It's not just that it's downtown that makes Verbode unusual for a residential real estate firm.
It's that it's just unusual.
Verbode's space at 415 N Broadway, Suite 101, is laid out for conversation and collaboration — and sipping fine coffee, or a cocktail if the hour is late enough.
It looks more like an art gallery than a real estate office. That could be because of the artwork on the walls on loan from Istvan Gallery, 1218 N Western Ave.
It's all conducive to doing business with certain kinds of brokers and clientele, said founder and managing broker Sarah Bytyqi, who moved Verbode earlier this year from a downtown business incubator not far away.
“We focus on the urban core of Oklahoma City. We wanted to be a little different in our approach to how we office, so our office is more like a community work space,” she said. “We don't really have private office space. We just collaborate. You can sit on the couch. You can sit at the coffee bar. You can sit at the conference table and just do your work.”
The storefront space is open by appointment only. Customers do seem to appreciate the setting when meeting with a sales agent, she said.
“They love it. They think it's really nontraditional and fun and exciting,” Bytyqi said. “It's a different concept. They feel more at home — more like they're a guest in our home than they're doing business with us, which we find has really made the process a lot easier.”
Verbode is keeping its greenness. The company name is a mix of “verdant” and “abode” — to mean “green home.”
“The reason we've stuck with it is because being green to us is just a natural process,” Bytyqi said. “We want to promote energy efficiency and educate people about how their homes work and why it's important to live close to your work and the places you enjoy going, to lessen commute time.
“You know, being in the urban core, it's just a greener way to live. Most of the homes here are existing; you're not building on new land, and there's more access to services here in the core.”
Verbode's approach fit broker Gary Caplinger's aims perfectly. The Piedmont native returned to Oklahoma City eight years ago after several years away. He said he couldn't find the kind of firm he was looking for at first.
“My hope and dream was to find a brokerage really hitting on the downtown market,” he said, with colleagues who were committed to downtown and ready for what it was becoming in its renaissance — and who were green and committed to sustainability and energy efficiency.
Caplinger said he found it all in Verbode, as well as a more laid-back atmosphere.
“We'll have a cup of coffee and sit and talk about what's important to you,” he said.
Not all real estate people get it. Caplinger said he met the broker-owner of another firm at Verbode once who struggled to understand how paperless the business is — at least at the Verbode location itself.
Bytyqi pointed out a partially used ream of paper, hidden away in a closet with a few other traditional office mainstays — the only package of printer paper opened since Verbode opened on Broadway in March.
“This is really cool,” the broker-owner said to Caplinger. Caplinger went on: “His first question was, ‘Where's the printer?' That was his first question: Where's the giant printer?”
Recent client Morgan Harris, owner of Green Bambino, an earth-friendly baby store at 5120 N Shartel Ave., said she likes Verbode's approach.
It's “very nontraditional,” said Harris, who sold a house, then bought another one, with Bytyqi as her agent. “It's very easy to communicate with the people at Verbode.”
Bytyqi said she thinks she and her seven associates are onto something.
“I think the modern workplace is changing,” she said, “and more and more people in business are discovering that, you know, collaboration is where it is — to have this kind of environment where we can collaborate with each other, with our clients, with business professionals at-large, and do it in a way that's fun and different.”