Uncommon View – Commercial Real Estate Development

This is a story I heard growing up:
When my grandfather was 10 years old he found a penny. With that penny he bought a pencil. He sharpened that pencil then sold it for two cents. He took that two cents and bought two more pencils, sharpened them and sold them for four cents. He reinvested his four cents in four more pencils, sharpened them and sold them for eight cents. Then, again, he bought eight more pencils, sharpened them and sold them for sixteen cents. This went on until my grandfather had amassed $10.24. That’s when my great Aunt Sophie died and left us her portfolio of shopping centers, office buildings and rental homes. Our family has been in the real estate business ever since.

The story isn’t true, but it taught four valuable lessons:

1) Sweat equity is a powerful tool;

2) If you reinvest your earnings, wealth can grow geometrically;

3) The BIG money is in real estate; and

4) It would be nice to have a rich Aunt Sophie.

Like most families, we didn’t have a rich Aunt Sophie, so my parents focused on lessons 1, 2 and 3. I mention this story as a backdrop. My life growing up was always about real estate.

In my article “Keys to Closing Commercial Real Estate Transactions”, I mentioned my father because he was, and is, a wiz when it comes to commercial real estate. It was through him that I came to represent commercial real estate developers.

What I didn’t mention was that my mother was active in the family real estate business as well. While my father focused on commercial land development, my mother focused on residential real estate. I should have known better than to mention one but not the other. This article could be sub-titled “Keys To Maintaining Harmony”.

What does maintaining harmony have to do with commercial real estate development? Stick with me on this, then decide.

My mother cared about “quality of life” issues. Comfortable homes. Neighborhood parks. Safe streets. Good schools. Museums and other cultural enhancements.

I remember watching my mother lay out walking paths around detention ponds in residential developments and looking through catalogs evaluating park benches and playground equipment for neighborhood parks. As a residential real estate investor, developer and broker, my mother focused on “living environments”. If families were going to live in her neighborhoods then the neighborhoods had to be “family friendly”.

As you might imagine, with my father focused on commercial development and my mother focused on residential quality of life issues, conversations around the dinner table were always interesting, and sometimes dicey.

On one side of the table, my father envisioned expansive commercial development for retail shopping centers, office buildings, restaurants, hotels, theaters, warehouse superstores, entertainment centers, nightclubs and more.

On the other side was my mother insisting upon neighborhoods with comfortable homes, safe streets, parks and other open areas, dry basements, clean air, clean water, and minimal noise and light pollution.

According to conventional wisdom – derived from public zoning board and plan commission hearings and community planning group meetings when commercial development is proposed near existing homes and neighborhoods – one might expect a clash of ideas turning into heated challenges and demands to forego development. Fortunately, our dinner table was nothing like most public hearings.

My mother and father each respected the vision of the other and understood the natural symbiotic relationship between residential and commercial development. Instead of complaining that one was trying to destroy the vision of the other, they anticipated each other’s legitimate development and environmental needs and sought reasonable accommodation when possible. Sometimes they couldn’t agree, but there was always a meaningful attempt to understand the viewpoint of the other, exchange ideas and come to a mutually respectful and workable plan.

My mother was a resourceful advocate. She made my father think about how commercial development would impact residential neighbors and plan ways to mitigate adverse consequences on families. Long before coming into their current vogue, I learned at our family dinner table the concept of “lifestyle commercial centers” and complementary residential/commercial mixed use developments.

The point for commercial developers and residential advocates is that they should each turn down the volume of their development debate and respectfully listen to what the other is saying. When the other has presented legitimate concerns or needs, those concerns and needs should be reasonably accommodated where possible. An idealistic dream? Perhaps. But I grew up watching it work.

To be sure, not all expressed concerns are legitimate and not all proposed accommodations are possible. In those cases, resolution must necessarily be left up to public plan commissions, zoning boards, and municipal trustees or aldermen to arbitrate and decide the debate. As guardians of the public welfare entrusted with promoting the best interests of the community at large, they must decide. In a fair and evenhanded political environment, your best bet for prevailing is to demonstrate that you have listened with respect and have made reasonable and conscientious efforts to promote public harmony rather than discord.

POINT: If you are a commercial real estate developer proposing a commercial development near existing residential neighborhoods, don’t pretend they don’t exist. Think about how they will be impacted and include in your development plan ways to mitigate any adverse consequences created by your development. Talk to your residential neighbors. Listen to what they have to say. They are not ALL crazy. Sometimes (often, actually) they have legitimate concerns about real problems. If you can include in your development plan a way to economically fix a problem they already have (such as flooding, blight, inadequate parking, lack of sufficient parks or playgrounds, poor traffic circulation, etc.), your chances of favorable governmental action to approve your development plan goes up.

Whether you are a commercial real estate developer or a neighborhood advocate, understand that, whether you like it or not, conditions change. Nothing stays the same. Obsolescence and blight are natural products of time. Redevelopment is coming. If not today, then someday.

