Century 21 Realty in Columbus took a quick break from selling the houses of today to build the office of tomorrow.
Doris Hardy, owner of the local brokerage firm, unveiled the new digs on Bluecutt Road Tuesday with a ribbon cutting and open house. The office, which cost nearly $500,000 to renovate, boasts themed rooms and areas, state-of-the-art technology and all new furnishings.
But there”s more to the office than meets the eye.
“From a technology standpoint, this is the best office I”ve ever seen,” said Don Cottam, a regional consultant for Century 21 who has worked at offices in 27 states.
At the top of the list of technological features is paper — the lack of it.
“There”s only one other (Century 21) office (in the country) that”s trying to go paperless,” said Cottam.
The paper is replaced by large flat-screen computer monitors in every office and room. Transactions are handled completely electronically, unless customers insist on hard copies.
“It really is an unbelievably cool way of delivering documents,” said Hardy. “There will be a handful of people that still want that packet who don”t have a computer or feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, you can walk away with a CD with your closing documents.”
The office, which features furnishings manufactured from recycled materials, is an effort to go green, but the main goal is better service, Hardy said.
“This office was built with the client in mind,” she said.
Correspondence between agents and clients will be handled electronically via e-mail or text messaging.
When clients do visit the office, they”ll have their choice of multiple specially decorated offices.
For instance, the Asian Room features Eastern-influenced art and furniture while the Metro Room is decorated with modern stylings.
There”s also a lounge area and a back lawn for clients with children.
Hardy designed the rooms herself to appeal to a wide variety of clients.
“I wanted to hit the entire palette of our consumer base. Young people, empty nesters and first-time home buyers,” said Hardy.
The concept, she said, reverses the former trend of offices being designed with employees in mind. None of the offices will be reserved for any one employee since all information is kept on a central server.
Though she sees going paperless as a necessary step to move forward, Hardy admits her crew is still getting used to working without paper documents.
“We”re still at the core of our training process, experimenting with different things. We”re going to give ourselves six to 12 months to raise the skill level,” she said.
As the skill rises, utility costs should fall thanks to eco-friendly windows, toilets and light bulbs.
“All of that cost us a little bit extra, but I think it”s just the right thing to do,” said Hardy.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.