Danielle Braff is a freelance writer, living in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, two cats, and a dog. Learn more about her at DanielleBraff.com.
What Kind of Office Space Fits Your Brokerage?
Ideas for choosing physical digs that reflect your company’s culture and goals.
April 26, 2018
You know the importance of finding the perfect home. But what about finding the perfect home for your business?
You may not think office space matters deeply to your agents because most of them spend the majority of their days in the field. Well, actually, 58 percent of real estate professionals are planted squarely in their office chair for the majority of the day, according to Placester’s recent Life as a Real Estate Agent Survey. So it’s wise to choose office space that reflects the culture and vibe you intend your company to embody. However, your office has to please more than your real estate team. It also must be appealing to prospective clients who can walk in at any time.
To help evaluate what type of office would truly reflect and work well for your brand, brokers and commercial designers have provided ideas for different brokerages models. Keep in mind that your company may fit more than one category.
Office style: Open floor plan
Why it works: Cite Partners, a commercial real estate brokerage based in Orlando, Fla., redesigned its floor plan when the company moved into a new office last year. The building was originally designed for the cubicle system, but Cite Partners knocked it out completely and replaced it with an open floor concept. “We felt that it was much more efficient to have the teams closer together in order to increase productivity and communication,” says Wilson McDowell, managing director and principal broker at Cite Partners. So far, the openness has encouraged more efficiency and communication between team members, McDowell says. An unexpected bonus: “It addresses flow within the office because you run into other people in the office more frequently,” he adds.
Office style: Work pods
Why it works: Roh Habibi, cofounder and principal broker of The Habibi Group Opulent Properties in San Francisco and star of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing San Francisco,” says he didn’t want his office to feel “so cutthroat and competitive.” He got rid of as many walls and individual offices as he could, replacing them with work pods. “The real estate model of yesterday has changed drastically. We are in a much faster-paced environment, and sales and marketing efforts need to keep up,” Habibi says, adding that the entire office needs to work together to make sales happen.
Brokerages in Heavily Residential Areas
Office style: Comfortable chairs, brick walls, and a cozy feeling—just like a home
Why it works: Habibi designed his office with a warm oak floor and mid-level gray colors, filling it with modern and comfortable furniture, including white leather chairs. The kitchen is white lacquer and carrera marble, and the entire building is made of rugged materials such as brick, timber, and steel. “It has so much charm, history, and character,” Habibi says. If it sounds like he’s describing a home, that’s the idea. “We wanted people to love to come in and spend their time here, so interior design was key.”
Dawn Totty, owner of Dawn Totty Designs in Chattanooga, Tenn., suggests designing the main area of your office to be clean and professional. But, she adds, “don’t be afraid to keep it warm and cozy, more like a residential living room.” You can achieve this look by adding wall art, comfortable seating, a few accessories, and a bowl of fresh flowers. Still, Totty suggests keeping the design as neutral as possible—just like you would tell a client not to leave too many personal items or decor on display during a showing. “Not everyone likes giraffe wallpaper and lava lamps,” she says.
Office style: Flexible workspaces
Why it works: Companies such as WeWork, which offers coworking spaces for more collaborative business environments, are catching on with young entrepreneurs. Cite Partners, whose agents skew younger in age, knows the appeal of flexible working spaces with millennials. So the company added a break room, a lounge area, two conference rooms, and multiple seating spaces. All were a hit with the agents and their clients. “Many people work in these different areas and have an opportunity to meet with clients or break out and have smaller meetings,” McDowell says.
Office style: Industrial, loft-inspired
Why it works: When Charmaine Wynter, a luxury interior designer in Dallas, was hired to design a small real estate brokerage’s space, she knew exactly what she had to do. “The key decision that has to be addressed is how do you want your clients to feel when they enter the office?” Wynter says. “I always use this answer as my launching-off point as to the type of decor and design that will ultimately be successful for the business.” The brokerage primarily served city clients who were looking for lofts and industrial units—and the company’s office building already had exposed brick walls and concrete floors. So Wynter embraced the industrial look by suspending the lighting and emphasizing the ducts. Rather than separating desks from other shared spaces in the office, Wynter added a bookcase, just like you’d do in a loft.
Office style: Play space
Why it works: Mark Ferguson, broker-owner of the newly opened Blue Steel Real Estate in Greeley, Colo., who caters to first-time buyers purchasing starter homes, is in the process of starting his own brokerage. He bought a 70,000-square-foot building and plans to include a full kitchen with a bar, pool tables, darts, a golf simulator, concrete floors, a possible fireplace or fountain, and private offices for agents. “My space is not visible from a major road, so I was able to get more space and make it awesome to make up for the visibility,” says Ferguson, who plans on adding a handful of agents to his team. “Quality over quantity,” he says.
Brokerages Focusing on Move-Up Buyers
Office style: A central location with plenty of room for parking
Why it works: The biggest mistake Evan Roberts made when choosing office space for his brokerage, Dependable Homebuyers in Baltimore, was focusing only on foot traffic. “We’re located in a popular Baltimore neighborhood called Federal Hill, and we receive a ton of traffic from people walking by,” Roberts says. “The issue is that when someone from outside the neighborhood wants to visit our office, they always have a difficult time finding parking.” The brokerage has six agents, and their target clients are young families who are outgrowing apartments and looking to upgrade to a single-family home in the suburbs. While foot traffic is important, it’s also a misconception that clients don’t also want parking. They do.