In commercial real estate and investment property your leads for new business come from a number of sources. The more leads that you can generate and optimise, the more successful you will be in getting the best listings. In this market, the quality of the listings is so important given that the buyers and the tenants can be so selective.
When the market is saturated with owners and businesses that are struggling to keep afloat, it is the quality properties that you want to market. These are the ones that will generate the momentum even in difficult times. The banks are also not as reluctant to lend on the higher quality asset with established cash flow.
Does this mean that you turn your back on poor and unattractive commercial real estate listings? Perhaps you should for this time given that you want results to your marketing. It’s your choice, but at the very least, be selective as to what you list and how you do it. Your time is your only resource and how you use your time is essential to generating fresh and marketable listings.
What are the Sources of Leads?
We cannot cover all the sources of commercial real estate leads here as they are unique to your market in many respects; however it is worthwhile raising the main common ones so that you can have them covered. Importantly you must know what a lead or source of new commercial real estate business looks like in its early stages, and then you must know how to convert it to fresh momentum and a deal.
There is one main rule on the topic of leads; when you see a lead, you must react to it in a professional and timely fashion before someone else does.
Leads in commercial real estate are not just for the things that happen today; they can be for things that are potential deals in months or even years. The more clearly you see this, the further business you will generate for yourself.
So here is the most obvious leads generation list that you must have covered in one form or another. See how you score on these items and make sure that these foundational matters are under control.
Business Acquaintances locally – these are most particularly those people who you have known for some time and who are likely to cooperate as an extra set of eyes in the market place. Choose of these people with care and remain in contact with them constantly.
Professional Business People – in your marketplace, there are a number of categories of business people to whom you must remain connected. The highest on the list are solicitors, accountants, town planners, financiers, architects, local politicians, and engineers. All of these people have significant involvement with the commercial property industry and the property owners. They will likely hear about a commercial property transaction before you do. In many cases these people need the assistance of a good commercial real estate broker to help their clients in a variety of ways.
Local businesses – local businesses produce change and flux in the marketplace. As time progresses, you should constantly encourage ongoing contact with all the major businesses in your precinct. They are the ones that regularly need to buy, sell, and lease premises; this means all the local managers and business proprietors who are involved in property decisions and creating commerce generally in the community. Recognise that they do not normally know much about commercial real estate. You can bring them updates on rental and property prices regularly to assist them with a future property need.
Colleagues within your office – many commercial real estate offices are cooperative business environments with salespeople working productively with each other. This means that they share leads and opportunities in sales and leasing. Sharing part of your commission with other colleagues in your office is far better than giving the commission to another outside competitor an agent in the same region.
Building tenancy schedules – from time to time, you will see or obtain tenancy schedules or inventories that relate to major buildings in your area. Whilst they should be regarded as confidential documents, they will give you a wealth of opportunity if used correctly. Any lease that is to expire inside the next three years is a target for future contact. The relative tenant will need to do something to preserve the function and occupation of their business. It is surprising how many tenants leave such matters to the last-minute. The ongoing contact with tenants of this type is highly productive. Your main focus with these people is to establish trust so that they come to you when they need you.
Competition agents and brokers – normally speaking, the competitor agencies in your area will cooperate on conjunction transactions with their exclusives. The commercial real estate industry is relatively specialised and such cooperation is common in sales and leasing of office, industrial, and retail property. Importantly, any conjunction arrangement involving other agent’s listings must have a completely signed and documented conjunction agreement before you proceed. Cooperate with other agents, but do so with care and professionalism.
Satisfied clients – your agency business, if it’s been operating for a number of years, will have a significant list of established happy clients from previous transactions. It pays to keep in contact with these people given that most transactions in commercial real estate happen every 4 to 10 years. The satisfied clients are going to need your services again.
Old campaigns – any commercial real estate campaign and marketing event will have created leads and people who ‘changed their mind’. All of these people should be on your constant contact register or data base. Feeding them regular market updates is essential.
Other Agents old deals – as a further extension of this item above, you can also monitor the transactions of other competing agents in your area. Any transactions that occurred through other agencies over the last 4 to 10 years should be monitored for future re-activity. It is interesting to note that many real estate agents and brokers are lax when it comes to keeping in contact with others.