Which brings me back to my point of promoting family harmony by making amends to my mother. You don’t necessarily have to read what follows. This is primarily for her.

My mother retired last year but says she still enjoys reading my newsletters and articles. Perhaps a mother’s love, but she always likes to read what I write about real estate and real estate development. She says her favorite is a poem I wrote about “real estate development” called The Great Pyramids Of Egypt Are In Disrepair. She thinks I should share it.

The poem was written in 1992. I have to admit, it never occurred to me that the poem was about “real estate development”. I can assure you, I was not consciously thinking about real estate development at the time I wrote it.

But my mother is a smart woman and I have learned my lesson. I am not going to lightly cross her again. So, in the interest of family harmony, here it is. I leave it to you to decide if it is about real estate development. If you don’t think so, please don’t tell my mother.

THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT ARE IN DISREPAIR

We looked deep into each other’s eyes and said:
“Our Love will last forever”.

When I was two my parents built a new house
next door to the one we rented from my grandfather.
It was “ultra modern” with all the latest conveniences
A garbage disposer – dishwasher – central air –
central vac – wall-to-wall carpet – a private den –
We had a bird bath – and two hundred newly planted Scottish pines.

It’s a parking lot now –
The church next door needed it.
Business was good.

The church doors were padlocked last year.
God moved down the street to nicer quarters.

I saw a news clip recently.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt are in disrepair.
They may not last unless work starts soon.
Sometimes the damage can be too great.
Even mummies get so wrapped up in what
they are doing they can begin to unravel.

Yesterday a friend asked: “Whatever happened to that girl?”

The POINT (according to my mother):

Change happens.
What seems new and permanent today
Will be gone tomorrow.

No time stands still.
Real Estate projects are no exception.
Redevelopment is coming.

Becoming a Commercial Real Estate Broker

The Commercial Real Estate Industry touches virtually every aspect of business in the United States and most of the free world. Very few companies can grow without acquiring more land or additional office space, patients can’t use the services of a hospital unless it’s constructed and consumers can’t shop at a Walmart without the development of Real Property.

Commercial Real Estate encompasses all aspects of sales, leasing, management, investment in or improvement of retail property, investment property, farmland, businesses, industries, medical facilities and dozens of other types of property. Our job in the industry is to assist in the lease, management or sales of property, and to advise our clients of their best courses of action when deciding how to invest in or improve real property or a commercial asset.

You will work directly with industry leaders, community leaders, government officials, lawyers, zoning officers, accountants, mortgage companies, banks, title companies, appraisers, utility companies and everyone in between to put together sales or develop property to its full potential for a client. While you can’t make decisions for our clients, you can assist them in making better informed decisions, and you can help our clients to understand what the highest and best use may be for a particular property, or what type of investment vehicle might be best for your client.

You will work with property owners who may want to sell a property, lease a property, have a property managed or determine what use might be better for the property than the current use. You will work with users of properties to find the best location for their business or investment, to determine if it’s better for the user to lease a property or purchase and to understand the tax implications of their decisions. Additionally, You will work with investors to determine which real estate venture might be their best investment to meet their particular goals and needs.

Commercial real estate agents and brokers work with individuals, investors, organizations and corporations to develop property to its highest potential. Their careers include many specializations. Some commercial associates specialize in particular types of property, such as office property, develop-able farmland or even amusement parks. Other commercial associates specialize in particular forms of consulting work for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), insurance companies or utility companies. Still others work in specialized areas such as resort management or assist government agencies with the redevelopment of industrial sites or reclamation of land.

Commercial Real Estate is an exciting and rewarding field of study and can lead to dozens of different career opportunities. Whether someone is starting their first small business, developing a parcel of land, or considering an investment in real estate rather than an investment in a mutual fund or money market, the understanding of commercial real estate is fundamental to their decisions.

To begin your career in this sector of the industry you’ll need to understand exactly what you’re selling, how it is priced, how it is financed and what legal documents must be used to convey the sale or lease. In other words, what are the responsibilities of a commercial real estate broker. Let’s take a look at the key elements necessary to be successful in commercial real estate.

You will need to examine the diverse forms that commercial property takes and the important terms used by those in the field to explain and understand a type of property. Next you will need to explore the different methods of determining value in the eyes of property users, investors, real estate professionals and appraisers. You will also need to learn how commercial real estate can be financed and how it may be leased. There is also a need to perform an examination of the legal documents including listing contracts, sales agreements and lease contracts.

Your responsibilities as a commercial real estate professional include:

For Sellers or Property Owners:

  • Hold or Sell Analysis – Analyze the market to determine what course of action is best for a property owner. Is it better to hold onto the property longer, or would an owner be better suited selling the commercial property? This analysis may include projections of cash flows, and determination of internal rate of return.
  • Property Management – Assist the owner by leasing and / or managing the day to day situations that arise in any real estate investment. Management may include suggestions of how to create more value in the property. 3 story multi-tenant Office Building with central common atrium.
  • Property Leasing – Finding tenants for a property owner’s commercial real estate. This may include advice on creating a niche for the property, or ways to attract more solid long term tenants.
  • Property Sale or Marketing – Determining the best course of action in order to maximize the sales price on a property and find the best possible buyer.

