BURLINGTON — Element Real Estate opened an office in downtown Burlington earlier this year, when owners Jessica Bridge and Dan Cypress thought the time was right to launch their own boutique real estate firm.
The residential Realtors got a refreshed company logo and acquired space at 139 Bank Street, a location that has previously housed a dry cleaner, art store and gallery, among others.
“We’ve been business partners for 10 years,” Cypress said. “We started at RE/MAX together, and worked together the entire time.” The two were initially on a team at RE/MAX North Professionals and, after about two years, formed and began building their own team.
This past spring, Bridge and Cypress decided to leave RE/MAX to open their own office with their team. “We wanted to open a boutique firm, and we wanted to be in downtown Burlington,” Bridge said.
“It was nice, because as a business we’d reached the point where we could do it — we just had to get furniture and office space” Cypress said, “There were no other downtown residential firms, and Jess and I were both drawn to being in Burlington. And with this location, everything’s a networking opportunity.”
Bridge likes the accessibility the location affords — the front door features a “walk-ins welcome” greeting — both for clients and for her team.
“We see clients whenever we step outside the office, and the location increases our walk-in business,” she said.
She noted that lenders, legal offices, and City Hall are all within easy walking distance.
“I’m not sure boutique real estate service works in every market, but it works really well here,” Bridge said. “Vermonters like ‘local,’ and I think that’s an even higher focus within the Burlington area.”
Element focuses almost exclusively on residential properties. Cypress said the firm occasionally handles commercial transactions, “But that’s typically a past client looking to work with us again,” he said.
While it’s licensed to work anywhere in Vermont, Element’s market primarily is Chittenden County and bordering towns.
“We’re keeping it local, focusing on what we know best,” Bridge said.
While Element’s approach is more about clients than properties, she said the firm has sold a wide array of homes.
“We’ve sold everything from lakefront condos to million-dollar properties in South Burlington to fixer-uppers,” Bridge said. “I will say we seem to attract unique properties. Homes that are architecturally designed.”
While Element emphasizes a team approach, Bridge said the firm employs a division of labor, “when it makes sense.” The team includes the two owners and three other Realtors. Bridge works predominantly with sellers, while Cypress and two other Realtors focus on buyers. Another serves as office manager, closing coordinator, and transactions manager.
“Our model is incredibly collaborative,” Bridge said. “At any point in their transaction, we have three people involved. And we stay in contact with clients about their needs, and any challenges they may be facing.”
“It really is a team approach to helping people,” Cypress said. “You don’t just get one Realtor, where you’re at the mercy of that person’s schedule. We all work with the same clients, and there’s no feeling of competition within the office. That results in (a) better level of service.”
Element’s office includes about 1,100 square feet, spread over five rooms. Redstone manages the property. Bridge said Essex Paint & Carpet installed the office’s wood floors, and she credited Lavelette Painting & Contracting of Hinesburg with doing most of the other contracted work.
Ted Olson, a principal at Tally Ho Design, redesigned Element’s logo, which is featured both inside and outside the building. Bridge said Olson also created the original logo, and his company designs the firm’s marketing collateral and advertising.
Bridge said the firm’s marketing reflects its client focus. “We don’t do a lot of advertising — we put most of our resources to running the business — but when we do, it’s client-focused. We don’t promote ourselves or our statistics — we have those statistics, and they are good and robust — but for us it’s about that family in that home.”
Real estate photographer Jen Cypress of Dwelling Photography works with Element to provide strong images that also reflect the firm’s focus. (Dan and Jen Cypress are married.)
“Our marketing is fresh,” Cypress said. “We use high-quality images, and maintain a strong presence online and with social media. That’s how people are shopping — online, and social media. We’re reaching people where their eyes are.”
Ultimately, Bridge believes Element offers a level of service that makes it unique. “We’re very knowledgeable about, and connected to, the Chittenden County market and market statistics. We provide clients comparative information they can’t find online.”
Cypress said the Element team does not sugar-coat those statistics, or tell customers what they want to hear just to get business. “We are really direct and honest,” he said. “That’s easy to say, but not always easy to follow through on. We try to have any difficult conversations early on. We’ll give them the stats, and talk people out of buying things, or just level with sellers, when it’s the right thing to do.”
Currently, both Bridge and Cypress cited a lack of inventory in the market, particularly in Burlington and Winooski. With low supply and high demand, Cypress said the market has seen prices increase.
“We have clients ready to list their homes and move on, but there’s nothing for them to buy,” Bridge said.
Even with the proliferation of online realty sites, and the availability of more information than ever, Bridge said experienced Realtors remain vital assets to customers in any market.
“Consumers are definitely more knowledgeable, but the human part is why I don’t believe Realtors will ever be obsolete. There are people who really value the expertise of someone in business in the trenches, doing it every day,” Bridge said.
“We’re like real estate Sherpas,” Cypress said. “Maybe you can climb Everest on your own — but why? We can guide, support and steer you in the right direction.”
Element Real Estate is located at 139 Bank Street in Burlington. The phone number is 497-2575 and the website is www.realestatevt.com.