INMAN INTERVIEW: WeWork Expansion

HOW A LUXURY BROKERAGE IS USING WEWORK TO EXPAND ACROSS LA

Peter Lorimer's PLG Estates has expanded from 3 offices to having access to 16 thanks to the coworking space

BY GILL SOUTH (Staff Writer at Inman)

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PLG Estates’ brokerage owner Peter Lorimer and his wife and co-founder, Cindy, put a lot of effort into their three Los Angeles offices since starting up in 2010, but they were always getting asked by agents when they were going to open in other popular area neighborhoods such as Manhattan Beach, Pasadena or Playa Vista.

The brokerage CEO decided to put a couple of agents into a WeWork coworking office space until he could figure out a better solution, and it was such a “roaring success” that he thought, “Why not just plug into someone else’s network so I can provide value to all of my guys all over L.A.?”

PLG Estates has now signed up for the extended lease plan at WeWork, the company paying for all the space the agents use. With the rates WeWork charges, this is more expensive than a normal lease, but the flexibility it allows the firm is “priceless,” Lorimer said.

On May 17, the company CEO announced to his agents he would be giving them, in essence, access to 16 offices in L.A. as the company availed itself of all the WeWork work spaces throughout the city.

As well as the two brick-and-mortar offices in Eastside and Studio City and the HQ in the PDC, another WeWork space in Playa Vista is already up and running with a team of agents and other support staff based there.

CLICK-AND-MORTAR

PLG Estates will be keeping two of its existing (brick-and-mortar) offices in Eastside and Studio City, but the Lorimers have not renewed the lease on the Beverly Hills office. Instead the company headquarters has now been transplanted to the WeWork space in West Hollywood’s much talked about Pacific Design Center.

This PLG Estates HQ in the PDC will house the company COO, Cindy Lorimer, the creative director, the escrow office and several other key members of PLG. “Ultimately, the immediate plan is expand in the near future to have permanent PLG boots on the ground in several other of the L.A. WeWork locations, then utilizing the WeWork network to open wherever we want,” said Lorimer.

With the WeWork plan, Lorimer said, PLG Estates is becoming a hybrid of “click-and-mortar.” The former no. 1 Keller Williams L.A., sees his agents rubbing shoulders with an interesting community of young entrepreneurs at the WeWork hubs who will be looking to buy or sell homes as they rise in their fields. “It’s a nice bonus,” Lorimer said.

He would describe his typical buyers and sellers as people who don’t enjoy corporate and in the $1 million to $5 million niche, though his agents cover the gamut from $500,000 homes to $50 million dollar homes. So his business is a good fit for WeWork clientele, he said. Not every Realtor might feel comfortable in the arty, techy WeWork spaces, but for his type of agents, who currently number 200, many of them in former lives were directors, film producers, musicians and actors, so WeWork is a good choice.

“My guys are taught to be independent, to think of us as coaches not nursemaids — the breed of agent I have are out there doing business, they don’t need to be in a cubicle,” said the CEO.

His message to his agents is to appeal to the people who really like them and to be their advocate. “And if that means wearing a tutu, jackboots and playing Black Sabbath during an open house, they have full endorsement from me,” he said.

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THE FUTURE

The way Lorimer sees it, the WeWork arrangement allows him to change the way his brokerage approaches expansion.

“With our new alliance, we now can ‘bring the company to the agent’ by hosting a full on PLG meeting at any one of the WeWork facilities in the LA area and inviting whomever we want to attend,” Lorimer said.

“Rather than the old-fashioned approach of setting up a brick-and-mortar office and then recruiting to fill the place, we prefer to find other like-minded progressive agents who are not afraid of change, and once we all vibe — boom — we set up shop overnight.”

Lorimer’s plan, if the WeWork experiment in LA works well, is to take his creative form of real estate brokerage to the rest of the country after 24 months, to cities such as Nashville, which has strong connections with L.A. He also likes the idea of Austin, Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans and Chicago.

And he’s dreaming of a PLG Estates in London, England, one day, the city where the Brit-born brokerage-owner went as a teen to break into the music industry in the 1980s.

With the WeWork decision, Lorimer believes he has had a moment of clarity in where his real estate business is going — he’s figured out how to do PLG Estates 2.0, he said. And he said he’s already had a lot of calls from other agents interested in his decision.