How to Prospect for Commercial Real Estate

The answer to how to prospect for commercial real estate in order to find a real estate investing opportunity can be as easy as turning on your computer or driving around town or picking up your cell phone. The best sources for locating properties are:

Commercial Brokers

Local brokers can be found by driving around or through commercial areas and taking down the information on the “For Sale”, “For Lease” or “Space Available” signs. You can then call the broker directly or visit the website if it was listed on the sign. Another way is to enter “Commercial Real Estate Brokers” in your search engine and check out the websites you come up with to find someone in your local area.

Although in most areas of the country there is not an MLS (Multiple Listing Service) for commercial properties like there is for residential properties, commercial brokers have their own listings of properties for sale, as well as a database of properties that other brokers have for sale. They will have properties locally as well as nationally. Utilizing a broker usually does not cost you anything as a buyer because the brokers will typically be compensated by the seller. In cases where the buyer does pay all or part of the commission, it is worth the cost if the broker has found you a great deal and probably saved you more than the cost of the commission.

Internet Sites

A number of good websites can lead you to potential commercial property deals. The most well known are Loopnet and Costar, which are similar to a multiple listing service for commercial properties. To find other sites such as CIMLS is to google “Commercial Real Estate For Sale”. Please note that most of the sites will ask you for a city or state. You can usually narrow your search once you are onto the site.

You can also go directly to the websites of national commercial brokerage firms where you can see their listings and get valuable market reports. The beauty is that if the property you’re looking for is no longer available, you can sign up for property availability alerts or contact one of the brokers directly. By talking with a broker, you may find that the property you were checking on is no longer available, but that they are getting ready to list another property that may meet your criteria.

Real Estate Investment Clubs

Most of the larger cities in the U.S. have a number of local real estate investment clubs. These groups provide great opportunities to network and meet with other investors who have a similar interest in commercial property. The members typically include just about everyone: beginning as well as seasoned investors, brokers, attorneys, title company officers, appraisers and others who make their living from the various real estate investing professions. Most of these associations meet once a month to discuss current events, share information and have an expert speak to the group.

To find clubs in your city, enter “real estate investment club” in your search engine or try going onto the National Real Estate Investor Association website and then search for the nearest club in your area.

Newspaper Ads and Publications

You can often find owners of commercial properties who want to sell by looking at newspaper classified ads and real estate publications ads. Magazines that are good are Real Estate Forum and publications by France Publications. Newspapers can include your local paper, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Other Sources

Others who may be able to assist you in your search include your own personal network of contacts, a local realtor or the realtor you bought your house from, your banker, your attorney or your accountant, any of whom can possibly assist you in your search.

Whatever you do, have fun learning how to prospect for commercial property. Talking with others increases your knowledge and expands your network.

As I say throughout my blogs, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me, I truly want to help.  My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge.  Thank you for reviewing this blog.

Why Invest In Commercial Real Estate?

“It’s tangible, it’s solid, it’s beautiful. It’s artistic, from my standpoint, and I just love real estate.” -Donald Trump

Let me ask you a very simple, yet profound question: Why would you invest in real estate? Understanding the answer or answers to this question will help you along your investment career.

The following are a few common answers I have picked up on when I see this question asked:

Top 5 Financial Reasons to Invest in Real Estate

Let’s first look at the top 5 reasons to invest in real estate from strictly an investment standpoint:

1. Cash Flow – whether you buy with all cash or use today’s favorable financing with a low mortgage payment, positive monthly cash flow will occur when the monthly rent is greater than the monthly expenses. This gives you a monthly income from your real estate investment.

2. Appreciation – Appreciation is the increase in the property’s value, which generally occurs over time and can also be increased by an investor who adds value to the property through repairs and/or enhancements. This is also a great way to create equity in the property.

3. Depreciation – Even with an increase in the property’s value, the government allows owners a tax deduction on their property after they’ve owned the property for at least a year. This annual deduction is called depreciation which when added to the equation, protects the cash flow so that you receive some or all of it tax free. If you are an investor with an income from other sources such as a regular job, it can protect all or some of that income from state and/or federal income taxes. If you really want to understand how great this is, talk to an accountant.

4. Tax Benefits – In addition to depreciation, an investor can usually claim the interest portion of his monthly mortgage payment as a tax deduction.

5. Leverage – Leverage is a very powerful reason for investing in real estate. If an investor used 100% cash to acquire a house worth $100,000, and the house increased in value by $5,000 in one year, then the investor made a return of 5% (assuming no other costs in this case). However, if the investor obtained 80% financing, only $20,000 cash would be required at the closing table, and a bank or other lender would loan the remaining $80,000 to acquire the property. Assuming the same $5,000 increase in value, the investor’s cash contribution of $20,000 would yield a 25% return on investment ($5,000 increase in value divided by the $20,000 investment) in the same one year period of time.

With the above example, if the investor is able to bring in even a conservative amount of cash flow per month of $200, this will result in an additional $2,400 per year added to the increased appreciation. Your return for the year would now be $7,400 ($5,000 appreciation plus $2,400 cash flow) and your return on investment would now be 37% ($7,400 divided by $20,000). Even if the property value stayed stable with no appreciation, you would still see a positive return on your investment of the $2,400 in cash flow with a return on investment of 12%.