Industry publications – any newspaper or industry publication in your area should be reviewed daily for information involving businesses relocating, expanding, contracting, or merging. It is surprising how so many agents overlook this obvious source of listing. These publications will also frequently name the key people in a business such as the CEO, President, or CFO. In all cases these business leaders go on your contact list and get a letter on a regular basis. Note that I said a ‘letter’ and not an ‘email’. In this high-tech world you want your correspondence to be seen and read; an email will not achieve this in most circumstances.
Other agent’s signboards –when another agent puts a signboard on a property, it is imperative that you contact the other adjacent and nearby owners of commercial property in that street. These people are likely to have an interest in competing with the property that’s just come on the market. They are also more likely to use you as a competing agent whilst the other agent’s property moves through its promotional period.
Financiers and bank managers – these people need property transactions for their business to survive. They are also receptive to working with professional real estate agents who understand commercial real estate and act professionally. If you can supply them with the source of a new large mortgage or property development, they are likely to offer you the opportunity for a listing or a sale with their clients in the future.
Planning approvals – keep close to the local council or office of the planning committee in your region, as they constantly consider new planning matters. Some of these offices have minutes of planning approvals that are available for public scrutiny. Check out these minutes and follow through on the opportunities that you can see. The historic planning approvals over the last few years are also great sources of leads and listings.
The inventory above comprises the most obvious categories of leads and opportunities. You will be able to add to this as time progresses in your marketplace. Importantly make sure that you have these items well under control as the essential foundations of your business.
As the opportunity for listing commercial investment property arises, we can sometimes be too eager to take the listing without getting all the important facts that affect the price.
Check the leases on a commercial investment property before you talk about price on the property as the leases may assist or hinder the sale. They can also dictate a sale strategy. This says that a good commercial real estate broker or agent must know the structures of a lease and what makes a good lease.
Depending on the age of a property, the next phase of its lifecycle may be refurbishment, demolition or remix of tenancies. Every phase is different. The demographics of the region in which the property is located will also have something to do with the future of the property.
A property that has a majority of leases that are soon to expire may be attractive to a purchaser that wants to owner occupy the property or a developer that wants to change the site and create a new building. On the other hand, the same property in such circumstances will not be attractive to a new investor unless they want to undertake refurbishment works and re-position the property with new tenants. Decisions are based around strategy needs and timing; an agent or broker for a commercial property you need to be the ultimate strategist.
Know These Leasing and Tenant Mix Facts
When looking at the potential sale of the property, the lease aspects requiring future awareness and understanding in the sale include:
Rent review profiles – are they strong and well-timed or do they just gear to the consumer price index? Also look for the market rent reviews and see if they are well timed or if they expose the property owner to volatile cash flow changes.
Lease expiry dates – these are always a concern if the property requires stable cash flow, so look for multiple lease expiries that are close to each other, and also that may consist of a majority of the lettable space in the building. Understand the cash flow in the property before the sale process starts. What tenants should stay in the property at lease expiry? Will you need to fix those occupancy facts before sale marketing?
Option periods – from a landlord perspective, lease options are not always a good thing to have as they can frustrate the future of the property; it really depends on what the landlord thinks that they want to do with the property. It is of note that many large shopping centres and malls do not allow lease options for that very reason.
Details of any current incentives with existing tenants – some lease incentives carry on impacting the property for some months or even years. When the property is to be sold, these incentives must be offset or discharged at settlement as the future purchaser may not want to take over the burden of such.
Outgoings recoveries – leases and most particularly net leases will allow the landlord to get back some of the building operating costs. It pays to check the leases to see exactly what those recoverable items may be as it can impact the property sale or buyer interest
History of income and expenditure performance – I always go back at least 3 years to check these numbers and to see what have been the major changes in the outgoings. What you are looking for is overly large imbalances in outgoings from year to year that indicate that something major has impacted the property or a strategy has changed. Get reasons for any changes of this type so that any astute buyer can be given logical explanations.
The current budget of income and expenditure performance – every commercial investment building of any type should function to a budget each year and the details should be available for your review. Parts of the expenditure that impact greatly on the property are the rates and taxes as they take up on average a full 33% of most building expenditure. You need to know that these rates and taxes are on average with other properties in the region.
Property performance elements such as these will affect the potential income from the property well into the future and will also dictate the best time to sell the property. In an ideal world, you would time the sale so that the income is optimised and the outgoings are controlled to acceptable levels. This cannot always be done especially in markets like that which we have today, but you should know where you stand on the property performance before you proceed into a sales program. Strengths and weaknesses of cash flow should be identified and logical reasons provided before any sale campaign starts.
