to the appropriate agent rather than whoever happens to be free at the moment.

The right agent greets the couple and takes them through the process of buying a home, the benefits, potential downfalls, and explores their short – mid – and long-term goals. He discusses school districts, why they are looking to buy a home right now, the current state of the real estate market and then asks if they have learned about “Financial Responsibility in Lending” yet. The couple replies no.

The agent invites the lending professional who occupies space inside this facility. They present a “Financial Responsibility” worksheet for these first time buyers. It’s a multi-paged brochure that discusses the responsibilities associated with mortgages, what is needed to apply for one, and what type of information will be required to apply for a mortgage.

An interested lunch crowd is invited to gather and attend an impromptu performance that includes a set list of economic talking points such as “Improving your Credit Score” and the Are you stimulated by the housing bill. This free seminar is held 2 times a week and is part of the “Home Buyer Education Curriculum”. A free flash drive containing budgeting software, articles, and a copy of the presentation is provided to each of the attendees upon completion of the seminar.

Wouldn't YOU want to work here?

The real estate office of the future starts… and ends… with the real estate Company of the future. I think that this is a good start.

Matt Dollinger
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