Adding to these benefits the low interest rates for financing and you can see how easy it is to accumulate wealth and become a successful investor.

Major Personal Reasons People Invest in Real Estate

Freedom:
Frankly, this is why most people start investing in real estate. They get star struck with the idea of riches that would give them the freedom to stop working for someone else. They may have a great job that they absolutely love that pays the bills but they still want to achieve long-term freedom. Or they may want extra money to eventually travel and do the things they want to do. And, if you buy and hold cash flow properties over time, sacrificing and delaying gratification, in five, ten or twenty years, you should have a pile of monthly cash flow and be able to attain that desired freedom.

Control:
Some investors I speak with want real estate to give them some level of control over their financial lives because, let’s face it, we have zero control in financial investments outside of real estate investing. If you invest in the stock market or money market funds, you don’t have any control over the return you may make on them. With real estate, there are things that you can do to control your return on investment as shown above.

Alternatives:
For some investors, real estate is nothing more than a portion of their overall investment portfolio. Perhaps you have divided your portfolio to include mutual funds, stocks, and real estate investment, etc. Or maybe you’re looking to achieve higher returns out of your cash through active management.

Career, Job, or Escape:
A few investors look at real estate investing as a career or a chance to own their own company. Others look at real estate as a means to eventually replace the job or career they may currently hate. And I’ve also seen many dive in head first, as if they’re running away from something versus running towards something.

Creating Value or Thrill of Hunt:
Many investors love the thrill of the deal and love telling you about the thrill of chasing a deal down or their last remodel. They pursue that addictive feeling and are always looking for the next rush or opportunity to turn another ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

Options:
After many years of real estate investing, I have come to realize that in the end people love investing in real estate because it has given them so many more options. They have the options of continuing to work their current job, buying real estate as a full time career, and/or traveling, etc. The more they invest the more option doors open.

The Real Reason to Invest in Real Estate

People fall hard for the sexy pitch of earning freedom. Frankly, freedom is good but I think what people are really after is options. I believe that is why they keep working so hard to find the next deal, to find the next investor, and to keep building their growing portfolio.

Some might think freedom and options are the same things. But to me, freedom really means that they can stop doing something while options mean they can do other things. Having lived through this realization, I can tell you firsthand that having options is even better than having freedom. I would say you get freedom first, and then you build or acquire options.

As you read this, I hope you will be honest and figure out what Real Estate Investing means to you. I suspect that no matter why you think you are investing, if you peel back the onion, you are really looking to create options for you and your family.

Good luck in your investing, no matter your reasons!

As I say throughout my blogs, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions, please contact me…I truly want to help. My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge. Thank you for visiting my blog.

10 Ways To Increase Your Commercial Property Value

If you own commercial real estate, I believe that the ten best ways to increase their value is through rent increases, operating expense decreases, making improvements to the property, adding amenities or exploring other income producing ideas, review/challenge the existing property taxes, change the management company and/or leasing company, change the zoning or use of the property, have tenants pay for the utility costs, divide the property and creatively negotiate the leases whether they expire now or later.

1. Increase Rents

  • Increase below market rents when leases expire: Review the market to determine the average rent; if you are below the average for your type of property, increase the rents accordingly. Increase the rent over time for existing tenants; however, when renting a vacancy, charge at the new increased rate. You can check rental rates by going online to search for “rent rates” or by contacting a local property manager or leasing company in the area.
  • Expand existing tenants into larger space.
  • Improve credit-worthiness of tenants when filling vacant space (improves the cap rate) by marketing vacancies to regional or national tenants.  You don’t necessarily need to increase the rent, you should be able to sell the property at a better cap rate with better credit tenants.

2. Decrease Operating Expenses

  • Compare your expenses to market: Review all of your expenses carefully and analyze them on a per unit basis and a cost per square foot basis, as these are industry standards. Compare each expense with your other properties. Talk with your property manager or a local experienced property manager to compare with other properties in the area. If some of your costs are higher than the standards, you’ll know you need to explore ways to decrease them.
  • Competitively bid all of your contracts, including insurance.
  • Convert gross leases to net, double net or triple net leases.

3. Make improvements to Your Property

For office buildings, shopping centers and industrial buildings, cosmetic improvements can make a big difference – and may enable you to increase the amount of rent you charge. Give the exterior a makeover, improve the lobby, or repave the parking lot to enhance the property.

In the case of apartment buildings, you’ll get more mileage out of fixing up the interiors, installing new appliances, or doing a landscaping face-lift.

4. Add Amenities or Explore Income Producing Ideas

Amenities you might add:

• concierge services
• a fitness center
• a conference room
• a business center with a fax machine and copier
• a coffee bar

Income producing ideas include:

• renting your roof space for cell towers
• adding a laundry room and coin operated machines to an apartment complex
• renting your common areas for art shows, car shows or kids rides.

5. Property Taxes

Get an appraisal for your property and appeal the appraised amount if the appraisal is lower. Retain a real estate attorney who specializes in tax appeals to assist you, or hire one of the companies that get paid based on the savings they get for you based on the appeal.

