Although self-driving cars have yet to hit Main Street, Dina Hogg, MRP, SFR, associate broker at eXp Realty 11 in Tucson, Ariz., has come up with a winning way to escort her clients without occupying the driver’s seat. Since last July, Hogg has been picking up buyers and sellers in her chauffeured mobile office—a Mercedes Sprinter van she refurbished with bench seating, a beer and wine fridge, a swing-arm desk, a laptop podium, and two televisions on which to display housing data, listing presentations, and other business materials during consultations. The van is also wrapped in her branding. Hogg’s driver, a full-time member of her real estate team, doubles as a showing assistant.
“I show up at a seller’s house in my mobile office, and instead of sitting at their kitchen table to go over comps, I say, ‘Would you like to step into my office?’ ” says Hogg, who says about half of her business is with luxury clients. “It shows them how serious I am about my business and that I’m a professional. I’m not going to fall into that category of the run-of-the-mill agent. I think it gives clients clarity about what I do.”
The idea was born from Hogg’s frustrations about staying organized on the go. Before launching her mobile office, Hogg was writing contracts on the hood of her personal car while in the field and rarely was able to secure time in her office’s conference room. Having recently switched brokerages, she now works mostly from home when she’s not with clients in her van. “For a year, I did a lot of research,” she says, noting the challenges involved in procuring the right vehicle. “I was looking at six figures, and that was unacceptable to me,” she says.
Hogg finally found the right preowned van, which she bought for $30,000. Then, she put in another $20,000 for renovations. “I had to redo the floors and walls, run electric wiring for the outlets and charging stations at every seat, add the lighting in the ceiling, and I welded in a partition with a window for privacy,” Hogg recalls. On top of that, she spent thousands of dollars to advertise herself as a completely mobile agent, including TV commercials, social media ads, and presentations at events. “I wanted to get the word out that my team was mobile, and it involved a lot of added expense and activity in our schedules.”
She acknowledges it was a big risk to invest in this “driverless”—at least to her—mode of transportation. She couldn’t be sure she would see a return on investment, and that kept her up at night for weeks before the formal launch. “I realized that this could be a flop,” she says. “But while the majority of my business comes from referrals and top clients, I’ve seen that the mobile office keeps my team front and center in their minds. We’ve gone from four or five closings a month to nine.” It took about six months for the van to produce noticeable results.
The mobile office “makes you feel like you’re receiving the five-star treatment,” says Justin Chambers, a client of Hogg’s who bought a 2,100-square-foot, two-story home in March. He was impressed by the flat-screen TV mounted in the van displaying property information—and the generous supply of beer and snacks. The mobile office “allowed us to debrief before and after each property tour to discuss the highlights and what we liked and didn’t like,” Chambers says. “I think the entire process was sped up in a positive way because we were in the [mobile] office immediately after each showing.”
In addition to positive reactions from clients, other agents are paying attention. Some have said they want to replicate the idea, and Hogg has gotten referrals because of it. “When we pulled the van into the parking lot at a real estate event, people just went crazy,” she says. “It’s made a real public impression.”