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Gerard Balsa…, Real Estate Pro in Holmdel, NJ

I often see the word boutique precede real estate agency. Does it infer small? better? superior customer service? or is it just trendy sales speak?

Asked by Gerard Balsamo, Holmdel, NJ Sat Apr 2, 2011

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Boutique, to me, means independent, not affiliated with a franchise, and generally smaller is size. Although, there are many franchise offices with just a very few agents, and those, too, may be considered to be boutique brokerages…...if ‘small’ is the primary defining criteria. Local broker/owners set the tone for individual franchise offices with near the same impact as an independent.

Although my company services a “peninsula” – we were actually named after Peninsula Hotel Chain….which describes itself as a “Boutique Hotel” with highly personalized service.

Having been with a ‘big box’ brokerage, I found that the innovation and customization opportunities were limited or slow to evolve. Roll the clock back to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I can remember wanting to launch a website, and submitting my authorization request to the main office, and following up 6 weeks later because I had not heard anything in response. I can remember asking for permission and assistance in providing a virtual tour, and my broker looking at me in bewilderment, not having any idea. Today, I explore new tools and service standards that are relatively untapped in the current market, which will become mainstream in the future…..just as websites, blogs and virtual tours became mainstream. I have the flexibility to better explore and implement these options for both my clients and agents in an independent boutique environment. Today, we, at Peninsula, forge into areas which are ‘new’ to some, but may be commonplace in the near time to come.

The ability to tailor programs to better meet the needs of our clients and agents is fundamental and core to our mission and purpose.

Just as some hotels in the boutique space may look toward the luxury segment, so are there ‘shabby-chic’ and ‘no-frills chic’ boutique hotels. Although our firm has represented clients in transactions at 4 and 5M, we don’t consider ourselves a ‘luxury’ shop, and are very happy to help the first time homebuyer or small investor. Boutique can emphasize only high-end, though that is not true for us.
Since 2004, when we opened, approximately 800 new brokerages have been added to our MLS……in a down market. Our MLS is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Well more than 1/3 of the active brokerages have been added to our MLS in just the last 7 years. Restructuring of offices represent some of these additions, and the addition of boutiques and independents cannot be ignored.

Looking at a national level, agents and brokers from boutiques were highly represented in the RPR beta testing from NAR during the last 2 years. Agents and brokers from boutiques were the representative in the discussions, workgroup, and MLS committee work which led to the changes in MLS rules pertaining to indexing listings on the web. Inman Innovator Awards for brokerages have been substantially awarded to boutique brokerages for the last several years. The most vocal voices from across the nation which speak to and about ‘raising the bar’ in real estate come from boutique brokerages. Boutiques and independents are often prolific bloggers. This is not surprising, as they often have something to say. :=)

Recently, I have heard more talk about “indie’s” vs. “boutiques’. Most brokers who identify with the term ‘indie’ are well skilled in technology and online marketing. To that end, perhaps I should call Peninsula an “indie” and not a boutique.

I am not opposed to franchises, and do not say that we will never affiliate with a franchise. Thus far, I haven’t found enough incentive to do so. Becoming part of a franchise is a ‘make or buy’ decision; a fundamental business concept explored by first year business students. It is better to use internal resources to ‘create and make products or systems, or is it better to purchase a ready-made product or system from an outside partner or vendor? Instead of purchasing ready-made systems which come from a franchise, we purchase from vendors both inside and outside the industry and customize, and we create many of our own.

I do not shun the big box, nor do I blindly defend the indie or boutique brokerage. Sadly, I know Realtors who bring shame to the word from all business categories. Proudly, I know Realtors who “bring it” with pride, diligence, knowledge and commitment…..and they hail from all business models within real estate.
I am able to better pursue and fulfill my mission of offering choices, customization, and knowledge/information to both agents and clients through an independent boutique business model. For us, it works best. For others, another model may be better. There’s room for all of us.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 5, 2011
Deborah Madey, Real Estate Pro in ,
I agree with Mack, in the 1980's saying you were a "boutique" anything was a way of trying to say you were small but good, and everyone with a small business back then called it boutique. American Heritage Dictionary defines boutique as "a small business offering specialized products or services." The word itself doesn't convey quality - it's just a nice word for "small." Kind of like saying that 650 square foot house on Main Street is "cute" or "compact" or "space efficient."
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Apr 3, 2011
It's trendy, from the eighties. The 1980s. The idea is to create an image of a small, well-curated group of top-tier professionals coming together to serve only a select clientèle.

