Lakeside Realty Creates Homelike Experience with New Office
COLUMBIANA, Ohio — From art shows to wine tastes, the new Century 21 Lakeside Realty office at Town Center at Firestone Farms is vastly different from the cubicle-walled workspaces of a typical real estate office.
With an open-floor concept that includes a lobby with easy chairs and a second-floor loft area, the space is designed to create a more inviting, homelike experience for customers and employees alike. The office, at 134 Carriage Drive in Town Center, is the fourth for Lakeside, which operates locations in Austintown, Calcutta and off Main Street here. Owner George Berick said he wanted to be a part of the “growth and energy” of Firestone Farms.
“I just saw a future here and I figured I had to be a part of this,” he said.
Berick and his wife, Teresa, an agent at Lakeside, invited elected officials, community members and a few dozen of the agency’s 100-plus agents to a ribbon-cutting Friday to celebrate the grand opening. The agency will host events at the office for agents and customers, including art shows for children, wine and bourbon tastings and food samplings, Berick said.
With four private meeting rooms, agents can bring customers to the office for a more comfortable experience, said Teresa Berick. The vision for the office came from Century 21’s new corporate branding, which focuses on customer experience rather than simply a transaction, she said.
“I think it allows [customers] to be more comfortable and gives them more of an experience rather than just being more business,” she said. “With Century 21’s rebranding, one of our missions is to make every transaction an experience rather than just a business transaction.”
The office is open to customers at any stage in the buying process, whether they’re already working with an agent or are walk-ins just starting out, said George Berick. Along with staffing real estate agents, services include on-board lending and title work. Hours of operation will initially be Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekend hours will vary.
“It’s going to be a destination spot,” Berick said. “I’ll probably have about 15 or 20 agents that will be working out of this office, but all 100-plus of my agents will have access to this facility.”
Among them is Jessica Hinerman, who just started at Lakeside Realty and is working on closing her first sale with the agency. An agent since 2010, Hinerman said she saw with Lakeside an opportunity to expand her business and work with more customers, especially first-time homebuyers.
“I was doing lots of foreclosures and I was trying to spread my wings into the corporate world, get more lead generation,” she said.
Hinerman likes the modern, open feel of the new office and is looking forward to bringing customers there, she said.
“It’s very easy to walk into and just sit down and bring a client to,” she said. “It’s not cubicles and everyone working in their own little office space. I like how open it is.”
Business has been good for Lakeside and more expansion is in the cards for the company, said Berick, who looks to set up operations in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and out West. The average sale price for the agency is between $100,000 and $110,000, up from $94,000 a year ago — a 10% increase, “which is huge in this area,” he said.
Since acquiring Gallagher, Clark and Carney Realty Group in June 2017, Lakeside has doubled in size and transaction volume and is on track to close about 1,000 homes this year, which is up from an average 800, he said.
“It’s funny enough to say that houses are lasting two and three hours on the market,” Berick said. “But it’s true. The buyers might think we’re crazy, but then after they miss the house they wanted, they find out that we were right.”
The economy is the biggest driver of that growth, he said.
“You can’t deny it,” he said. “No matter how split our country is, we can’t deny that. And being that I’ve got the pulse on the real estate industry of it, I’m seeing it and it is for real.
“It’s nice to drive around and see ‘Help Wanted’ signs too,” he added.
Berick acknowledges talk of a potential economic downturn on its way, but said with interest rates remaining low and demand high, “Why would there be?” he said. He isn’t seeing the kind of bottom like the one that led to the Great Recession in the late 2000s.
“The doom and gloomers are like, ‘Oh, it’s going to pop and the bubble’s going to burst and we’re all going to be like 2006 again.’ That will never happen again,” he said. “There’s too many regulations right now with foreclosures and things.”
That’s provided the federal government doesn’t continue to increase the interest rate, which causes people to panic, he said. Increasing the rate 2% or 3% reduces one’s buying power by $5,000 to $10,000, he said. “If they keep messing with that, it will hurt the growth a little bit,” he said.
With the addition of Lakeside, the first phase of the Town Center has one remaining 2,000-square-foot space, which has been leased to a wine bar, said the development’s owner, Tom Mackall. The company is in the planning stages for its second phase and is adding other amenities, including a large monitor in the courtyard to display movies and sports events, he said.
“We’re beginning to make plans for what we’re going to do next,” Mackall said. “We’re trying to add amenities and make sure all our tenants are successful before we move onto the next phase.”
Among the plans being discussed include a two-story building with a rooftop bar overlooking the development’s courtyard and converting a 3,800-square-foot barn on the property that belonged to Harvey Firestone into an event center.
A brewery is interested in operating in the basement of the two-story barn, Mackall said. The renovation will include a porch and plaza that overlooks the retention pond out back, as well as a catering kitchen that will allow Homestead Kitchen and Cocktails to cater events there, he said.
In addition to the ribbon-cutting, the event featured a raffle with proceeds benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.
Pictured: (From left) Rob Schwartz, agent at Lakeside and vice president of the Columbiana County Chamber of Commerce; Rick Noel, Columbiana city councilman; David Barbee, chamber president; Jordan Weber, agent; Alexis Weber, agent, with son Patrick; George Berick, owner and manager; Teresa Berick; A.J. Allen, agent; Abbey Berick with Emmy Weber; Deann Davis, chamber director; and Jennifer Barton, chamber director, flanked by a group of Lakeside Realty agents.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.