6. Change Management or Leasing Companies

Sometimes all that’s needed is looking at your property through a new pair of eyes. Different energy or philosophy can add value to your property. New managers or leasing agents may be able to give you ideas on increasing income, decreasing expenses and giving your property a fresh, new look and feel.

7. Zoning or Use Change

Changing the use of a property can significantly change the value of the property. Examples are:

• changing an industrial space into a retail use
• renovating a hotel to apartments
• adjusting regular office space to medical office space

8. Have Tenants Pay for the Utility Costs

If you are paying for the electricity, gas and/or water usage in office buildings or apartment complexes, look into separately metering or sub-metering the utilities, and pass the costs on to the tenants.

If you have a boiler, you may want to install baseboard heating in each unit so the tenants can control their heat and pay for it.

9. Divide Your Property

If you own land, breaking it down into smaller parcels can get you more per acre or square foot. Also, you could put in roads, add utilities, or entitle the property, all of which can substantially increase the value of the property.

10. Negotiate Existing Leases

If you are trying to sell the property or borrowing money on the property, it’s better to have long term leases in place. A five or ten year lease with rent increases is worth more to investors and lenders than a one year lease. Renegotiate or extend existing tenant leases to maximize the value of your property.  Whenever the tenant asks for something that is not your obligation, it can be a time to negotiate something out of the lease.  In other words, if they ask you for something, it’s time to ask for something back.  Improve your leases whenever you can.

As I say throughout my blogs, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me.  My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge.  Thank you for reviewing this blog.

Selling Commercial Property|Preparing a Real Estate Marketing Plan

Commercial real estate marketing involves the disposition of your property. And if you have invested wisely, worked smart, and created value – and inflation and appreciation have played their roles – then it’s time to sell your commercial property and harvest the wealth you have built through property equity.

You must now make the decision of what you want to do with the profits. You can take the money, pay your taxes and run. You can exchange the property to push the taxes to a later date. You can offer financing on the property so that you receive an income without worrying about managing the property. Or, if you have your business in the property and you need cash, you might want to consider a sale leaseback.

Whatever you want to do with that equity, your next step is to create a sales promotion that attracts buyers who will pay the price you want. You can develop the strategy on your own or you can work with a commercial real estate broker to come up with a commercial real estate marketing strategy. Either way, you need to be involved in the strategy decisions so that your property stands out and attracts buyers.

The first thing that you must do is to offer your property at a price that your target market will pay and at a price that provides you a profit. You shouldn’t stroll down the path that others go on by marketing your property at a price that accomplishes neither a buyer’s goals nor your goals. Rather, design a value proposition that attracts, persuades and closes the perfect buyer.

This value proposition integrates four essential elements:

(1) the investor; (2) your competitors; (3) the benefits that you will be offering; (4) your pricing and terms.

The Investor

Which investors should you appeal to? A few types of investors include:
• no cash buyers
• no credit buyers
• first time investors
• lease-option purchasers
• professional investors
• specific product investors
• conversion specialists

Your Competitors

Who are your potential competitors? Competitors can include:
• foreclosures
• new buildings
• distressed sellers
• sellers who carry financing

You need to understand your competitors’ locations, their features and benefits, and their pricing and terms.

Benefits Offered

What benefits and features should you emphasize and offer for effective commercial real estate marketing? Examples include:
• special landscaping
• unique architecture
• ability to expand the property
• special touches
• interior improvements
• seller financing
• strong appreciation potential
• positive cash flow
• low cash requirement
• minimal management
• tenant pays all expenses

Pricing and Terms

Here you need to compile your information and then compare and contrast, mix and match the different types of potential benefits, potential investors and potential competitors to arrive at a price and terms that provide the targeted buyer a great competitive value and provide you the profit you seek.

How you answer these questions will determine how successful you will be in selling your property at a realistic price to a targeted investor in a reasonable period of time. You achieve these results by asking players in the market, inspecting, comparing and contrasting properties, discovering the properties that sell fastest and at the best prices, reading articles on property renovation and thinking about what features/benefits/contract clauses will provide you a competitive edge against the other properties and a cooperative edge with your buyer segment.

As you can see, selling your property is not just about putting up a “for sale” sign and taking the calls if you plan to get the maximum for your property in the shortest amount of time. It’s about developing a commercial real estate marketing plan for your specific property. Knowing your property and your market are the keys to success.

Once you have identified potential buyers for your property, gained an understanding of your competition, defined the benefits of your property and determined the pricing and terms that you want, it’s time to develop a real estate marketing plan.

Here are the next steps in the selling process that you need to do to get the maximum price and the quickest close:

Staging the property
Stage the property keeping your potential buyer in mind. If you’re selling a luxury property, then make sure that your property is fixed up to match that buyer. If, on the other hand, you’re selling a lower end property, clean the property up so that it shows well, but don’t go overboard.

At a minimum, the property should be safe to show and cleaned up. Most retail spaces should be put into a “vanilla shell” condition for showings. Office spaces should have the carpets and windows cleaned and the walls repaired. Industrial spaces should be made safe and clean throughout. Landscaping should be free of litter, pruned and spruced up.

