There are plenty of real-estate businesses in Salt Lake City that will help one buy or sell a home.
Then there is cityhome COLLECTIVE, a boutique company that also will help clients plan a new kitchen, pick out paint swatches, locate a reliable plumber, give a restaurant recommendation and host a killer cocktail party.
This modern vision of real estate comes directly from the company's 33-year-old owner, Cody Derrick, a modern-day Renaissance man who reads poetry, doesn't watch television and couldn't care less about pop culture. On the company website he is described as a "rustic culturalist with a hint of urban sportsman."
When Derrick started working in real estate 10 years ago, the idea of just selling a space underwhelmed him. Passionate about interior design, he often helped clients after the sale to create a space that fit their lifestyle.
Three years ago, the Salt Lake City native gathered a team of creative designers and artists and formed cityhome COLLECTIVE. Derrick's intent was to provide a different experience than the one offered by traditional, corporate real-estate companies, one that understood on a deeper level what someone wanted from a living space.
Since then, cityhome which combines traditional real-estate services with home design and staging has grown in sales and local recognition. Last year, the company did more than $30 million worth of sales, and Derrick expects that number to double in 2013. Most business has come through client recommendations.
"I wanted to figure out who people are and how to help them live a better life," Derrick said. "I wanted that concept to be the thing people realized. … I started having events for clients and I would try really hard to make sure my clients that were doing interesting things were supported and promoted."
New business model • With Derrick, the process of buying a home or a space is notably different than just looking at the listings and visiting available houses. Agents at cityhome get to know clients on an intimate level to help them decide not just where to live, but how.
"I ask people questions that they're completely shocked by," Derrick said. "By the end of the process they can't believe that they purchased homes before and never thought to ask their spouse or their kids these questions."
Some questions are broad, he said, like "What are your goals?" Maybe the person wants to be more creative and needs a house that will support that goal. Other questions are simple but just as significant, such as "What do you do on any given Saturday morning?" Do you want to walk and get a cup of coffee or make your own and hang out in the backyard?
"I want to know where they are at in their lives, where they want to be and what they do and what makes them happy," he said. Clients "don't know that their whole life can be different if they figure out what they want in a space, and then create it."
A co-worker recommended cityhome to Peggy Aagard and her husband, Cody. The couple were initially skeptical of the hip new real-estate business. "We thought cityhome worked with a higher-income demographic," said Aagard, "and we were looking for a starter home."
They were pleasantly surprised.
"Cody's process is so much different than any agent we had worked with. His philosophy is to find a space that is reflective of the life you want to live," she said. "He's far less concerned about how many bathrooms you want and square footage."
Aagard, who grew up in the Northwest, wanted to live in a diverse neighborhood. "It was important for me to have my daughter leave her house every day and see people who were different than her."
They ultimately purchased a home in West Valley City's Westshire neighborhood, an area with many midcentury modern homes built by well-known architect Ron Molen. Later, when the Aagards needed help designing and decorating, Derrick provided a folder of designs he thought might fit their needs.
"I still have the folder and we're working to create them one piece at a time," said Aagard.
Modern architecture • While the cityhome group focuses on all types of unique properties downtown lofts, converted warehouses, Victorian-era homes the group is especially enamored of midcentury modern homes, Derrick said. These single-story residences, typically built between 1945 and 1965, boast large windows, an open floor plan and a smooth transition from indoors to outdoors.
"It's a unique style of home that we are obsessed with," Derrick said.
The cityhome COLLECTIVE office on South Temple also is unique it looks more like a coffee shop than a real-estate business. Hanging lamps descend above the front desk, and the room opens into a lounge. Derrick wanted to create an inviting place to work and a place where his clients feel welcome.
At his previous real-estate job, he had a difficult time bringing clients into the office. "For me, I had such a hard time with the idea that we were selling homes and our office felt like it was disconnected and uninspired," he said.
Cityhome calls its clients family members and once a week offers an event in the lounge from live music to movie screenings to wine-and-cheese parties. These gatherings are available to anyone who has purchased or sold through cityhome or who used the company's design services, Derrick said.
Corigan Kushma, 28, started working for cityhome in November. It's her first job as a real-estate agent; she was drawn to the company because of its knowledge of Salt Lake City and seemingly different aesthetic as a real-estate company. What Kushman found was a group of people who love helping others live better lives.
"It's so rewarding on every level," she said. "You can tell people are happy to genuinely be here; that changes a lot of things."
Cityhome also designs new spaces, which have been featured on The New York Times real-estate blog.
The company likes to use unexpected materials such as salvaged wood to wrap a fireplace in its projects.
"They can't believe it's coming out of Salt Lake City," Derrick said. "It's because people aren't doing it. It breaks a lot of barriers."
Community connections • Besides the weekly gatherings, clients stay connected to cityhome through its modern website and blog where the staff promotes interesting people, places, events and business in Utah. In recent weeks, the editors have featured the work of a marble craftsman, promoted Salt Lake City's DIY craft festival, talked about a favorite Salt Lake City restaurant and boasted about a local winemaker. The site offers imaginative writing and artistic photos that are reminiscent of a high-end magazine.
"I didn't realize this when I started, but businesses shouldn't survive or thrive if there isn't a huge component of giving back," Derrick said. "That was the creation of the website. I wanted to have certain things on the website that were consistent, but for the most part I wanted it to be a search-and-discover lifestyle blog that at a glance lets anybody see how rad we are as a city."
Tessa Furano Hale, a physical therapist and cityhome client, called Derrick "a visionary" for providing a new way of buying homes and connecting the community.
"He brings clients and friends to work with him and connects them to each other. He lets me know who's good, who's trustworthy and who are the locals I should support," she said. "The collective makes you feel like you're part of this amazing movement and we're part of making Salt Lake this great place to live."
A three-year-old boutique real estate company that specializes in unique properties, design and promoting cool things about Salt Lake City.
Where • 645 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City; 801-718-5555
Online • cityhomecollective.com