The modern world is changing and the real estate industry is evolving along with it. Properties are listed and shared online, and automation has made keeping in touch with clients easier than ever.
As most people now search for property online first, not to mention doing more of their shopping via the internet, they’re less likely to be strolling past their local real estate agent’s office. This is especially the case in metro areas.
What’s more, busy clients have different expectations and will be happier if you can meet them at their home or close to their office, rather than taking the time to come to you.
Changes to the way real estate agents interact with their clients raises the question: do you really need a real estate office? If the thought of giving up your bricks and mortar presence is one you’d like to explore, take a look at the pros and cons.
Benefits of a virtual real estate office
Forgoing a physical presence on the high street can save you thousands of dollars per year. You won’t have to pay rent for an office space or spend money on an office fit out. You also won’t be locked into a leased space that is inflexible should you need to expand or downsize your team.
Not having an office can reduce your business insurance costs and will also save you in small ways like no longer having to provide equipment, stationery or kitchen supplies for your staff. Being truly mobile means you can prioritise customer service, arranging to come to them almost anywhere that suits them.
Making this kind of change is also an opportunity to switch to the cloud. Cloud computing for real estate brings your entire business online, including client information and business records. Documents can be stored securely in the cloud, preventing theft and also reducing the impact of an office break-in.
You might wonder what will happen to your staff if you don’t have an office. In many cases, they may be more than happy to work from home, particularly if they are raising a family. Not having to go to the office saves commuting time and can offer better work/life balance for your team.
To achieve a happy medium, another option is to pay for a co-working space a few days a week. This offers all the benefits of an office without a lock-in contract. You can book meeting rooms to catch up with your clients or touch base with your team in person. Alternatively, a serviced office might be a solution, providing all the office equipment and space you need for a fixed monthly fee.
Creating a virtual real estate office gives you more flexibility as you won’t feel as much pressure to be physically present for your staff. By taking advantage of cloud computing for real estate and other cloud-based software like WhatsApp, Slack or Google for Business, you can run your business and be in contact with your team from almost anywhere, even when you’re away on leave. You can also offer digital signature features to your clients so they don’t have to drop documents into your home base.
Reasons to keep your real estate office
Of course, creating a virtual real estate office isn’t right for everyone. Depending on where you’re located, having a physical presence, a great window display and access to regular foot traffic can make a difference to your client numbers.
An office can give your staff a sense of unity so they can support each other and share ideas. There may also be some customers who have old-school expectations and want the ‘in-store’ experience of coming to you.
You could leverage your office by creating a premium customer experience, with stylish consultation rooms and espresso coffee on request. Doing so can provide a point of difference for your business.
Your physical office is also a chance to showcase your brand. Having a slick interior and great-looking signage can promote your reputation as a professional and reliable real estate operator.
Virtual real estate office: yes or no?
To decide if you should go virtual, consider your daily habits and if you would feel comfortable without an office. Discuss the idea with your team and do the sums to see if forgoing your office would make sense from a profitability perspective.
You may find running the property management part of your business means you need a functioning office with an in-house team. However, you may also find you can outsource some tasks, even to an offshore provider, as another way of saving money.
While it is somewhat ironic for a real estate business to run without the need for bricks and mortar, it is likely once you have smoothed out a few issues you will find this way of doing business to be effective, efficient and appreciated by your customers.