Advertising the property
• Signs on the property – Signs should be done professionally and the contact numbers (telephone and email) should be clearly spelled out. Some of your best prospects come from sign calls, so make sure that you return all calls promptly.
• Fliers describing the property, including its features and benefits – Fliers should be printed or designed for internet marketing, and the strong selling points about the property should be emphasized.
• Local advertising – Local advertising can include newspapers and other local publications.
• Internet advertising – Internet advertising as part of the real estate marketing plan can be done through such companies as LoopNet, CoStar, Catalyst, eProperty and a host of other sites for selling commercial property.
• Mailers to potential buyers and brokers – Mailers can include fliers mailed and/or emailed to all potential buyers and brokers in the market.

You can also attend local, regional and national conventions and meetings where you will find opportunities to market your property. Another resource is broker and/or investor meetings which are held monthly in almost every local area.

Lenders
While you don’t need a loan to close the property, it’s wise to have a couple of lenders review the property to give you an idea of lending programs that might be available for potential purchasers so you can refer them and possibly close the sale faster. Prequalifying the property is always a good idea as part of the real estate marketing plan.

Due Diligence
Put all of the information together that will be needed for the buyer’s due diligence. Having this ready to go once you have signed the purchase contract can save you time in getting the property closed and keep things running smoothly.

Pre-Qualify Buyers
Have a system in place so you can pre-qualify the buyer prior to getting into contract. Understand their motivations, their ability to finance the property, and their history of closings.

Doing the above items should help you to maximize your sales price and to have a smooth closing.

As I say throughout my blogs, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me, I truly want to help. My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge. Thank you for reviewing this blog.

Buying Commercial Property|Making Offers and Negotiating Deals

MAKING OFFERS

Most successful investors only work on deals that they feel they can close. This means that you need to have a plan in place that eliminates the deals that won’t work for you. Here’s how to develop that plan:

• Develop a qualifying system of identifying the types of properties that you want to buy using factors such as age, condition of property, upside income potential, rehab or rezoning possibilities, etc.

• Approach each offer with a strategy that will work for you such as knowing the amount of time you’ll need to do your Due Diligence, how much money you can put down, etc.

• Lastly, put together a system for making offers:

(a) Set up your parameters for the deal such as the top price you can pay to get the return you require.
(b) Have a follow-up system to make sure that your deal is moving along.

There are two methods of presenting an offer to a Seller. One method is to utilize a Letter of Intent and the other is to use a Formal Purchase Agreement. The Letter of Intent tends to save the Buyer time and can quickly tell you whether you and the Seller are on the same page. On the other hand, the Purchase Agreement tends to make the Seller feel like they are receiving a “solid” offer.

My preference – and what is used most often – is a Letter of Intent, but whichever way you go, try to present the offer in person to the Seller and/or their Broker.

If you use a Letter of Intent, make sure that you insert a clause that states that both parties will move forward in good faith toward signing a formal contract within ten days of signing the Letter of Intent so that your offer will look serious to the Seller. Also, make sure that once the Letter of Intent is signed, you write up the Contract immediately.

NEGOTIATING DEALS

A couple of very important tips to successful negotiating:

1. Always start with the end in mind so that you know where you want the deal to go.

2. Understand the Seller and what they need.

You’ll be much more successful in closing deals if you solve the Seller’s problem by understanding what they want. Those buyers who also connect emotionally with the Seller create trust and rapport which opens the Seller up to discuss what they’re really looking for. If you’re sincere and willing to truly listen to the Seller, you’ll be more successful at putting together an offer that may be acceptable to them.

And when you understand the Seller’s motivation, i.e., why they’re selling the property, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate.

Here are some examples of typical deal points that come up for negotiation, with some suggested solutions for each point:

PRICE

If the Seller has to get a certain price and can’t be negotiable on that point, you may be able to negotiate certain terms:

1. Ask the Seller to carry back part of the financing so that you put less money down.

2. Ask the Seller to guarantee income for vacant spaces or spaces coming up for renewal in a short period of time to give you time to lease the space

TIMING

To understand negotiating timing issues, you need to understand that the Seller’s position will be that he’s taking his property off the market with no assurances that you will be able to close.

Here are a couple of examples of timing issues with possible solutions:

1. Seller wants a shorter period to close than is required for you to complete all facets of the Due Diligence, i.e., Seller wants a 30 day close, but you want 30 days for Due Diligence and 30 days to close.

Possible Solution 1: Set up periodic times to waive certain issues in your Due Diligence Process. Example: If you have a list of 40 items that you need to verify during Due Diligence, you can stipulate that you will clear 10 items at the end of 15 days, 10 more items at the end of 30 days, etc. This assures the Seller that you’re moving through the process.

Possible Solution 2: If you need more time to complete certain facets of the Due Diligence process, for example, you don’t have time to have a roof inspection done, you can go ahead and close but set aside funds to pay for any roof repairs which the roof inspection discloses are necessary.

2. The building is vacant and you don’t want to close until you can find a tenant for the vacant space.

Possible Solution: Buy 2 extensions of 30 days each by putting in more hard money. (Note: The money becomes non-refundable but applicable to the sales price.) This gives you 90 days to determine whether or not you’ll be able to lease the vacant space.

