Commercial Real Estate

The commercial real estate business is definitely picking up, and now may be a good time to invest. In 2004, prices of commercial real estate properties rose exponentially – 26 percent for apartment complexes, 21 percent for industrial properties, 14 percent for retail properties and six percent for office buildings.

If you’re thinking about investing in commercial real estate, but you don’t know where to start — read on for some guidelines.

Commercial real estate defined

The first step to buying commercial real estate property is knowing what you are buying. Commercial real estate refers to any real property, excluding a dwelling, or property with one to four dwelling units used for residential purposes. The phrase “commercial real estate”” consists of (but is not limited to) properties used for industrial, commercial, medical or educational purposes, and properties with four or more units used for residential purposes.

Find help buying commercial real estate properties

Buying commercial real estate can get very tricky, if you are not well versed in the real estate business. Do no t attempt to do it by yourself – seek the help of professionals who can help you through the process of finding the perfect property, taking care of the paperwork and closing the deal.

A professional commercial real estate brokers are specially trained to handle commercial real estate transactions that are very different from regular real estate deals. A professional commercial real estate broker can also inform you of prime commercial real estate that are for sale. Institutional and private investors often ‘secretly’ sell off parts of their commercial property portfolios, and a commercial property broker can let you in on this insider information.

Commercial Real Estate Investment – Basics

Commercial real estate investment is the natural progression from residential property investment. Experienced property investors tend to move into commercial real estate sooner than later – and for very good reasons.

Once your portfolio grows you will find it very difficult to manage your investments if a large portion of them is tied in residential properties. Imagine if you have $15 million worth of residential properties. That will be a lot of homes and tenants to take care of.

On the other hand $15 million will buy only a very small number of commercial properties that will be comparatively easy to manage with much lesser overheads.

Commercial properties include offices, industrial sheds, free standing retail shop, bulk retail, block of shops, medical centers, service stations, motels, hotels, back packers, health clubs, churches, funeral parlors, child care centers, car yards, convenience stores, shopping malls, to name just a few. Each type of commercial real estate investment has its own peculiarities, strengths, problems, rewards and risks.

The return on investment in commercial real estate is much higher than residential property.The income is net and not gross because the tenant pays all the out going expenses. The income is also more stable because of the long leases.

It is typical to have returns of around 10% net for a commercial real estate investment and any where from 7% to 9% net return for a prime property.

The value of a commercial real estate to a great extent is determined by the quality of the lease. In general the value is determined by taking net contractual rental being paid and use of a capitalization rate to arrive at a value. The value is also determined by the quality of the tenant and length of the lease.

The value of a commercial property can drop substantially if it becomes vacant. I have seen commercial properties being sold at less than half their value if they are difficult to lease.

Commercial property management is also much simpler because tenants have a strong vested interest to maintain the property to a high standard. Tenants usually derive their income from the property. They have to keep the property looking good and maintain functionality to impress their clients.

I have seen tenants spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements to the property. Most of these improvements stay with the property long after the tenant has left the property.

Real estate law is more flexible towards commercial lease contracts. You can virtually word and add any clause that is agreeable to the contracted parties. It is common to charge penalty interest on the out standing rent or lock the premises on continued default of rent.

By far the biggest risk in commercial real estate investment is finding a new tenant in case of a vacancy. In commercial real estate the requirement of each tenant in terms of size, location, use and rent payment capacity is so different that it is very difficult to get the right tenant for the right property.

For the reasons mentioned above it is also difficult to sell a commercial property investment. Higher the value of property there are lesser number of investors to buy the property. A commercial property investment is less liquid than other investments because there are very few players in the market. For a residential house there will be hundreds of potential buyers which is not the case with commercial properties.

Commercial real estate investments are generally sold on capitalization rates and rarely on replacement value. It is therefore possible to purchase a poorly rented commercial property well below its market value. You can also increase the value of your commercial real estate simply by raising the rents during rent reviews or re-negotiating the lease terms when it come up for renewal.

