The Internet and new consumer attitudes are creating pressure on the traditional real estate brokerage business model, as well as creating a demand for better response and greater efficiency. Brokers are finding that some of their agents are more knowledgeable about technology than they are, or even their office management staff.
- Consumers want a faster response from their agents.
- Agents are more mobile.
- Consumers expect more remote transaction processing.
- Agents are struggling with technology and web marketing.
The good news is that technology available right now can meet the needs of all of the players, consumers, agents, and brokerages. And, it can reduce your costs in a very competitive business environment.
Current Office Space
Let's assume a brokerage with 20 agents, receptionist, and three other people as support staff besides the sponsoring broker. We have created small office cubicle spaces for the agents of about 10 ft. x 10 ft. each. One conference room of about 200 sq. ft. is used for training and private meetings with clients. Office support personnel, management, and other spaces occupy another 1100 sq. ft. This is 3300 sq. ft.
Future Virtual Real Estate Office Space
Though there is still a need to have space for agents to work in the office when it's more conducive to their schedules and needs, we can now provide four 10 ft. x 10 ft. cubicles for use by any agent who needs to work in the office. All 20 agents have been assisted in getting themselves up to speed with current technology in order to work from home or on the road.
We do not want our agents meeting clients at agent homes. Many meetings will be held at the customer's home or office, which they will consider a convenience. However, when office space is required, we have set aside two smaller conference rooms just for this purpose. They are 150 sq. ft. each. So, in our old office, we had 2000 for agent spaces and 200 for the single conference room. We kept that one and added the other two. But, we are now using only 400 sq. ft. for agents. Our new total office space requirement without cutting any other staff or space is 2000 sq. ft. We've cut 1300 feet from our space, and our rent and utility budget.
With technology, there could be other savings, possibly even cutting one or more of our full-time office staff. However, right now we're just doing what is quite obviously possible. Future articles in this series will show you how you can make this virtual real estate office concept work, and lower costs in other ways.
Update for New Technology
Intranets were the topic of the day for a while, but formalized intranet structures are probably not necessary for the average real estate brokerage now. They're overkill in my opinion.
Using shared resources, such as Google Apps, can create an online virtual space where the business can support remote agents quite well and with complete security.
Actually, few brokerages are going the virtual route. The agents are more mobile, doing a lot of their computer and document duties at home or in the field. The same thing is being accomplished, as some of them really only want a conference room if a client wants to meet in the office. The more technology-oriented our agents become, the more brokerages will need to offer tech incentives to attract and retain the best.