By putting in more non-refundable money to extend your time, you’re giving the Seller money in his pocket to pay for taking his property off the market for that period of time. Also, he feels that you have more money in the deal so you’re more likely to close.

These are only a few of the problems and possible solutions you may run into when negotiating a deal.  Always try to listen closely and understand why the seller is selling the property or making an objection to the offer.  Remember, don’t take anything personally, it’s just a deal point that needs to be dealt with or an objection that needs to be overcome.  Try to overcome any objections, but don’t get emotionally tied up in any purchase offer and walk away from properties that do not fit your criteria.

As I say throughout my blogs, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge.  Thank you for reviewing this blog.

9 Keys for Finding the Best Location for Your Commercial Property

One of the most important aspects of commercial real estate investing is finding the right property.  And location is a major factor in identifying that property.  Location includes many factors as you will see below.

For a retail property especially, it is a big key to its success.  A good location attracts tenants – and their customers.  The result for you as the property owner is the ability to charge higher rents and to create a higher value for the property.

The features – and benefits – of a good location are:

1.  Close to major streets and freeways – This makes driving to the property easy for customers, as well as making the property visible for your tenants and potential clients.

2.  Signalized corner – When cars stop at the traffic light, people in the cars have time to see the stores.  This also slows down traffic thus increasing the properties visibility.

3.  On or close to a busy street with high traffic volume – High traffic is important to the tenants.  Always check commercial property listings for CPD (cars per day) or ADT (average daily traffic) information.  Also, review this information and compare it to other traffic corners in the area or region.  In addition, find out if the counts are going up or down over the last couple of years.

4.  Area – Check demographics to make sure the property is located in a growing area with population growth, not in a declining neighborhood.  Demographics can also tell you the household income, racial makeup, daytime population, and the number of households in the area.  Check to make sure that the tenants match the demographics.  An example would be if there is a McDonald’s on the property, you want to make sure that the demographics show a lot of families in the area.

5.  Near anchor tenants – Anchor tenants are the major retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, grocery stores, and drug stores.  Tenants located close to an anchor benefit from their traffic.  Also. make sure that the type of anchors line up with the mix of the other tenants in the property.  An example would be that grocery stores tend to bring daily traffic which would be good for fast food tenants such as Subway or a Wal-Mart might tend to bring a customer looking for bargains, so other tenants that are discount oriented should do well in this type of project.

6.  Easy ingress and egress – If it’s hard to make turns into the property or there are not enough entryways and exits to easily get traffic in and out of the property, the property is less attractive to tenants because they feel their customers may choose another destination.  An example of hard ingress, would be if a property is in a mid block location and there is not a left turn lane into the property and the car has to go past the property and then do a u-turn to come back to the property or you can’t make a left turn out of the property, as you might have to exit right and go down a couple of blocks and do a u-turn.

7.  Signage – Good signage – especially a large monument sign in front of the property – makes it easier for customers to find the stores.  Also, there should be a uniform signage program for the store front signs.  The program should be such that the tenants signs are highly visible from the surrounding streets or even freeways.  The signage program should also include that the signs should be illuminated.

8.  Parking – Plenty of spaces and a well-lighted parking lot are important.  A parking ratio of 4 or 5 parking spaces per 1,000 sf leasable space is preferable.  If there is only a food tenant on the parcel parking needs to be greater.  The parking lot also needs to be properly maintained with minimal potholes and cracking and with properly marked spaces and drive aisles.

9. Appearance – Properties that are well maintained – good landscaping, clean, well-lighted and buildings in good condition – attract the most customers for the tenants.  If you are looking at a property that is not well maintained or have a clean appearance, make sure that you put the costs to upgrade the property into your purchase costs.  A good appearance also attracts potential tenants.

One of the tenets that you always hear about when real estate is discussed is location, location, location.  As you can see, there are several things that make up a good location.  As you review a property you can use the above for the pluses and minuses of a sites location.

As I say throughout my blogs, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me.  My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge.  Thank you for reviewing this blog.

Analyzing Commercial Real Estate|Crucial to Successful Buying

To do a proper commercial real estate analysis, you must understand its market value. Long term successful investors make money when they buy, not just when they sell. You reduce risk and increase your chance for great returns when you buy properties at or (preferably) below their market values.

3 Techniques to Value Properties

Investors, lenders and appraisers rely on three techniques to value properties.

1. Cost approach:

  • Calculate how much it would cost to build a subject property at today’s prices;
  • Subtract accrued depreciation;
  • Add the depreciated cost figure to the current value of the lot.

2. Comparable sales approach:

  • Compare a subject property with other similar (comp) properties that have recently sold;
  • Adjust the prices for each positive or negative feature and/or differences of the comps relative to the subject property. Note:  It is best to have three or four properties to compare.

3. Income approach:

  • Estimate the rents you expect a property to produce;
  • Convert net rents after expenses (net operating income) into a capital (market) value amount. In other words you divide the net operating income of the property by a market cap rate for that particular type of product in the marketplace.