For Buyers, Tenants or Investors:

  • Investment Analysis – Provide an investor or buyer with comparisons of various properties or types of property and their cash flows or investment returns in order to determine what situation may be best for the investor or buyer.
  • Site Selection – Assist the investor or buyer with locating a site that meets the client’s needs. Assist with demographic data to support the client’s business or investment goals. An agent may also be required to assist with determining the site’s suitability based on zoning regulations, environmental conditions and financing considerations.
  • Cash Flow Analysis / Return on Investment – What kind of return can an investor expect on a particular real estate investment? Agents provide projections of potential future income and analysis of potential return on the property.

For both Sellers / Owners and Buyers / Investors:

  • Property or Business Valuations – Any property owner wants to know what their property is worth to a buyer and what the highest sales price or lease price is possible in the current market. Buyers or Investors want to know what a fair price may be for the same property or business, and will want to know what the best investment may be at this point in time.
  • Feasibility Studies – Conduct a market study with the help of Real Estate Appraisers and engineers to determine the highest and best use of a property, or forecast a project’s likelihood of success.
  • Exchange Opportunities – Tax-deferral benefits may make it worthwhile to exchange the property, or use a 1031 deferred exchange.

Commercial Real Estate Professionals can be rewarded for their quality work and adherence to ethical standards. Learning the fundamental methods and tools used are critical to the success of both the professional and their clients.

Know Your Numbers in Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate is one of the best markets out there for investors; however, there is more to it than merely purchasing property and selling it to someone else. When investing in commercial real estate, phenomenal returns and profits are possible, but it takes a coordinated combination of trends, timing, location, and the right price in order to be successful. Finding the right commercial property, in the right place at the right time, is what is essential for a great deal that will bring in a great amount of profit. If you know your numbers, you can definitely find commercial real estate to be a profitable market.

The #1 Factor

The most important factor to keep in mind, if you want to be successful in commercial real estate, is finding the right piece of commercial real estate. When looking for the right piece of real estate, there are a variety of different factors that investors must keep in mind. It is imperative that you look at current trends in the market when it comes to commercial real estate so you can find the best areas to invest in. If condominiums or apartments are a huge trend in the market, then you may want to invest in this area of commercial real estate. If you take a look around the area and see a need for a shopping mall or strip mall, then you may want to invest in the commercial property needed to build one. When you find the current trends in your area, you will be setting yourself up to make an easy profit.

Finding the Best Place

The second factor you need to remember when dealing with commercial real estate is finding the best place for your investment. Make sure that you consider both the property and the location of the property when you are making your decision. If the property is great but the location is bad, then you may lose money, and the same is true if the property is bad and the location is good. In order to make the optimum profit, you want to find the commercial real estate that has good property in a great location. Doing your due diligence can help you find out whether or not the property is a great property and whether the location is a good one as well. Taking the proper time and giving the right amount of effort to due diligence can help you find the best place that will make you money in commercial real estate.

Timing is Everything

Although the right piece of commercial real estate and finding the best place are both extremely important factors, without the right timing your deal may end up less than satisfactory. The timing for investing in commercial real estate will have a great deal to do with actually finding the right property, evaluating current market trends, as well as a great location, and favorable costs as well. When you are doing a pre-purchase analysis of commercial real estate property, you need to consider geographic, economic, and cyclical trends before you decide to purchase the property. Even a great piece of property at the wrong time can be a disaster, so be sure you make every effort to have the right timing for your investing.

The Price is Right

Another factor to be considered when investing in commercial real estate is the price. While the property may be great and in an excellent location, if the price is outrageous you will not want to waste your time. Investors in commercial real estate need to look for properties that are priced in such a way that a great profit is possible. Avoid wasting your time on overpriced commercial property, but spend your time looking for excellent deals on great properties. When you are able to find a great deal on an excellent piece of commercial property, you open the door to be able to make a very large amount of profit, which will increase your overall success as a commercial real estate investor.

If you are missing any of these key things in a deal, then it has a big chance of going sour. The best deals come when all of these deciding factors come together. The savvy commercial real estate investor needs to be prepared to move extremely quickly when these factors all come together so that they can get a quick deal and make a great profit. When you see a great piece of commercial real estate, in the right place, for a great price, and at the right time, then you know you have the opportunity to make a huge profit quickly. If all these factors align themselves at the same time, you will know that it is the perfect time for a great deal that will bring you a great deal of money. Remember, success in the commercial real estate market is relative to cash flow, and a deal that includes each of these factors will definitely affect your cash flow in a positive manner.