The funding for commercial property investments is harder to get as banks look at the quality of tenants, length and terms of lease. They will typically fund a maximum of 50 % to 66% of the market value of the property. The lending rates are also marginally higher. You will therefore need more equity to buy. This reduces your leveraging power to buy more property.

Commercial real estate is where professional investors put their energy because of the higher returns and ease of managing them. For these investors commercial property is their ‘bread and butter’ and they drive their speculative income by trading in residential properties.

Some commercial investors focus their attention to improve and add value to their commercial portfolio. Whilst others use their rental returns to fund development projects that show much higher returns but need different and more advanced skill sets.

Commercial property investing is very rewarding but requires more knowledge, experience and capital out lay. It is advisable not to jump into commercial real estate from the very out set until and unless you have the knowledge, very deep pockets and risk taking ability. It is advisable to start with residential real estate investment to build your equity and cash flow.

You should buy at least 8 to 10 residential investment properties before venturing into the world of commercial real estate.

Investing in residential properties is the best strategy when starting out as a real estate investor. The biggest leverage you can have in the process of creation of wealth through real estate is knowledge.
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Cold Calling in Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate is an easier property market segment to work in because it is built around logic and not emotion. Most of the prospecting calls and meetings you make are with people that are ‘business savvy’, and know real needs and solutions when they see them.

The emotion seen with owners in residential property is not a problem in commercial real estate however you do need to know what you are talking about given that commercial is a complex investment property type and the property owners are usually very aware of what is going on. For this reason, and to all the newcomers to the industry, you must know your product very well and be able to talk to it from many angles. Without this many property owners will discount your relevance to them.

Get Your Head and Thinking Straight

B2B cold calling is an essential part of daily activities in commercial real estate however it frequently fails because most salespeople sound like they are making a cold call. Here are two essential rules of cold calling success in commercial real estate:

It is the ‘how you do it’ that really matters to the call conversions to appointments.
What you ‘think about’ in doing the regular call process also is a critical part of the method.

Change the Name – and you will change the results you get

‘Cold calling’ implies something less than ‘warm’ and pleasant. To solve this problem, I prefer to think of it as ‘Call Direct’. It is a more positive mental image than anything that is ‘cold’! To be successful in making these calls, you must sell the process to yourself and believe that you are good at it.

When calling a prospect in commercial real estate, most salespeople are trying to ‘get’ something from someone. They are trying to ‘get’ an appointment or ‘get’ a listing. The fact of the call is that no one wants to ‘give’ something to someone they do not know, like, trust and respect. This is why most commercial salespeople fail miserably at this process.

But ‘getting’ is not the purpose of ‘call direct’. ‘Call direct’ is a discarding or disqualifying process. It is just like panning for gold or digging for diamonds. You have to turn over a lot of dirt before you find the gems. If you do not understand or accept this principle, then you will become frustrated and think that your efforts are not working. You will give in far too easily (this is what most people do and they therefore struggle to achieve great levels of listings and transactions).

Your objective in ‘call direct’ is to disqualify as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. That eliminates the time and money wasted in sending literature or seeing people who will never use your services, and it stops the fruitless follow-up calls that lead nowhere but to frustration.

You only have 30-45 seconds to deliver a specific and compelling reason for the person on the other end of the telephone to ‘want’ to continue the conversation. Skip the small talk and get right to the point. Be a ‘top performer’ in the call process.

You will be most effective when your 30-45 seconds causes the prospect to identify a real estate related problem in their mind that you can help them fix. People will talk to you if you shed light on a problem they need to have fixed; only for that reason.

Problems in commercial real estate typically focus around loss of rent, tenant problems, wasted time, inefficiencies in returns, competition pressures, disposal needs, functioning of the property, age of the asset, or repositioning etc.

If the prospect (not you) identifies something that is having negative ramifications on their property performance (a problem) AND they are serious about getting rid of that problem, then you ‘may’ have a possible reason to continue.

