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September 25, 2017

For Realtors, brick-and-mortar offices still important as 'welcoming spaces'

Courtesy / Portside Real Estate Group
Courtesy / Portside Real Estate Group
Portside’s new headquarters features a homey interior, in keeping with the company’s emphasis on relationships.

FALMOUTH — More real estate agencies are opening multiple locations, a new trend that bucks the current real estate trend of remote work.

Portside Real Estate Group will open a new headquarters at 417 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth while retaining its current office at 330 Forest Ave. in Portland.

"The national trend is to have less office space and less overhead, and have agents work remotely," said Portside's founder and owner, Dava Davin. "And you don't necessarily need to have a traditional office to conduct real estate transactions. But what I've found in our success and growth is that there's strength in face-to-face interactions and in creating spaces where consumers can come in and feel welcome. Being in a beautiful space deepens those relationships as opposed to everything being email and text."

Earlier this month, Mainebiz reported that Tom Landry, owner of Benchmark Residential and Investment Real Estate, opened his fourth office, adding to three other offices in Portland.

Offering 'old-fashioned customer service'

Courtesy / Portside Real Estate Group
Courtesy / Portside Real Estate Group
An architect's rendering of Portside Real Estate Group's new headquarters at 417 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth.

Davin said that office space harks back to more of an "innovative traditional" approach that fosters "old-fashioned customer service in a face-to-face relationship. It's appreciated not only by customers but by the agents."

The design of the Falmouth headquarters, due to open in November, also reflects a different way of thinking about client care, Davin said.

"Our sales are all residential, and this will be more like a home," she said. "The real estate transaction process can be extremely stressful — we're dealing with a lot of emotion — so our design will help them feel comfortable."

Portside worked with Barrett Made and Foreside Design on the design, and Conductivity Point and Systems Engineering on energy-efficient features and increased technology.

For starters, there's no reception desk. The door opens onto a fireplace/lounge area, where any staff member can welcome the client. Lots of natural light, a fully stocked kitchen and an outdoor patio contribute to the homey feeling.

"It's important to me that customers feel that it's welcoming and calming when they walk in," Davin said.

At the same time, agents have their own closed-door offices.

"That's also where we're bucking the trend: Others have gone to more open-concept spaces," she said. "Customers can have confidential conversations, but there's also an open-space huddle room for collaboration."

The Falmouth space is in a plaza that Davin owns.

"We gutted it to the studs and rebuilt it to the vision I had," she said. "We needed to do something different, because if everyone's doing the same thing, it's hard to stand out. So I said, Let's have fun with it, let's be creative."

Portside's first full year in business was 2013, with $40 million in sales volume, and has grown since. It is on track to reach $175 million in sales volume for 2017. The agency sold 376 homes in greater Portland last year and has a team of 41 employees, making it one of the largest real estate agencies in southern Maine, according to a Portside press release.

"At the end of the day, the reason we're successful is the high level of professionalism of our agents. That's our baseline," she said. "But new ideas help us to rise above."

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