Geoff Lucas: The office isn’t dead, it has just been reimagined

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it great hardship and many hurdles, but it has also delivered some unexpected gifts.

In many industries, the global pandemic has prompted the take up of more flexible working arrangements, with sectors traditionally tied to office spaces suddenly changing direction and embracing working-from-home formats.

While real estate has always had a certain element of ‘mobility’, the pandemic has reinforced that The Agency’s hub model, where agents gather in purpose-designed office spaces to collaborate, is the way of the future.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the traditional real estate office being “dead”, but the truth is, it’s far from it. 

The office is still very much alive; it just needs to be reimagined.

Historically, real estate offices have been located in prime corner or main street locations to create brand awareness and capture foot traffic walking past.

For employees that start in an office at 8am and don’t leave until 6pm that may very well be the perfect setup. 

But for real estate agents, who increasingly spend most of their time out doing appraisals, listing presentations and open for inspections, the traditional office is no longer needed.

When it comes to creating brand and personal awareness, it’s the digital space agencies and agents need to focus on because that’s where our clients now, and in the future, are spending their time.

Digital and social media marketing is critical, as are traditional signboards, but main street offices are no longer vital.

The old-fashioned model of having a real estate office on almost every street corner is a costly way to do business, with some fit-outs costing upwards of $500,000.

At The Agency, we’ve developed the hub model, which sees us operate a series of offices strategically positioned in our key markets that are large, functionally appropriate workplaces for our agents to use to collaborate.

Invariably these offices are not on street level and therefore have more sensibly priced commercial rents.

We have these hubs in Neutral Bay and Bondi in Sydney, as well as two hubs in Melbourne and one each in Brisbane, Perth and the Illawarra. We also plan to expand to four hubs in Sydney, four in Melbourne, two in Brisbane and one or two in Adelaide.

Our agents can use these hubs at their discretion, and we regularly find them popping in for sales meetings, hot desking, collaborating with their colleagues or as a comfortable space to call clients or prospects.

At our Bondi hub, we’ve recently installed sound-proof ‘phone booths’ for agents to use to make private or confidential calls, and they’ve proved immensely popular.

So far, agents have especially loved the phone booths for making their prospecting calls, and we’re in the process of adding some to our Neutral Bay hub as well.

The Agency Chief Executive Officer Geoff Lucas with the phone booths in the Bondi hub.

Keeping our overheads, such as rent, down means we can offer agents amenities like the phone booths in our hubs, not to mention a higher commission split.

I genuinely believe it’s the most sustainable way to operate a real estate agency.

So while office space for real estate agents no longer needs to be at street level on the main street, we do still need areas to come together to collaborate.

The benefit of which I saw clearly last week when one of the agents in the hub was chatting about a specific buyer they had looking for a high-end property.

Later that day, I walked past a different agent who was in the process of listing a $35 million property. 

You can probably guess what happened next. That buyer is now going to inspect that high-end property.

It’s the perfect example of physical collaboration that would not have happened otherwise.

Space for agents to collaborate is still essential. The office is not dead, it just needs to work in fashion that suits the busy modern agent.

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Geoff Lucas

Geoff Lucas is the Group Chief Executive Officer of The Agency