If there is a possible fit between you, then you can set an appointment to explore the possibilities of helping that prospect in some way get rid of that problem. There is no point in setting up an appointment simply because the other person lets you do so. You must determine that they are relevant to you, they are the decision makers, and that they have an interest in what you are talking about.

Protect your time by qualifying the correct people over the telephone before you make that appointment. There are a lot of prospects out there who think that they are the ‘decision maker’, and in reality are nowhere near those that are. Think like a ‘top performer’ and protect your time; it is the most important resource that you have.

What to Say?

Have you ever been stuck to know what to say when you call prospects in commercial real estate? If you are like many people you will use a script that is fairly typical and ‘all about you’. The process has poor results and ends in low call conversions to appointments. You have to change the call process significantly so that it has some relevance to ‘them’. When you do this your call conversions will rise.

The object of the call is only to get appointments with relevant people. That is the only thing you should be ‘selling’ in the cold call. The call should be used to identify if there is a genuine need on the part of the person that you have called, and then only to set up a meeting.

You are a skillful and relevant commercial real estate consultant in your market, and on that basis you are calling people to see if they have a property need and if you can help them with that.

Remember this fact and make it the foundation of your calls. There is no purpose in setting up meetings with people that really do not need you, or have no ability to make a decision on commercial real estate matters. This market today is not something in which you should waste time. Your time is money and money is precious.

The Call Structure?

The ‘call direct’ structure is so important and must be centred on the prospects situation and not yours. Try this as a basic approach.

Tell them your name and company
Ask permission to talk to them for 60 seconds
Tell them that they can end the conversation if they want to after that point.
Get right to the point by focusing on their needs (not yours)
Help them identify their business problems by offering a ‘short menu’
Never try to convince a prospect to take your services or have a meeting without qualification; instead let them convince you it is worth your time and effort to meet with them.
Honour your agreement and let them off the hook if they do not want to engage

Here’s an example of ‘call direct’ for Commercial Real Estate Sales or Leasing:

Brian, this is John Brown from Atlas Commercial Real Estate. The nature of the call is property related.
Can I take 60 seconds of your time to chat and then you can tell me if we should continue speaking?
Thanks for that…. I will be brief.
I am just calling to see if commercial property is an issue for you in this market, particularly with sales or leasing needs.
‘Results are on the radar’ for many local property owners at the moment, and we have some ways of helping with that.
Is that an issue for you?
That’s not a problem Brian, as I said I just want to see if we are a clear fit or a match and can help you in any way.
Many property owners are concerned about their returns or occupancy situation in the face of more competition or market pressure. They are looking for ways to increase reliability and consistency of the property’s performance.
Its good insurance in this market.
Brian, that being said, could these be things be issues for you in the future?….. Or is everything running 100% smoothly?’

In less than 60 seconds you will know if you have someone on the line that is relevant to you. If they do not have any commercial real estate problems that you can fix, then it’s over (for now). Remember, they may not have a property problem today, but they may have one in the future. Put them in the database for another call if you think it is relevant.

If you make ‘call direct’ a scheduled business event at the same time in your daily diary, and you action it with consistency, you will be amazed how much new business you will dig up. Understand also that ‘no’ is an ‘ok’ word that, when given by the prospect, simply needs qualification in case some future need is still hidden in the discussion. You will get many ‘no thanks’ comments as part of the call process. Do not try and push or convert every ‘no thanks’ to an agreement for a meeting, unless you really know that the prospect is truly relevant and that they will have a need in the future.

Make this call process part of your daily business model and continue it even when you become more successful. As you get more referral business from ‘happy’ clients you should still continue the call process as it is foundational to permanent and real success in all types of commercial real estate markets. The only other essential element to incorporate in this activity is a good database program where you can register leads and feedback. This will be your funnel for future business.

As simple as all this sounds it is surprising how many people do not do what I have explained here. They loose focus and quickly revert to old random habits and actions; they then get random results. Your success in the commercial real estate industry is centred around your choices and your ability to change your habits on the things that really matter to your business. Get the message? Happy hunting!