For most people, buying a home is the biggest investment they will ever make — from the actual big-ticket transaction to the thousands of dollars that will be spent in the ensuing years to maintain and increase its value.
While the thought of homeownership can be daunting, Vern Holden believes the process to get there shouldn’t be. That’s why Holden, the owner of Windermere Real Estate’s Mill Creek office, recently launched Windermere Living Room in the Mill Creek Town Center.“We wanted to create a place where our neighbors could come and discover how to achieve their dream home,” Holden said in announcing the new retail concept. “The Living Room is a place our community can turn to when they want to learn more about making their home dreams a reality. No pressure or future obligation, just helpful information.”
Opened in mid-February, Windermere Living Room occupies about 950 square feet of space, with a portion of that designed as an authentic living room, complete with a cozy fireplace, a flat-panel television, armchairs and a coffee table.
Sitting in those comfy armchairs, visitors can peruse reading material on home improvement projects, interior design and other home-related topics. On the big-screen TV, they can watch home listings and community announcements while sipping complimentary coffee. They can even open up their laptops to take advantage of free wireless Internet service.
Adjacent to the lounging area are computer kiosks, where visitors can access all the listings offered through the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, not just Windermere, Holden said during a recent interview.
There also is a receptionist and real estate agent on site to answer visitor questions, he said, noting that “by law, we have to have a licensed agent; certain questions need to be answered by a licensed real estate professional.”
Windermere Living Room also plans to offer regular seminars on home-related subjects such as feng shui, water-wise landscaping and home-staging tips. And community organizations will be able to reserve on-site space to hold meetings, he said.
“A real estate company needs to be a resource within the community,” Holden said, adding that Living Room visitors can learn about school districts, bus routes and the community they are looking at buying into — important factors when considering a home purchase.
The idea for a retail-oriented real estate location has been with Holden for 20 years, along with the notion that the real estate industry in general has not been very user-friendly. “We sell something that’s so important to people’s lives, and they have to search us out.”
It was the development of the Mill Creek Town Center that provided the right location for the new concept store, he said. “This particular location is dedicated to this community. It’s a perfect location in the fact that there’s a lot of walk-in traffic.”
So now visitors ambling along the center’s main thoroughfare can check into the housing market after they’ve admired the flowers at nearby KaBloom or browsed through the home furnishings and decor at Calico Corners.
And when they walk through the doors of Windermere Living Room, they’ll not find a real estate office “with a hundred agents and a hundred desks,” said Jennifer Kuhlman, a Windermere agent and Holden’s daughter.
“This is going to be more of a process,” she said of Windermere Living Room’s pressure-free atmosphere. “We hope that when (visitors) are ready to talk to an agent, they will think about us.”