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Are Retail Storefronts the Future of Real Estate?

Angie Shipe June 21, 2013 0
Are Retail Storefronts the Future of Real Estate?

You’ve heard of window shopping. Are you ready for one-stop house-hunting?

Luxury real estate brokerage, Zilbert Realty Group, has pioneered the concept of storefront realty with its high-end shopping center location in a tony area of Miami. The concept is modeled after the popular Apple store, where sleek furnishing and modern touches encourage walk-in traffic.

The Zilbert Realty Store represents condo buyers and sellers in Miami Beach, and so far the concept is a hit. It’s a place where shoppers can meet with a real estate expert seven days a week without first making an appointment. Oversized wall displays showcase property listings from all over the Miami area. These listings include resale properties and new developments. Digital kiosks are available for self-guided fact-finding without the “hard sell.”

Zilbert International agents have traditional office space in the brick-and-mortar location, but about half of the 4,000-square-foot space is an open area for customers seeking information about property in the area. Glass-walled conference rooms are available for listing presentations. Agents share leads generated by walk-in, website and phone calls.

It seems to be working, and the firm says it plans to open similar retail concepts in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Coral Gables in the next few years.

Ground-floor offices catering to passing pedestrians are increasingly common in New York, as well. Manhattanites accustomed to browsing the merchandise at Barneys or Saks Fifth Avenue also seem eager to eyeball brownstones and high-rise penthouses from the convenience of a single office. Brown Harris Stevens, JC DeNiro and Halstead are three of the latest firms to try the retail concept. They’re finding that passers-by love gawking at high-end homes just as much as they like to window-shop for jewelry and other consumer goods.

Agents working in the Big Apple say these low-pressure sales environments sway real estate buying decisions. And sometimes, the firms even score an impulse buy.

One high-tech startup, imageSurge, is getting in on the action by offering interactive storefronts to brokerage firms. Passersby can explore property listings using touch-based kiosks that work through double-pane insulated windows even when the real estate office itself is closed for the day.

“We’re bringing digital technology to the window,” said Oleg Vyadro, imageSurge’s chief operating officer. Vyadro added that interactive storefronts draw people’s attention, offering real-time information about listings and open houses. People using the kiosks can take advantage of scanable QR codes and agent contact details. The listings info comes from multiple listing services.

The storefront concept isn’t just for high-tech and high-dollar real estate deals. Even a Coldwell Banker branch in Lansing, Michigan is “bringing real estate back to Main Street” with a downtown office where locals can drop in to check out the latest properties for sale.

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