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Is Virtual the Future of Real Estate?

Joshua S. Garay

Joshua Garay talks about taking his real estate agency online, and why this may be the way of the future

In today’s day and age, everything seems to be going digital—publications, banking, clothes shopping, grocery shopping and now, real estate. The rise of the independent broker and virtual real estate agency is well underway, stemming from a diminished need for large, expensive offices that traditional agencies have operated in order to provide better customer service for sellers and buyers, advises Joshua S. Garay, principal at Garay Real Estate.

“Big brokerage is on the decline,” continues Garay. “I’d rather put my capital toward marketing the properties of my sellers instead of allocating funds toward large security deposits and paying large rent checks to landlords. With numerous technology platforms visible to the public, buyers and sellers have access to the majority of information, which has decentralized the entire marketplace.”

Which is why Garay is building a virtual real estate agency that will thrive in today’s virtual world. With more than a decades worth of commercial and residential real state brokerage experience at JSG Realty Corporation, of which he is the founder and CEO, Garay noticed the trend of businesses heading in an online trajectory. In being present during the rise of the Internet and social media revolution, it dawned on him that his generation prefers to work remotely via the Internet from a variety of places. And he decided to make a plan to join his real estate business with the digital trend.

“As an adjunct professor of a weekly Internet marketing course at a university, I see the trends first hand from the millennial generation. Their desired community is not a corporate office environment, but rather a local coffee shop, co-working center or other collaborative location,” says Garay.

It’s these types of locations that Garay meets with his clients. During a typical workday, he can meet face-to-face with several clients at various cafés and workspaces (or chat over FaceTime if they can’t meet in person); communicate over Google Chat with fellow brokers; go with clients across town for showings; and end the day with a dinner meeting. Not being restricted by a set office space makes every day a little bit different.

“There is no need to physically enter an office to simply make an appearance. This is not an efficient allocation of time. The difference between working in a physical location versus a virtual environment is greater flexibility and liberation,” says Garay. “I feel empowered that I can operate my business on the go, pull all documents from a cloud environment and meet clients anytime and any place. All I need is a laptop, smart phone and metro card.”

The way Garay’s virtual agency is set up allows him and other agents to dedicate even more time to meeting face-to-face with clients and being with them every step of the way. His business is focused on customer service and providing a unique experience filled with transparency—something that is hard to find in the real estate industry. And because of their customer service-centric approach, Garay and his agency are contacted by hundreds of sellers and buyers in the tri-state area.

One of his latest deals includes a pending partnership with a large development company to exclusively sell 32 condo units. Garay and his team are planning to focus on the latest Internet marketing and lead generation techniques to test out their digital platform and find the best online advertising strategy for the development company.

“Our goal is to build relationships that last a lifetime. We are not focused on short-term deals and quick commission payments. To help fulfill our customer service model, we have designed a program that allows for prospective sellers and buyers to receive a free online and virtual consultation for their real estate investment needs,” explains Garay. “Purchasing real estate is a big decision and large sum of money. It is my job to provide the most accurate information and guide the seller or purchaser throughout the entire process.”

Garay has a goal to not only leverage and consult with clients on the technology at hand to provide a more transparent service for real estate clients, but to also share the best resources and vendors with sellers and buyers to ensure a seamless transaction.

He is currently recruiting agents that allow business operations from anywhere and everywhere. With efficient technology, he asserts that all the multiple listing systems and real estate applications are available to the largest and smallest companies.

To Garay, the biggest benefit of going online is simple: “Operating in a virtual environment allows more focus on clients, a greater advertising budget to market seller properties, higher commission splits for agents, greater overall flexibility and less administrative staff.”

The only thing that seems to be missing from JSG Realty at this point is an app. But Garay hints that there may be one coming in the future, one that takes a more informational approach and focuses on giving sellers, buyers and agents the best possible data and resources.

The future of real estate in the virtual realm is, as of right now, a big question mark. Many large brokerages and firms will have their eyes on Garay’s agency, and those like his, to see if taking the industry online and away from brick-and-mortar is the right move. If the success of Amazon, Netflix and Google—companies who have all adapted with the rise of digital and come to dominate their respective industries—are any indication, then it seems like this is just the beginning for JSG Realty.

Joshua Garay

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