More Offers, Fewer Offices
If everyone’s working from home right now, do agencies still need offices? Taylor Kleinberg and Frank Lombardi, from the newly launched Klein & Co, certainly don’t believe so. They’ve been in business for nearly a month now and are yet to open a permanent store-front. “Nobody’s working from an office and we didn’t invest dollars into having one, so it’s worked out well,” says Kleinberg. “We did a lot of planning and didn’t see any disadvantage in launching at this time because nobody expects anyone to be working from an office right now anyway.”
The maxim behind Klein & Co is to spend less time in an office doing admin and more time focusing on clients. “Most of my work takes place outside the office, in fact the more time a real estate agent spends in the office, the worse they are,” states Kleinberg. “All of our business takes place out in the suburbs: Meeting with buyers and sellers, talking to people, networking; that’s what our job is reliant on.”
It’s that reliance on meeting with clients that Kleinberg and Lombardi have hinged their success upon, and to achieve it they’ve enlisted the support of UrbanX. Run by Dan Argent, UrbanX is a platform that takes care of marketing, admin and corporate “mumbo jumbo,” which allows clients like Klein & Co to focus on doing what they do best: Selling. “We can literally dedicate 99% of what we do to our clients,” Kleinberg asserts. “I can honestly say there’s no way anyone who owns a business or franchise or is distracted with staff can spend 99% of their time focusing on a client – it’s impossible. They’d be lucky to spend 60-70% focusing on the client.”
Both Kleinberg and Lombardi spent many years working with major franchises – Place and Ray White respectively – and now their goal is to leave the big brands behind and focus on their own game. “If we treat people well, do what we say we’re going to do and get good results, there’s no reason why we won’t be successful,” adds Kleinberg. “I don’t want to be reporting on market share, talking about future marketing programs, recruitment strategies, growth – my day-to-day routine should be to wake up every morning and figure out how to best help my clients with their current situation.”
Kleinberg believes that while individual clients may not notice a stark difference between 70% and 99% of an agent’s time, it’s in the long term that those chickens come home to roost. “A year from now, if we’re having this same conversation, I dare say our testimonials will reflect that and our track record will reflect that,” he says.
For Klein & Co, there are plans to open an office eventually, but chiefly as a home base for the leasing side of the business. “For property management you need some form of an office space so contractors and tenants can rely on one place to go for keys, paperwork, submitting cheques and that sort of thing,” explains Kleinberg. “We’ll have a home base so that property management has a home base, but I don’t believe sales requires one.”
One of the major arguments against the use of offices in real estate sales is the relative obsolescence of window displays compared with virtual property portals. If buyers can find properties online, meet agents at an inspection and even remotely make offers, do agencies really still need offices? As well as fast-tracking an industry-wide switch to digital alternatives, is COVID-19 the catalyst that initiates the progressive closure of physical real estate offices? Only time will tell.