Like many kids growing up in a bucolic yet blue-collar part of the Midwest, I had to exercise my imagination when it came to more glamorous landscapes that featured mountains, oceans, or skyscrapers. Thankfully I had Chicago and its architecture to inspire me and ground my thinking about place.
That imagination turned to vision as I devoured movies and TV shows about places like Beverly Hills, Miami, and New York. The more I saw on the screen, the more I felt I understood, the more I felt some version of those cities’ realities.
When I got older, I experienced those places in person. The glossy, stylized “reality” I had known quickly changed to a grittier but exhilarating real experience and understanding. These places were filled with inhabitants—myself one of them—on their sidewalks, in parks, apartments, office buildings, and more. It was fascinating, and only deepened my desire to explore new places.
Ultimately, it’s why I chose to get into commercial real estate. And it might be why some of you made that decision, as well.
Creating a vision for your clientsIt’s not too much of a stretch to see how this relates to real estate. Thinking about (and perhaps romanticizing) place is an important part of the process as you advise your clients. While commercial real estate is perhaps less about crafting a vision than residential real estate is, where a buyer’s mix of emotions and pragmatism tend to skew toward the former, that doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of closing the deal. Stories don’t just lure you into the movie theater—they sell.
Consider the real life tale of a technology startup based in a coworking space filled with amenities, interesting people, industry events, and dogs. Sure, they have their own area in the form of a few desks and maybe even a suite, but it’s not theirs. What is theirs, though, are the experiences and dynamics that create their culture while they inhabit that space. Such experiences shape the perceptions and define reality for that company.
So when that startup outgrows coworking, it needs space of it own, and this space needs to embody the culture and provide a place for it to grow. This is when you as a broker step in to craft a vision that matches not only their growth goals, but their company ethos.
Their search for new space starts by viewing listings rife with descriptive bullet points, statistics, maps, and images. The first two are necessary components, but what’s more likely to captivate are the latter two—the ones that ignite the imagination.
Vision should set the stage for realityImages and maps should capture the best qualities of a place in a way that people will experience them. For images, think about the progression of photographs that walk a client through the space, enabling them to connect one photo to another as if they were on a virtual tour. For maps, present nearby amenities like places to get a bite to eat, along with necessities like where they can park or pick up a train or bus.
If you were looking for space for our hypothetical startup, you might want images that show off interesting architecture, an open floor plan, and spaces to work quietly. You’d want maps showing trendy bars nearby, or development plans if the space is in an up-and-coming-area. You’d want them to be able to picture both the building and the neighborhood.
What are the best ways to show this? Consider mediums like professional neighborhood and building videos, virtual tours, digital space concepts, and virtual reality. These methods can build excitement while also helping set expectations of the reality of being there.
I’ll note that you should temper the desire to present a space as more than it is. Dissonance between perception and reality can be jarring and stressful. It’s your unique responsibility to paint a realistic picture within the bounds of your client’s vision. Honesty and pragmatism will be much appreciated.
Reality should be stylized but authenticBack to our startup looking a new space of their own. They’ve seen the marketing collateral, watched the videos, perhaps even did some VR tours, now it’s time to tour and ultimately choose their site.
If you’ve done your job at setting realistic expectations, then touring and evaluating space should be a relatively painless process. (Note that this is not about the lease proposal process, just the touring and selection process, which I realize is a whole new set of challenges). That burgeoning startup is now well equipped to make an informed decision having had an empathetic advisor who was attentive to the details while crafting a realistic vision that met both financial and cultural goals.