You evaluate a property from these three perspectives to check the value estimates of each against the others. Multiple estimates and techniques enhance the probability that your estimate reflects reality. If your three value estimates don’t reasonably match up, either your calculations err, the figures you’re working with are inaccurate, or the market is acting “crazy” and property prices are about to head up (or down).

3 Factors of Income Approach

Concerning commercial real estate analysis, the approach I put the most emphasis on is the Income approach. The three factors of the Income approach are Effective Gross Income, Operating Expenses, and Capitalization rates (Cap rates).

When looking at effective gross income and operating expenses, be careful that you’re looking at the actual numbers – not the “pro forma” numbers. Pro forma numbers are projections and you want to be dealing with actuals. Cap rates are derived from the comparable sales of comparable properties in the immediate market area and/or by the rate of return that you want on your money. If you talk about a 6 cap, then you are saying that you want a 6% return on the existing net operating income of the investment.

4 Things to Determine a Good Buy

When I analyze a property, I calculate the following four things to determine if I want to buy the property:

1.  Net operating income (NOI):   Net operating income = effective gross income – operating expenses.

2.  Annual cash flow:   Annual cash flow = net operating income – debt service

3.  Cash-on-cash return:   Cash-on-cash return = annual cash flow divided by down payment

4.  Cap rate:   Cap rate = net operating income divided by sales price

Other Important Factors

Also note that other important factors in your commercial real estate analysis are the use of/or zoning of the property, the location of the property, the credit worthiness of the tenant(s), the leases in place, the condition of the property, the contracts on the property and any possible environmental problems with the property.

1.  Use of/or zoning of the property – Make sure the current use matches the zoning of the property.

2.  Location of the property – Is it in a growth area, are there complimentary users around, is there easy ingress and egress, do the demographics match the use, what are the traffic counts around the site, what is the vacancy factor in the marketplace – These are all questions that verify a good or bad location for the property.

3.  The Lease(s) – Is it or are they NNN, NN, N, Gross, how much term left, if there isn’t much term left, what is the likelihood of renewal, are there any hidden Landlord costs, what is the entity on the lease and is it guaranteed, is it a standard lease for the marketplace or is it unusual for the area, is it assignable, does it have options, review all amendments – These are some of the things that you need to be reviewing in the lease to make sure you understand just what you are buying – Some people believe they are buying a building while others believe they are buying a lease or leases.

4.  Condition of the property – Do a thorough inspection of the property to include the roof, the mechanical systems, the structure, the electrical, the plumbing, the parking lot and all of its fixtures – Estimate the life span of each of these things and make sure that you put this into your financial picture of the property.

5.  Contracts on the property – Make sure that you review all existing contracts and the vendors so that you know your obligations and whether they go with the sale – These contracts are also an indication of whether the property has been consistently maintained – If there are no contracts, then you need to take this into consideration so that you can paint an accurate financial picture.

6.  Environmental – Are there any obvious environmental issues that need looking into and have there been any environmental notifications sent to the current owner or to any of the tenants – You should also check with the local environmental agency to not only learn about your building, but the area in general.

With careful analysis you can take away some of the risk when purchasing the property.

As I have said before, if you have any questions or I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me. My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge. Thank you for reviewing this article.

Buying Commercial Real Estate|Closing the Deal

In order to understand the closing of a deal when buying commercial property, let’s review the steps of the sales transaction:

1.    Buyer submits an offer to buy the property either through a Letter of Intent or a formal Purchase Agreement, any necessary negotiations are completed, and the Seller accepts the offer and executes the Purchase Agreement.

2.    Buyer opens escrow by submitting his earnest money deposit.  Typically, escrow is opened with a Title/Escrow Company or an attorney.

3.    Buyer begins the loan process by submitting documents to his lender.

4.    Buyer commences his Due Diligence process and does his physical inspection of the property.

5.    Buyer reviews title and proceeds to remove any contingencies in the contract.

6.    Buyer and Seller agree on any remaining issues in the contract.

7.    Buyer gets a loan commitment from his lender.

8.    Buyer receives the Closing Statement and gives his final closing instructions to the escrow company.

9.    At closing, Buyer and Seller sign the closing documents and Buyer submits his funds.

10.  The Deed gets recorded, the monies are applied and the Buyer takes possession of the property.

An escrow is an impartial party that serves all parties in a transaction to transfer property.  Duties that an escrow officer performs include:

•    clearing up any outstanding liens
•    ordering a title search
•    examining the title report
•    obtaining title insurance
•    handling and disbursing all monies in the transaction
•    preparing and issuing the final Closing Statements
•    recording the Deed
•    sending all loan documents to the lender

After you complete your due diligence and prior to finalizing the deal, I suggest that you go back and review your original thoughts on purchasing the property to make sure that your original assumptions concerning your plan and profit are still true:

•    Review your exit strategies again and check your goals to make sure your exit time frames still work
•    Make sure that the profit you originally projected still appears attainable after examination of the information you received during due diligence
•    Make sure your loan assumptions still work now that you have actual loan information from your lender
•    Check that your tax advisor still agrees with your tax goals.

