BY CARMEN SIERING
A man wearing a fedora and trench coat walks the streets, his spirits as low as his bank account. He couldn’t get his security deposit back on the apartment he had rented, and funds are tight when you’re in secret agent school. But Agent Ocha isn’t giving up. He’s dedicating his life to making sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
So runs the storyline created by Donald Griffin Jr. and Tim Ballard, real estate brokers whose new Off Campus Housing Agency (OCHA) is dedicated to serving rental tenants. Griffin is CVO — that’s chief visionary officer — and Ballard is the agency’s chief operating officer. And while the ads they plan to run online and in student newspapers include speech bubbles and graphic-novel styling, the two are serious when it comes to representing renters.
“We think people looking for rental homes deserve the same assistance as those who are buying a home,” Ballard says. Renters, who pay for the service, meet with an agent to discuss price range and property type. From there, the rental agent will take charge. “Within 48 hours, we’ll have a dozen apartments or houses that meet your needs,” Ballard says. “We’ll set up the appointments and go with you to see the properties. We’re with you from showing to signing and through the entire leasing period.”
Working with IT, mapping, legal, and real estate agency partners, Griffin and Ballard will launch OCHA in Bloomington and plan to begin serving other Big Ten university cities in the next few years. But the service isn’t just for college students.
“Our mission is to provide an agency for anyone in need of a place to call home,” Griffin says. And he hopes that once the venture gets off the ground, he and Ballard will be able to offer assistance for free to those who need help finding a place to live but can’t afford to pay for the service. “Long term, we see the issues of homelessness and Section 8 housing as things that need to be addressed,” Griffin says. “We see the need and want to give back. We’re both idealists.”
The two will officially launch their new business with the trademarked phrase “OCHA’s Gotcha!” in January.