Sea Change Coming for Real Estate Brokerage

Business owners likely to change the way brokerage offices do business and how space is configured.

The ongoing global health crisis has forced business owners to alter the way they do business.  As we’re all learning, if you don’t adapt and embrace new and different ways of doing business, you’ll get left behind. In the real estate industry, broker-owners and their sales professionals have had to become particularly nimble in the way they do business.

Due to the strong interpersonal nature of this industry, it’s become incredibly challenging to do business the way we’ve done it in the past, which sadly was only a few months ago. It seems like ages since we’ve gathered around the water cooler with peers, attended in-person team meetings, and packed ourselves into tight rooms for training sessions. We took for granted the ability to meet with clients face-to-face at a Starbucks or in their homes. Open houses and showings were just a part of the daily hustle.

We’re resilient people, and we’re figuring things out. It is incredible how quickly we’ve all embraced our new virtual world. While video conferencing has been around for a while, it hasn’t necessarily been a preferred or widespread way of doing business. It’s now become our new best friend!

Whether Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams, we’ve all had to learn how to use virtual communication platforms to keep in touch with our co-workers, partners, and clients. Inter-personal restrictions have also prompted us to rely more on virtual home staging, virtual tours, and even virtual closings.

We’ll get back to rubbing elbows once we get past this health crisis, but the widespread acceptance of virtual business born from this crisis will no doubt fashion permanent habits for all of us. From an employer’s perspective, we’ll be more accepting of working from home as well as virtual meetings and training. From a sales professional’s perspective, we’ll find virtual meetings more acceptable to our clients. This will ultimately lead to less of a need for abundant office space or a way to distance people within the office.

In the real estate industry, we’ve seen a long-term trend that has us slowly moving away from brick and mortar in our new virtual world. This crisis will force our hand to accelerate this trend drastically.

Many of our brokerage clients at REAL Trends are putting into motion plans to reduce their occupancy expenses. Also, we got a big tell from a recent survey we sent to leading firms around the country. A whopping 62% of those polled will consider reducing their footprint when office leases come up for renewal, with nearly half seriously considering office consolidations based on the success of working from home and virtual meetings.

The bottom line is that the COVID-19 health crisis has fostered a universal acceptance of virtual business. This will undoubtedly prompt a sea change in the way brokerages view, design, develop, and ultimately spend money on office space.

Scott Wright is vice president of REAL Trends and handles brokerage valuations, mergers and acquisitions and is editor of the REAL Trends 500.