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If someone had told me 10 years ago that a brokerage without desk phones was a good move, I would have thought they had no idea what they were talking about. Now, as we enter 2020, I can see why brokerages are going in this direction.

By not having desk phones—and having agents use their cellphones as their only number—we make it easier for clients since they know exactly which number to call to get in touch with their agent. It saves all the back and forth we used to have, and, in some cases, can prevent liability issues because a client can’t claim that they left a message in one place when they had been told to use another phone number.

Also, it saves a small amount in overhead costs while helping us demonstrate to our clients our biggest differentiator as real estate professionals: that we are real live human beings who are available to help with any aspect of the transaction.

It’s this crucial differentiator that brokerages can use to stay relevant as the industry undergoes change. For example, one way agents have proven their value to clients is by being local experts in the neighborhood—both in terms of property trends, as well as local recreational activities. Many outside the industry think that we’re no longer needed for the latter since someone can find the same information by searching online and reading reviews. I’m not convinced that has completely replaced human recommendations; however, the way brokerages can stay ahead of this game is by opening up their physical space in small but helpful ways to provide more community benefits. Is your office near where the best fireworks are each Fourth of July or another main neighborhood event? Send an email to current and former clients saying they can park in your parking lot that evening free of charge, and provide first dibs to those who reply quickly. This adds some variety to your standard drip marketing campaign, but still achieves the same effect of keeping your brokerage name popping up again in their inbox.

The other way to highlight our local neighborhood knowledge is through social media. Have your agents take pictures of the different neighborhoods where they work, showcasing some of the unique and lovable aspects of what it’s like to live on certain streets (and always use the name of the neighborhood as a hashtag so people searching for that neighborhood will find it when they’re looking online). Maybe it’s the beautiful fall foliage or the house that always goes all out with the holiday decorations. Or perhaps it’s a hidden picnic spot away from the traffic. By continually having your brokerage name show up across social media, it not only keeps your presence on people’s minds, but also sets you over and above the regular online searches for local restaurants or activities since you’re posting in real-time and adding expert knowledge about the area.

There’s no doubt that brokerages are going to undergo as much change as the rest of the industry, but the way to stay ahead of the curve is to adapt the physical space we own to meet existing needs. Whether it’s making our agents more accessible by taking away desk phones or bringing clients into the fold by offering up our surplus space to the community, we can maintain our presence by leveraging the resources we already have.

Allen Alishahi is president of ShelterZoom. For more information, please visit