We have three offices that are storefront-type locations: sidewalks, ground level, pedestrian-friendly, coffee brewing, friendly staff on hand, and everything you might expect of a retail setup. If someone were to walk in off the street to engage us, we’d be ready. There is a reception area, a board table, Internet access, and, sometimes, doughnuts.
Doughnuts and coffee.
Some people actually do walk in. They are, in no order of frequency, the following:
- Agents with J Philip Real Estate (occasionally with a client in tow)
- Agents with other firms
- UPS delivery
- Industry colleagues dropping off keys, documents, original documents, and related articles
- Canvassing salespeople
- Canvassing religious people and charities
- People who are lost and looking for another business nearby
- My children after martial arts next door
- The property manager and related maintenance folk
- The lady next door who sometimes needs to use our fax (Yes. We have a fax.).
- Established clients dropping something off.
Here’s a list of people who almost never -as in less than once a year in Briarcliff- walk in:
- People thinking about buying or selling real estate
People who are considering the sale or purchase of housing don’t scratch their chin, grab the keys, drive somewhere, and walk into a real estate office in this market. That severely declined in about 2000 or so and is now a dinosaur. What they do is get on the Internet and start looking there. The first time they actually get belly to belly with an agent is often at the first house they want to actually see. The “walk-in” is alive and well in some markets, such as waterfront and resort areas or a new build site with a sales office, but is very rare in Westchester and for all intents extinct in Putnam, Dutchess, and Orange counties.
Studies indicate that the convenience of the World Wide Web aside, many consumers aren’t comfortable going straight to a real estate office without first extensively searching properties and communities first. This is especially the case with Millenials and younger consumers who never had a retail experience that those of us of a certain age can recall from the bygone era before the Internet.
The Internet is the new Main Street. Home buyers don’t care who or where the listing agent of a property for sale hangs their hat. They care about the attributes of the property meeting their needs. There is no way a guy is going to get in their car or ride a train and travel up to the burbs from the boroughs of NYC and just walk into a real estate office to start their search. I know people who won’t travel 5 minutes with pre-ordering their egg and cheese. They won’t travel an hour for real estate without a concrete plan. That is very 1985.
So why even have an office? There are many non-retail needs, but beyond that, once a client is established, they will need to have a place to meet their agent, drop off materials, and sometimes host a closing or contract signing. But prospective clients in the beginning of a purchase or sale? Don’t hold your breath.