You’ll want to review the final Closing Statement at least 48 hours prior to closing so that if there are mistakes, there’s time to correct them.  As a buyer, you should double check everything and take nothing for granted.  Some of the items that need close review include:

•    checking the loan documents to make sure that they are what you agreed to (check interest rate, loan amount, amortization period, loan term, monthly payment amount, prepay penalty, due date, impounds for taxes, insurance and maintenance reserve account)

•    the credits assigned to you

•    completed repairs by Seller

•    review rent prorations and security deposit amounts for accuracy

•    ensure that personal property is being transferred with an appropriate Bill of Sale

•    review the Deed for correct purchase price, names and dates

•    review all fee amounts for accuracy

•    verify that defects in title are cleared

•    have your down payment and closing costs ready to be wire transferred

•    make sure that you agree with the amount at the bottom of the Settlement Statement

•    verify that you are taking title in the entity that you have chosen

The sale officially closes when Buyer has paid all monies due, the escrow officer has received the signed loan documents, Buyer and Seller have signed the final Escrow Closing Instructions and a specific date to record the Deeds is chosen.  After escrow gets a check from Buyer’s lender to pay off the Seller’s loan, escrow sends the lender the closing loan documents, releases Buyer’s payment and gives the approval for the Deed to be recorded.  After the Deed is recorded, title will be transferred to you and the sale is officially closed.

Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of real estate.  Your work has just begun.  If you have bought the property right, you are on your way to financial independence.  If you have bought a rental property, it is now time to get to know your tenants or find tenants for your property.  Make sure that you treat your investment as a business., not a hobby.  You should be friendly with your tenants, but businesslike.  If it is your responsibility always take care of problems promptly and if it is the tenants responsibility let them know that so that you can keep the relationship open and communicative.

As I say throughout my blogs, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me.  My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge.  Thank you for reviewing this blog.

Owning Commercial Property|The Property Manager’s Role

As an owner of commercial property, the property manager is an agent acting as a trustee on your behalf.  The property manager’s primary objective is to oversee the maintenance of rental property, rent to suitable tenants, collect rent and account to the owner.

Management Qualifications
Qualifications a property manager should have:
• Prior experience handling and reporting trust account activities;
• An adequate computer system to record and track activities on properties
• A competent staff to perform office and field duties and to quickly respond to both the landlord’s and the tenants’ needs.

Management Duties
• Handling and accounting for all income and expenses produced by the property
• Contracting for services, repairs and maintenance on the property
• Monitoring utility services provided by the landlord
• Responding in a timely manner to the needs of the tenants
• Evaluating rental and lease agreements periodically
• Serving notices on tenants and filing unlawful detainer (UD) actions as needed
• Performing regular periodic property inspections
• Keeping secure any personal property

In addition, the property manager must also:

• Confirm or obtain general liability and workers’ compensation insurance sufficient to protect the landlord, naming himself as an additionally insured
• Obligate the landlord to only authorized agreements
• Maintain the property’s earning power, called goodwill
• Hire and fire on-site employees as needed
• Comply with all applicable codes affecting the property
• Notify the landlord of any potentially hazardous conditions or criminal activities affecting the health and safety of individuals on or about the property

The “Prudent Investor” Standard
A property manager must employ a higher standard of conduct regarding the operation of a property than a typical investor might apply. This standard in commercial real estate management is called the prudent investor standard. A prudent investor is a person who has the knowledge and expertise to determine the wisest conduct for reasonably managing his property. The prudent investor standard of conduct is the minimum level of competency which can be expected of a property manager by a landlord, whether or not the landlord would apply the standard or even know about it.

A landlord’s primary business reason for hiring a commercial real estate management company is to have the property manager maintain the condition of his investment and income.

Decisions regarding the care of a property should be made by the property manager based on the need to generate a reasonable income from the property and incur expenses necessary to preserve the habitability of the property, provide a safe and secure environment for persons on the property and maintain the property’s condition so it will support the rent charged.

Management Fee
Commercial real estate management companies structure management fee schedules in several different ways:

1. A percentage of the rents collected.
The property manager is entitled to charge a set percentage of the rents collected as a fee (customarily between 5% to 10%), usually payable monthly. The percentage fee is not paid on security deposits since deposits are not rents.
2. Fixed fee
The property manager and landlord agree in advance to a set dollar amount to be charged monthly for the management services.
The amount stays constant whether or not the units are rented. This method, however, lacks the motivational incentive to induce the property manager to generate maximum rental income.
3. A percentage of the first month’s rent.
4. A front-end fee paid to the property manager is called a leasing or origination fee. If the landlord agrees, a fee can be charged for exercise of an option to renew or extend, or when a new lease is entered into with an existing tenant.

Accounting to the Landlord
All landlords are entitled to a statement of accounting no less than at the end of each calendar quarter. Most landlords will require monthly accounting in their commercial real estate management agreements.

Property Inspections by the Manager
Inspections determine the physical condition of the property, availability of habitable units or commercials spaces and the use of the leased premises by existing tenants.

