In a post-pandemic world, questions are swirling whether real estate shopfronts are obsolete. If everyone can work from home, why do we need offices?
Here’s the thing though, would you be happy to have clients visit you at home to sign a contract? What about landlords dropping off keys, can they pop them in your personal letterbox? Without a shop front, the lines blur between personal and business. And all of a sudden, your privacy is compromised.
Consider internet banking. Sure, it has made our lives easier. We no longer need to go to a bank to transfer money, apply for new bank products and pay bills. But that doesn’t mean bank branches should close. There are fewer of them, and each month we seem to hear more are closing, but there are still a lot of branches nationwide because there is always a need for somewhere for people to go to see an actual person, especially when dealing with money and finance.
The same goes for real estate. There will always be a need for a headquarters of some sort, whether that’s a shopfront or an office on the third floor. Real estate professionals still need to manage contracts, meet with clients for prospecting sessions, handle keys between vendors and purchasers or landlords and tenants, and sign settlement agreements. When a purchaser comes to us with an offer on a property, contract in hand, they need somewhere to take it to.
What may change, however, is the flexibility for employees to be able to work a combination of in-office and from home. Almost every business, including real estate, has learned to do business offsite. It has forced us all, employers and employees alike, to see the practicalities of a balanced working life. Moving forward, however, employers will need to have a flexible mindset in order to retain talent and recruit new talent, simply because everyone has become accustomed to a flexible working environment.
When it comes to clients as well, many prefer a more relaxed and comfortable approach rather than a formal relationship. This even applies to meeting points, which should be consistent with the personality of the person you’re dealing with. For example, for a relationship that is based on a fundamental friendship or a client who seems a bit more relaxed, meeting in a cafe or social environment would not only be accepted but perhaps even preferred. Compare this to a client who is a bit more traditional and in need of a formal process, that’s where the office shop front comes in. The key is creating a landscape for clients to be at their most comfortable with you.
The same goes for attire. When I first started in real estate, it was expected that everyone would be dressed in a corporate fashion. This meant dark suits, name badge, only black shoes, a tie and even black socks; it meant adhering to a corporate structured dress code. In fact, I’d send my employees home if they weren’t up to the professional standards that had been created in the industry. Now though, it’s corporate attire, be gone! Employees can wear whatever they like as long as it is professional. Of course, it’s expected that whatever attire is chosen aligns with the employee’s image and how they want to be perceived in the marketplace. At the end of the day, as long as the real estate professional is handling the transaction with respect, I don’t believe it matters what they’re wearing.
The post-pandemic world is definitely bucking old trends. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to change. It comes back to results. As long as agents are producing results, I don’t think it matters what they’re wearing or where they are working from. What’s more important is providing flexibility in the working environment so employees feel comfortable in their work space. Work and life have become entwined, and often, it’s not clock-on, clock-off. Work has become part of the lifestyle. Which means work reflects who each person is as an individual. Employees need to feel free to be who they are while still putting a roof over their family’s head, whether that’s working from home or travelling into an office, meeting in a cafe or a boardroom. As long as you’re providing that boardroom if they need it.
Adam Flynn is the state director of Coronis Group Victoria.