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 brokeragesâ€¦...if â€˜smallâ€™ 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 â€œpeninsulaâ€ â€“ we were actually named after Peninsula Hotel Chainâ€¦.which describes itself as a â€œBoutique Hotelâ€ with highly personalized service.
Having been with a â€˜big boxâ€™ brokerage, I found that the innovation and customization opportunities were limited or slow to evolve. Roll the clock back to the late 1990â€™s and early 2000â€™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 futureâ€¦..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 â€˜newâ€™ 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 â€˜shabby-chicâ€™ and â€˜no-frills chicâ€™ boutique hotels. Although our firm has represented clients in transactions at 4 and 5M, we donâ€™t consider ourselves a â€˜luxuryâ€™ 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 MLSâ€¦â€¦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 â€˜raising the barâ€™ 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 â€œindieâ€™sâ€ vs. â€œboutiquesâ€™. Most brokers who identify with the term â€˜indieâ€™ are well skilled in technology and online marketing. To that end, perhaps I should call Peninsula an â€œindieâ€ 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 havenâ€™t found enough incentive to do so. Becoming part of a franchise is a â€˜make or buyâ€™ decision; a fundamental business concept explored by first year business students. It is better to use internal resources to â€˜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 â€œbring itâ€ with pride, diligence, knowledge and commitmentâ€¦..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. Thereâ€™s room for all of us.