Several key moments when a property manager should make an inspection include:

1. When the property manager and landlord enter into a property management agreement.
Any deferred maintenance or defects which would interfere with the renting of the property should be discussed with the landlord.
2. When space is leased to a new tenant.
A walk-through should be conducted with a new tenant prior to giving them occupancy. The property’s condition should be noted on a condition of premises addendum form and signed by the tenant.
3. During the term of the lease.
While the tenant is in possession, the property should be periodically inspected by the property manager to make sure it is being properly maintained.
4. When the tenant vacates.
The property’s condition should be compared against its condition when first occupied by the tenant. Based on differences in the property’s condition as documented by the property manager, the reasonable amount of deductions from the tenant’s security deposit for corrective repairs can be documented when accounting for the return of the deposit.
5. When the property manager returns management of the property back to the landlord or over to another management firm.
This inspection helps to avoid disputes with the landlord or tenants regarding just what the condition of the property was when management was transferred to and from the property owner.

Maintenance and Repairs
Obtaining the highest rents available requires constant maintenance and repair of the property. The property manager is responsible for all the maintenance and repairs on the property.

The property manager’s knowledge of the property’s condition prior to entering into a commercial real estate management agreement is a must in order to properly ascertain what maintenance and repairs need to be made or will be deferred.

The responsibility for maintenance includes:
• Determining necessary repairs and replacements
• Contracting for repairs and replacements
• Confirming completion of repairs and replacements
• Paying for completed repairs and replacements
• Advising the landlord about the status of repairs and replacements in the monthly report.

Usually, landlord set a ceiling on the dollar amount of repairs and maintenance the property manager has authority to incur on behalf of the landlord. If maintenance or repair work is done by the property manager’s staff or he stands to additionally benefit financially by the materials purchased or services performed, the property manager must disclose his financial involvement to the landlord.

As I have said before, if I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me. My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge. Thank you for reviewing this article.

Property Management|Hire Out or Do It Yourself

As the owner of investment property, you have the choice of hiring a professional property management company or managing the property yourself.

As an investor, you can do retail property management yourself; however, your property’s success will never go beyond your own personal development. So, educate yourself on how to successfully manage a property and improve your knowledge and skills.

When managing your own property, keep the following things in mind:

1. Don’t be friends with your Tenants – Establish a friendly business relationship with them, but don’t become best of friends. It’s difficult to evict your best friend.
2. Understand that people, not your property, cause problems – People pay late, damage properties and vacate properties, so make it a point to lease to good tenants and good companies.
3. Make sure everything is in writing – A good lease agreement is worth its weight in gold. If you’re to do something for the tenant, write it down and vice versa, if the tenant is supposed to do something, write it down and give them notices.
4. Have an in-depth understanding of your market – Knowing what your competitors are doing is a must in retail property management to make sure that your rents and your property overall meet the standards in the market or exceed the standards.
5. Don’t put anything in your name – Protect yourself and your personal assets from lawsuits by having your properties and businesses legally detached from you personally. You should form an LLC or another type of legal entity to hold your property, based on conversations with your attorney and tax advisor. Do not commingle your personal funds and the property funds.
Also, by having the property in an LLC, it allows you to tell your tenants that you’re only the property manager or managing partner and that decisions are made based on what is best for the ownership.
6. People handling skills are a must if you’re going to do retail property management youself – You not only have to manage your tenants, but you also need to handle vendors, contractors, employees, city or county government people, etc. You need to have tact and patience to succeed.
7. Understand your lease(s) inside and out – When you buy a property you’re really buying the lease(s) and getting the buildings for free. In other words, if your lease(s) is weak, then your investment is weak.
8. Always write a business plan for the property – Setting goals and understanding what needs to be done to keep the property on track is a must. A good and well thought out business plan helps you when making everyday decisions on the property. A business plan should include a property summary, a market analysis, a sales and marketing plan, a management summary and a financial plan.
9. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses – Take on those tasks that you do well and that give you joy, and hire out those functions that you don’t do well or don’t like to do.
10. Do things right the first time – Hire good help, and focus on quality, thoroughness and attention to detail.
11. In order to manage a property yourself, you need to have a basic business system that includes an accounting system, a sales and marketing system, an operations system and a maintenance system.

If you’re considering hiring a professional, there are several things you’ll want to evaluate including qualifications, duties they’ll be expected to perform, and management fees.

Here’s some additional information from the REI Club about whether you should or shouldn’t manage your own property.

Here are some reasons why you may make the decision to hire a property management company instead of doing it yourself:
1. The property is too far away – If the property is too far away it can be difficult to oversee maintenance and repairs, handle evictions, take care of emergencies and pick up rent checks.
2. The property is too big – A large property has a large amount of decisions to be made on a daily basis.
3. You want to have a life of your own – Managing property profitably takes time. Is this the best utilization of your time? Do you spend enough time on the other parts of your life?  Your management company can do your business plan, then you only have to review and approve it.
4. You simply aren’t good at managing your property – Due to your lack of skills, you may be leaving money on the table each month.
5. You don’t have any systems in place to properly manage your property – Without an accounting system, a sales and marketing system, an operations system and a maintenance system, managing properties can be a nightmare.

As I have said before, if you have any questions or I may be of assistance with your real estate questions please contact me.  My way of giving back is to give away my knowledge. Thank you for reviewing this blog.