The discussion about how real estate professionals use office space is incomplete without acknowledging the influence of technology since the early 2000s. Some 15 to 20 years ago, real estate office space functioned much the same way it did 20 years before that. Sales associates spent a significant amount of time in the office meeting with clients, filling out paperwork, searching the MLS and working at their desk.
The transition to more time out of the office than in the office for sales associates began with the Internet and built momentum with laptops and the growing sophistication of mobile phone technology. The biggest influencers for mobility and working out of the office happened in the last five to seven years with technology platforms, like BoomTown and dotloop, and their combined functionality and accessibility on smartphones and tablets.
Productivity apps are a key technological component to mobile work efficiency. For example, BoomTown’s newly developed app delivers the functionality of the BoomTown CRM in an intuitive format that allows sales associates on the move to reply immediately to leads, initiate prospecting strategies and complete tasks from their to-do lists all while logging their activity.
The majority of a sales associate’s workflow is manageable through mobile devices, including their interaction with their brokerages. When asked what tools brokerage leadership and sales associates use the most to communicate with one another, email ranked the highest at roughly 98 percent, followed by transaction management platforms at just over 50 percent.
Gary Lombardo, the COO of Affiliated Services for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Alliance Real Estate in Chester eld, Mo., shared that his office has seen a dramatic decline of in-office time with the introduction of dotloop to the 425 members of their sales force. Unlike email, transaction management systems like dotloop, allow real estate professionals to streamline processing paperwork from the first contract to closing day.
This decreases the usage of office equipment, time spent working with staff and meeting face-to-face with clients. Lombardo elaborated that certain days of the week remain classically busy with company meetings on Tuesdays and training days on Thursdays, but even those events have lower attendance than before since implementing their other go-to technology tool, Zoom, a video-conferencing service.
The biggest influencers for mobility and working out of the office happened in the last five to seven years with technology platforms, like BoomTown and dotloop, and their combined functionality and accessibility on smartphones and tablets.
Texting is a communication tool that was not listed on the survey but written in by several respondents. Most of the 775 sales associates of Century 21 New Millennium based in Alexandria, Va. have gone to text according to the rm’s CEO Todd Hetherington. For his sales associates, the motivation is more than quick communication, texting is also how leads are passed along. Hetherington estimates that with the use of texting and the other technology tools, the average Century 21 New Millennium sales associate is in the office for five hours or less a week. This realization was the biggest motivator for him to begin reconfiguring workspace inside his 18 offices that surround the Washington, D.C. area.
Regardless of the size of a brokerage, technology plays a critical role in how brokerages communicate and run their day-to-day business. Whissel Realty in San Diego, Calif. averages 17 transactions per sales associate and heavily uses Google Apps and a private Facebook group to keep the team of 20 running at full speed. Broker-owner Kyle Whissel consistently tracks the activity of his sales associates with Google Forms and Google Sheets, stating, “There is virtually a dashboard for everything.”
When sales associates are in the office, the technology has to be flawless. Reliable and fast Wi-Fi connections are a must. No real estate professional wants to be slowed down by connectivity problems. The same is true for the platforms that sales associates and brokers rely on to work remotely. Bob Eberle’s rm, Weichert Realty in N.Y., relies on the BoomTown platform for over 55 percent of its business. Eberle commented that his loyal tech-savvy work force relies on the strength of their systems to maintain the average production of 15 transactions per sales associate per year. The industry average for sales professionals was 7 transactions per year in 2015.
When sales associates are in the office, the technology has to be flawless. Reliable and fast Wi-Fi connections are a must.
Real estate professionals are independent contractors. For many, the huge perk of running your own business is being the boss. A broker- owner or office manager can encourage, request and even beg a sales associate to come to the office, but there is nothing that binds or forces them to come in unwillingly. For many broker-owners, there is no reason to force a sales associate to come to the office.
Peter Crowley, broker and co-owner of RE/MAX Alliance Group shared that about half of his 300-person sales force in Sarasota, Fla., works from home and the other half works in the office. Crowley said that “some agents need the office to feel productive,” but that all sales associates have paperless options and don’t need to come into the office. He admits that it is harder to get people face-to-face due to technology and society in general, but that food and drink are still the common elements that bring people together to create camaraderie and collaboration. RE/MAX Alliance Group periodically hosts training or social events to keep the sales force engaged, whether they are in the office or not.
Sales associates who don’t want or need to come into the office is a perk for some companies. Of the 520 sales associates at Your Castle Real Estate in Denver, Colo., President Charles Roberts estimates that 75 percent of them never step foot into one of their seven offices each week. For those who do come into the office, they are likely there about an hour or less each week unless they are attending training. According to Roberts, he and others in leadership would rather see their sales associates out of the office working with new or established clients. That’s not to say that Your Castle Real Estate doesn’t provide workspace. Roughly 6 percent of their sales force has a designated office, and the remaining sales associates have professional drop-in space available.
Logistics may also play a part in whether or not a sales associate makes it to the office on a regular basis. Sales associates in rural or urban areas face similar challenges in accessing office space a lengthy commute to the office may not make sense given the sales associate’s schedule for the day. Michael Golden, co-founder of @Properties in Chicago, Ill., said that most of the 2,100 sales associates are in one of @Properties 20 office space for 10 hours or less a week, but that those in urban offices tend to spend less time in the office. Golden shared that they encourage people to spend time in the office, and the leadership team thinks it is important, but that they don’t force it.
According to the survey respondents, the percentage of sales associates who spent 10 hours or less a week in the office increased as the size of the market increased. Seventy- five percent of sales associates in small markets indicated that they spent more than 20 hours a week in the office. Molly Iversen, a Realtor® and part of the leadership team at Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said that of the 100 sales associates who work out of their two locations, the regular users spend about 35 hours a week in the office. For Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty, the sales associates who spend more time in the office have higher sales volumes than those who work from home.
Evaluating productivity in terms of transaction volume, based on the real estate professionals who participated in the survey, the logic of more time in the office did equate to higher productivity. In fact, sales associates that spent over 20 hours in the office were likely to almost double their transaction volume.
Sales associates that spent over 20 hours in the office were likely to almost double their transaction volume.
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