As you promote, sell and then document the property transaction you will soon come across the fact and event of ‘due diligence’.
This element of the commercial real estate sale is very common and will be the subject of most contracts with the exception of those that adopt the auction method.
As you would expect the process of due diligence can make or break a sale. For this reason, it is wise to question a seller well in the listing stage of the sale to ensure that no ‘deal breakers’ or problems are hidden in the cupboard. Due diligence will likely find most problems on and with the property.
What is Commercial Property Due Diligence?
So what can be looked at in ‘due diligence’? Consider these:
Due Diligence is simply a detailed checking process that is undertaken prior to sale and settlement by ‘experts’, to review all relevant data involved in the sale.
Usually, solicitors and/or audit specialists are the nominated parties to undertake the work on behalf of the purchaser.
The concept of Due Diligence is that the sale and settlement of the property will only occur if the Due Diligence process is successful.
On large commercial properties, it is not unusual for Due Diligence to continue for days if not weeks. A special condition of the contract will allow this to occur.
The process is undertaken under the strict control of the Seller. It usually occurs in the Seller’s property management office or at the Sellers solicitor’s offices and is usually in a controlled environment (locked room). Only authorized parties are allowed into the room so as to preserve security and confidentiality of documentation.
A good Agent or Broker will provide total support to the Due Diligence activity. Expect Due Diligence to check just about everything involved in the sale.
The five professional areas usually covered are:-
Cover These Property Issues Plus More
Expect questioning and document discovery to include the following:-
Engineering: Includes verification that the property structures and building services comply with the Building Code of Australia and Local Government building Approvals. Questions will cover safety risks or non-compliance of structures, fire protection, air conditioning, electrical supply, hydraulics, lifts, escalators, and stand-by emergency power. Expect the questions to involve adequacy of structures, mandatory service compliance, remaining life expectancy, capital expenditure, and sinking fund requirements for future major repairs or replacements.
Environment: Includes a wide range of issues such as identification and analysis of environmental and physical risks to the property or land and its use. Issues will include site contamination, dangerous goods and hazardous substances, asbestos, hazardous industrial waste, trade waste, stormwater management, occupational health and safety, heritage factors, and statutory requirements.
Finance: Includes all actions and dealings associated with property financing, review of taxation implications, substantiation of income and expenditure statements, arranging mortgages, financial analysis and modelling, company or entity investigations, plus all other supportive or related documentation.
Legal: Includes all conveyance documentation, easements, permits, titles, contracts, leases, searches, incentives to tenants, site details, compliance with any legislative requirements, outstanding litigation, and any town planning issues.
Management: Looks at any issues associated with ongoing asset management, facilities management, building management, lease management and negotiation, rent collection, arrears, financial reporting, insurance, car-park supervision, cleaning, pest control, landscaping etc.
A customer wants to be well served in their shopping needs and feel good about it when they visit your property. Visit the competition shopping centre properties nearby to compare them to that which you are currently leasing. You must understand the other properties that you are competing against together with the strengths and weaknesses that they experience.
The tenants that seem to feed customers off each other
The amount of time that people spend at the shopping centre
The busier days for customer shopping
When looking at these other properties it is wise to take selective photos of the things that may be relevant to compare to your property. You can analyse the photos later and revisit your ideas. Note that some property owners and managers will be sensitive to you taking photos around their property. Discretion is the rule here.
The only way you can underpin your rental and strengthen it is through a good tenancy mix. Given that the leases in premises are for lengthy periods of time, any mistake with tenancy mix will exist for years and frustrate the rent, the customer, the tenant, and the property. Hence you must choose tenants well and then place them with a lease that is in harmony with the surrounding premises.
Shopping Center Review Process
As parts of that process look at these issues in balance so that any concerns of tenant mix occupancy are removed and nullified. Understand:
Income exposure at expiry
Option exercise potentials
Exclusive or Permitted uses in the leases
Vacancy effects on other existing tenants
Relationship building or conflict potential between sitting tenant types
Know why tenants like or dislike your property
Know how your existing tenants maximize their business operations at your property
If you follow these steps, you will be armed with the strategy you need to put you in the ‘driver’s seat’ as you implement a new leasing campaign and tenancy mix for your managed property. You will know the tenant you want and you will have the selling points to attract them.