Tips, Tools and Tactics For Handling Commercial Property Owners in This Market

In this commercial real estate market you really know the property owner that you are dealing with, and their reason for talking with you on property matters.

As a base strategy, it pays to directly question the client on their needs but also and perhaps more importantly their knowledge of the current market. You want all the real facts and make sure you get no hidden agendas from the clients. So let’s see how we can achieve this clear and precise information from the client.

Direct Questioning

Question them more and you talk less! Direct questioning does set the foundations of confidence and knowledge for you in the conversation. It makes you stand apart from the competition as the property agent of relevance and knowledge. The property owner can see that they are talking to someone who really knows the current market and why things are happening.

Here are some key questions and concepts. We recommend that you use this as a checklist for the process. That will keep you on track.

  • What is the Owner’s Motivation in talking with you today and how did they reach you? They must have at least one specific reason. You need to know why they have chosen you as the potential agent to help them. You should also know how they found you in the first place. If it was through another property campaign or a referral then you have a base from which to create leverage.
  • In this commercial and retail property market, volatility and uncertainty can impact many properties. The time on market will be extensive in most circumstances unless the property is correctly matched to the target market and the price or rental is keenly structured. For this reason you want the best properties to list with you and not the average ones. What do the clients ultimately want to do in listing the property today and what is the time frame that they must satisfy?
  • Is there a financial hurdle or benchmark that must be satisfied for the transaction to be successful? If there is any financial pressure from the mortgagees and the banks, it is important to know full details of that. See if the client will involve you with the banks at the earliest stages so that any pressure from that direction can be controlled. If the bank is confident in you and your services, they will likely let you take choices in the property promotion road ahead.
  • Given the price or rental that you could achieve with the property in today’s market, is there a financial target or hurdle in the clients mind that must be matched? Is it realistic and what will be your strategy in the process? Work on the clients thinking from the earliest stages of the listing process. Attitudes of inflated prices and rents have to be toned down. The property market of this year is a lot different than two years ago. Do not waste your time on overpriced listings at unrealistically high levels.
  • Has the property been on the market for some time with other agencies? This fact will impact your strategic approach in continuing with the listing today. You will need to freshen up the marketing so previous promotional campaigns are not impacting your campaign today.
  • The previous history of the landlord’s interaction and service with the other tenants in the building must be identified and understood. Many potential purchasers or potential tenants for the property in today’s market will speak to the other existing tenants in the property as part of their due diligence process. Any bad history can derail your negotiations. The earlier you know about the problem the easier it is for you to strategize and address.
  • Given that there are so many changes impacting the market at the moment, does the owner of the property understand the market and how they must adjust to those pressures? This can include property renovation, adjustments of rentals, establishment of fresh lease documentation, repositioning of tenancies, a reassessment of the property financials, well directed marketing campaigns, and reductions in price or rental as required.
  • Is the property owner a ‘Corporate’ in structure and how does that effect or delay decisions that will be appearing in the sale or lease process? It is surprising how much delay can be experienced when working with boards of directors and the people in ‘head office’. Property documentation must be a high priority and fast tracked when the time comes. Understand who you must get the documentation to and how they will process the documentation.
  • Who are the Owner’s Solicitors and Accountants, and can they be directly reached for discussions on the financial matters of the property? It is interesting to note that solicitors in the property documentation process can slow things down extensively (their work load pressures are not your pressures). This is where you will likely need the assistance of the client to make the solicitor respond in a timely fashion to your requests. It is quite likely that the solicitor will not even take your calls as the property agent until the client so instructs them.
  • Given the property transaction today, is the client a repeat investor and will they want to re-enter the property markets soon on a different type of investment? This is an excellent time to purchase other commercial real estate. Prices are historically low and offer significant opportunity for those clients that can act today. Finance can be the problem that holds back the bigger deals.
  • Does the client own anything else in commercial real estate which needs to be balanced in property portfolio performance as you sell or lease the subject property? In many cases, it is the stability of the cash flow across the portfolio which needs to be considered for the client. Many wise portfolio property owners will select properties in different property types such as retail, office, and industrial, so that the economic trends of any distressed market segment or location will be offset by the other properties in the portfolio. It is of note that diverse property portfolios produce less volatility but also produce less extreme peaks when one property market is performing highly. The property owners today who are reasonably comfortable economically are those that have spread their investment portfolio across different property types in good locations.

So the key issue here is to completely understand client and their needs. The better you do this, the better the chances of an effective sale or lease in a timely fashion. Confidence and control are the foundations of your success as a commercial property agent in this volatile real estate market.