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Estate agency office of the future? "I'll have a latte and a home…."

An agent has broken new ground by creating an open-plan shop which includes an agency office, a cafe and an interiors store - and the staff and customers move seamlessly from one area to another.

The idea was the brainchild of Tracy Thornton, an estate agent since the 1980s and who for the past 11 years has been heading up Thornton Robson, a single-office agency in Rugby, Warwickshire. 

In her early days she used to stick hard-copy photographs of properties in her office windows as the main marketing tool. But now Thornton’s business has taken the innovative step of encouraging would-be buyers and sellers to socialise in the same place as they discuss a transaction.


“It’s created 75 per cent more footfall and it’s generated more instructions. Some people use the area primarily as a cafe and end up discussing property. Others come in because they’ve got estate agency business to do but end up buying accessories from the interior store. It really works” says Lauren Bourne, a sales and letting administrator.

The five sales and lettings staff are specialists in agency and were recruited specifically because of those skills but sometimes serve at the cafe if there is demand.

“We’re trying to break down barriers and reinstate the personal touch that’s been lacking in the bigger agencies and in buying and selling online” explains Bourne.

inside of an office vilo

The open plan office/cafe/interiors shop has been operating since October and has, by all accounts, been receiving quiet compliments from rival agencies in Rugby too.

In a local magazine Thornton Robson expressed its philosophy this way: “We still believe that, despite the marketing exposure of Rightmove and websites, people like the option of visiting local agents to discuss local markets, schools and facilities - with staff often locally-educated and who live and socialise in the same area too. They will always have the upper hand over a call centre situated miles away from a buyer’s potential new home.”

What’s your view on this? Is this an agency taking a bold step to pioneer a new type of office - can you imagine your own firm going down this road? 

Please let us know...

Estate agency office of the future? "I'll have a latte and a home…."

  • Chris Arnold

    IF estate agency has this perceived lack of trust from the public (Ipsos/Mori poll), then anything that disconnects from that image might be a good thing. My feeling is that it softens the typical sales culture of an estate agency office and suggests more of a consultancy offering. I agree that RM ,ZP aren't the 'be all-end all" for exposure. It's a matter of establishing any agency as the local authority and whilst that will always be down to the quality of the staff, my take is that it demonstrates creativity and allows empathy to develop. Best wishes.

    Lauren Bourne

    Good morning Chris, we definitely wanted the public to stop thinking of us as "those mean estate agents" and begin to see us as people. I think people like to see an estate agent serving the coffee or making a sandwich as it takes us away from the sales person image. Thank you for your kind words, if you're ever in Rugby you know where to stop for lunch!

  • Ann Durrell

    We opened our first Estate/Letting branch with an Internet and Coffee Lounge 15 years ago in Manchester City Centre, with a second in South Manchester a few years later. It certainly helped to differentiate us from other agents locally and brought us a great deal of attention both from the industry and local community. You can check out how our lounges looked on our Facebook page http://on.fb.me/1P1lcwB .We have now moved on and away from the integrated Coffee Shops. I think the idea of an interiors service is great, but if we have learnt anything in that time it is to concentrate on core business.

  • Richard Copus

    I like the idea of "consultancy offering". As I keep going on about to the point of boredom, it is very likely that around half of high street agents will have disappeared within the next 6 years and the survivors will be the innovators, those providing a person to person service, individuals with a good reputation whose business is mainly from established clients and recommendations, those who specialise and niche market, and those who use professional qualifications to differentiate themselves from the rest. Thornton Robson are one of the innovators.

    Tracy Thornton

    Good Morning Richard,
    Thanks for your comments, some of use "Old School" agents have been around since the 80's, zero computers, zero internet agents - appreciate the internet is becoming a competition, with often faceless internet sites. Personally, I am enjoying the variety this is offering, we are seeing a 75% increase in foot flow. Meeting some great new people and hopefully providing a local service to the community. Only the other day, we had a lady in, sat for several hours with a cake and coffee. We regularly checked if she needed anything else as she seemed melancholy. For her to reply that she lost her husband two weeks ago, and returning to our cafe was her first visit out in two weeks. She loved the environment and sitting hearing the banter in a working Estate Agents. If it helps with name awareness and community spirit, I'm happy.
    Have a great day. Tracy Thornton


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