In a world where more people are questioning the value of a physical office when mobile computing and networks allow practically everything to be done outside the office, the traditional real estate “office” is evolving into a very different animal. Through this evolution, brokers are questioning the value of the borderless office and its impact on both existing physical locations and potential expansion.
“This isn’t about mobile agents who can work from home,” says Kevin Markarian of San Francisco-based Marker Real Estate. “It’s about teams and brokerages expanding into where the opportunities are—and it may not necessarily be in the contiguous town that’s adjacent to a physical office.”
Creating a Central “Hub” for Marker Real Estate
Once it started generating a high volume of online leads, and developing support systems to help agents manage those leads, Marker Real Estate realized that it didn’t really have to operate within the geographical confines of the traditional brokerage model. “The value that we provide agents lies in the leads, so if we can create a ‘central hub’ process to manage and cultivate and qualify these leads,” says Markarian, “then there's really no need to have any kind of borders.”
Operating from multiple locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marker Real Estate pushed the “borderless” limits recently by opening offices in Orange County and Los Angeles. “There's no need to limit yourself if you're a team or brokerage because there's opportunity everywhere,” Markarian says of his decision to expand into southern California. The key to success, he adds, is finding the right people and maintaining the processes established by the brokerage’s home office.
“Now that we're purchasing leads and generating leads through Realtor.com and converting them at a high level,” says Markarian, “it's becoming less and less necessary to have traditional, ground floor, brick-and-mortar space.”
Marker Real Estate Expanding its Horizons
When expanding into a new area, Markarian calls his Realtor.com representative to find out if there are any online leads available in that target area. Then, he looks at the price point of those leads and at how many transactions are closing in a particular zip code or region. Markarian also analyzes the region’s agent population, looking carefully at how many are ready, willing, and able to work those leads for Marker Real Estate.
To keep online lead conversion rates high, the company uses a customer relationship management system (CRM) to house all of those leads. The CRM then serves as a central repository for all lead-related activity. “If you have everything in a CRM,” says Markarian, “you can see what leads are coming in, track them, and hold agents accountable.”
Focused mainly on expansion within California, Markarian says the borderless model is also relevant for firms that want to expand into new states. “You can really do this anywhere in the country,” he says. “Who knows what the future holds in terms of where else we can go? The key is to think about what’s available in terms of access to leads, price points, transaction volume, and then whether there are agents out there and ready to work those leads."