How a Mobile-First Real Estate Company Brought Home Back to Office

In 2019, a year before the pandemic made remote and hybrid working a reality for thousands of office workers, Justin Fichelson and Michael Martin made a prescient bet: that traditional cubicle-filled offices weren’t serving the real estate agents. They launched Avenue 8, a mobile brokerage based in California, where agents had no office at all, but instead relied on a suite of digital tools to do their jobs from home or on the go.

By early 2021, the company had dozens of mobile agents first operating in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Amid the California sprawl, he hadn’t felt the need for a permanent office. Agents spent much of their time operating from their cars, driving across town for tours and meetings with clients, sometimes going to coworking spaces.

But soon after the pandemic ushered in a remote working revolution, Avenue 8 broke with workplace norms again: Earlier this year, as part of its East Coast expansion, the company opened the doors to its first physical office, a 3,500 square foot space in New York City that was carefully designed to look more like a luxury loft than a workspace.

The Opportunity: The Right Time for Expansion

Get out of a grossed $4 million seed investment in December 2020, it was time to open in New York: months of pandemic work had backed Avenue 8’s mobile-first hypothesis, office workers nationwide going to their home office. “The last two years have simply accelerated the long-term trends that we believe will occur around hybrid working, the importance of digital expertise and the importance of home,” says Martin.

And while a mobile-first approach gave agents new flexibility, the growing company felt the need for a physical space of its own. Their New York office would be the site of the company’s operational headquarters, while providing agents with a place to meet with clients, prepare documents and perform focus work. Unlike the coworking spaces the company uses in California, a freelance lease would also allow them to create the kind of upscale feel that would foster a sense of trust and comfort in potential customers while incentivizing agents to work with the company. ‘company.

The problem: Bringing mobile-first to a new coast

A new city brought a new set of logistical challenges. “New York is a different animal because of the density of the city,” says co-founder Michael Martin, adding, “It’s not a car culture. The agents here, although busy with screenings all day, need a place to go. As Avenue 8 fleshed out its eastward expansion plans, it envisioned a space that was more of a hangout than a daily destination, a sort of clubhouse for constantly on-the-go agents to use. as a pit stop and meeting place with customers.

The process: organizing a commercial space

To serve both clients and agents, Fichelsen and Martin focused on bringing elements of home into the workplace. “We wanted the space to feel residential,” says Martin. For customers, he says, it would “create a real sense of intimacy and confidentiality,” and for their mobile agents, they asked, “If you’re not working from home, how can your job almost look like a home? ”

Avenue called on two firms with expertise in luxury residential spaces: New York-based design firm Billy Cotton for the architectural elements of the space, and ASH Staging, a division of design firm ASH NYC, for the decor. Andrew Bowen, staging manager at ASH Staging, calls this mix of residential and commercial design “resimercial,” a style some have backed stimulates creativity and innovation in the office.

“The old way of office design was that form follows function, and with superb interior designer staging, it was absolutely the opposite – it was function follows form, because the people don’t use [the furniture]says Bowen. “When you do something commercial, it’s used, but it’s also supposed to look good. Form and function have to work together. In the Avenue 8 offices, that meant creating a clean look without tchotchkes and select stylish yet durable furniture that could withstand daily use.

The result: an elevated, commercial office

A peek inside the Avenue 8 office in New York.

Courtesy of Avenue 8

In February, Avenue 8 officially opened its office in New York. The 3,500-square-foot space on the second floor serves as the company’s headquarters while also functioning as a “private pavilion” where agents can work as needed, Martin says. For Fichelson, the space “feels like walking into a multimillion-dollar loft in the Flatiron District.”

With no requirement for officers to report to the office, there was little emphasis on creating individual workplaces. Instead, Avenue 8 installed lockers for workers’ belongings and placed the bulk of workplaces in one of two lounges. For more targeted work or calls, agents can head to one of two phone booths.

The main conference room is equipped with a long conference table and screen for the firm’s hybrid or in-person meetings. With its high ceilings and arched windows, along with the original crown moldings and maple hardwood floors that continue throughout the office, it was also created to be “a place you can bring a client to a fence where everyone signs the final documents and exchanges the keys. That’s the type of environment you want to celebrate this moment in,” says Martin.

Tip: To bring workers back to the office, bring home back to the workplace

“The office should feel more like home, or at least what you would like your home to look like,” advises Fichelson. For Avenue 8, the integration of residential design was essential to their work. They needed a place that would attract busy agents on the go, while creating an environment where customers could “come in and feel comfortable talking about their dreams,” says Martin.

Yet the co-founders argue that these resi-mercial design principles hold up beyond the real estate industry. At a time when office traffic has lagging behind expectations of workplace leaders, Martin argues that recreating a sense of home can ease the transition back for a workforce that has grown accustomed to spending the day in a family setting.

Employees “don’t want to go back to what offices were like,” he says. And with attendance rates in the office still fair 47.5% pre-pandemic levels after several so-called returns to power confrontationsmaking offices feel more at home might just be a way for leaders to push employees back to work in person.

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