I don't know what word I would use to describe such a group today, but I do know that a generation has been brought up thinking a boo-teek is just a small shop putting on airs. Although, I don't think they call it "putting on airs," either.

The more I think about it, the term "boutique" dates from a time when people talked about "putting on airs!"
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 2, 2011
This is an intersting thread. Do you think the boutique brokerages will be the way of the future? With internet marketing and educated buyers, will there be a need for the large franchises in the future?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2012
I suppose the brokerage company I work with is a 'boutique' firm because they are rather small and independently owned. But, I don't 'tout' that. To me a 'boutique firm' is one that is small, creative, and serve the needs of its clients and customers for residential, commercial, real estate, mortgages, property management.

Well I guess, after all, my firm fits the bill as a 'boutique firm' because we do all that.

Marsha Montoya Mayer- Realtor
Paradise Properties of Florida, Inc.
Cell: 561-329-0428
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 2, 2011
I don't know but I think you mean 'imply' not infer. They imply but you infer.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 12, 2013
I equate that with small but highly professional.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2012
A catchy way of saying it is not one of the more recognizable agency names like RE/MAX, Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker. I do not that some tend to specialize in a particular area like luxury homes I suppose it depends on the particular agency.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2012
Definitely trendy sales speak. I normally equate this to a small (not National) firm that specializes in a specific area and or type of property.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012

I concur with the response from Carrie Piccard. In addition to what she wrote, I would say that a boutique real estate agency specializes in a specific market niche.

Chad Gray PA, Realtor
Luxury Living Fort Lauderdale
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012
A boutique real estate firm is a small office staffed with well-vetted professionals. Boutiques offer superior customer service and specialized marketing for a small number of clients. The hallmark of the boutique firm is a focus on quality over quantity. Agents appreciate a work environment that measures success by happy customers rather than aggressive franchise-imposed sales goals. Customers feel confident that their account is receiving the greatest possible attention and focus. Although we do not work as a team, my own colleagues and I get along very well (boutique owners can be choosy about taking on anyone who might not work well with the group) and actually provide support to each other so that all our clients may benefit from our collective expertise!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 5, 2012
My understanding is that it means Independant or one office, not a franchise.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 22, 2012
A boutique agency has a specialty of say selling only retirement communities in a local area. Kind of like going to a boutique that specializes in only ladies lingerie like Victoria's Secret, or The Gap that specializes in jeans.

My company is a boutique because we only sell new homes in a local area.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Apr 3, 2011
WHere I am, agencies that call themselves boutiques usually are very small, the owner is very active in listing, usually double ending, with maybe a couple of other agents who aren't really big producers. I also find it difficult to schedule appointments to show their listings, they seem to hold them close to the vest. They also don't offer the agent much beyond getting the home onto MLS. If they want it to feed out to the dozens of other websites, agents do it manually.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 2, 2011
Hi Gerard,

I work for a "Boutique" Agency, I Never use this as trendy sales speak. Smaller-yes in most cases, better- possibly, depends on the agent. Often our hands are not as tied as are some of the larger corporate agency's agents.
I think that every agent has a fit somewhere, it is ALL about the agent and what he or she puts into their business and clients. Ultimately, All Realtors must follow The Code of Ethics and the Laws of our State, so it is the agent backed by a great broker and office staff that makes a transaction go smoothly.

Karen Sluyk
Peninsula Realty Group
732-530-7755 office
732-567-7152 cell
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 2, 2011
In my view trendy sales speak. Unless, of course, they are able to amass a number of full time top producing agents along with the part timers. The "boutiques" that I have worked with often have one or two big producers with the remainder being new agents or people who just need to "hang" their license.

However, I do agree, it is the agent and not necessarily the agency that makes the business happen.

Francesca Patrizio, Broker Sales Associate
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 2, 2011
After working for a national Real Estate Firm for over 15 years, we decided to open our own small, local company because we felt as though bigger isn't always better! I too agree with Jonathan's response below, it's about the Agent you select, their reputation amongst other agencies/firms, their negotiation skills, advertising strategies and all around client services.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 2, 2011
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