As independent contractors, real estate professionals aren’t bound to report to an office or spend a certain amount of hours each day at a desk. So, what drives them to come into the office? According to REAL Trends survey results, sales associates are most apt to head into the office to meet with a customer or use office equipment. These are two valid reasons to come in, but neither of these activities requires a real estate office. Broker-owners and others in leadership roles were asked the same question and suggested that the main reason sales associates go to the office is for collaboration with colleagues and overall synergy.
Interaction with staff and real estate training are tangible benefits that a real estate office provides. Both brokerage leadership and sales associates acknowledge them as motivating factors to physically go to their company’s office. Calculating an immediate return on investment of staffing an office or providing training sessions is sometimes dismal for broker-owners because it is difficult to determine if either resource will be used enough to warrant the expense. Of the two motivators, training is perhaps the most measurable way to determine the need or warranted expense of space because it is scheduled, and the success of the trainings are ultimately reflected in the brokerage’s bottom line.
The biggest perceptional discrepancy between sales associates and brokerage leadership on why sales associates come to the office is the value that broker-owners put on collaboration.
The second biggest discrepancy between sales associates and brokerage leadership is the value that sales associates put on client meeting space. There is an inconsistency between markets, brands, and firms about how frequently clients visit real estate offices. When asked whether or not office space affects how clients feel about their brand, one-fifth of the broker-owners interviewed stated that it had little to no impact because clients are rarely in their offices. Understanding what motivates a sales associate to use the office and how they use the provided office space helps broker-owners determine what features to focus on when revamping or creating a new office space. This includes providing tangible benefits like meeting space that produce the intangible benefits like company synergy.
Appreciating what real estate professionals want or need out of a workspace is helpful when planning an office—so is knowing how much time a sales associate is likely to use the provided space. For a broker-owner, it doesn’t make sense to invest in certain features, such as private office space for all sales associates if they aren’t in the office more than five hours a week. As it turns out, 40 percent of sales associates reported spending 10 hours or less in their firm’s office each week. This number is just 6 percent higher than what broker-owners projected for their sales associates. Bob Eberle, broker of Weichert Realtors in Latham, N.Y. finds that one-third of his 25-person sales force are in the office every day. Whether they are in for training or to clean out their mailboxes, sales associates in his office spend an average of 10 to 15 hours in the office each week. Roughly 82 percent of the broker-owners surveyed felt that their sales associates spent 20 hours or less in the office each week.
Time spent in the office and use of office space are two critical pieces of the puzzle when evaluating the efficiency of a current or new office space. The diversity in real estate companies throws a curveball in the planning process, though, because each office has it’s own demographic and culture. How culture and office space intertwine will be covered later on; however, the next section explores preferences by demographic.
Deciding what features an office needs begins with understanding what is the most important and functional to the people working within them. For broker-owners and others involved in workspace design that starts with evaluating the preferences of their current sales force, or the type of sales force they want to attract. Two simple ways to categorize a sales force is by the experience of the sales associate or the actual age of the associate. For majority of sales associates, regardless of their time in the business, there is approximately a 50/50 split between those who spend less than 20 hours a week in the office and those who spend over 20 hours a week in the office. The only group that breaks this trend is those who have been in the business from 6 to 10 years. In this group, 83 percent of respondents reported spending 10 hours or less in their firm’s office. In this same group, no single respondent indicated workspace, attendance of company meetings or talking with the broker-owner or office manager as a primary reason to come to the office
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