Pop Quiz Commercial Real Estate Investing

I read once that if you took all the real estate lawyers in Illinois and laid them end to end along the equator – it would be a good idea to leave them there. That’s what I read. What do you suppose that means?

I have written before about the need to exercise due diligence when purchasing commercial real estate. The need to investigate, before Closing, every significant aspect of the property you are acquiring. The importance of evaluating each commercial real estate transaction with a mindset that once the Closing occurs, there is no going back. The Seller has your money and is gone. If post-Closing problems arise, Seller’s contract representations and warranties will, at best, mean expensive litigation. CAVEAT EMPTOR! “Let the buyer beware!”

Paying extra attention at the beginning of a commercial real estate transaction to “get it right” can save tens of thousands of dollars when the deal goes bad. It’s like the old FramĀ® oil filter slogan during the 1970′s: “You can pay me now – or pay me later”. In commercial real estate, however, “later” may be too late.

Buying commercial real estate is NOT like buying a home. It is not. It is not. It is NOT.

In Illinois, and many other states, virtually every residential real estate closing requires a lawyer for the buyer and a lawyer for the seller. This is probably smart. It is good consumer protection.

The “problem” this causes, however, is that every lawyer handling residential real estate transactions considers himself or herself a “real estate lawyer”, capable of handling any real estate transaction that may arise.

We learned in law school that there are only two kinds of property: real estate and personal property. Therefore – we intuit – if we are competent to handle a residential real estate closing, we must be competent to handle a commercial real estate closing. They are each “real estate”, right?

ANSWER: Yes, they are each real estate. No, they are not the same.

The legal issues and risks in a commercial real estate transaction are remarkably different from the legal issues and risks in a residential real estate transaction. Most are not even remotely similar. Attorneys concentrating their practice handling residential real estate closings do not face the same issues as attorneys concentrating their practice in commercial real estate.

It is a matter of experience. You either know the issues and risks inherent in commercial real estate transactions – and know how to deal with them – or you don’t.

A key point to remember is that the myriad consumer protection laws that protect residential home buyers have no application to – and provide no protection for – buyers of commercial real estate.

Competent commercial real estate practice requires focused and concentrated investigation of all issues material to the transaction by someone who knows what they are looking for. In short, it requires the exercise of “due diligence”.

I admit – the exercise of due diligence is not cheap, but the failure to exercise due diligence can create a financial disaster for the commercial real estate investor. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish”.

If you are buying a home, hire an attorney who regularly represents home buyers. If you are buying commercial real estate, hire an attorney who regularly represents commercial real estate buyers.

Years ago I stopped handling residential real estate transactions. As an active commercial real estate attorney, even I hire residential real estate counsel for my own home purchases. I do that because residential real estate practice is fundamentally different from commercial real estate.

Maybe I do “harp” on the need for competent counsel experienced in commercial real estate transactions. I genuinely believe it. I believe it is essential. I believe if you are going to invest in commercial real estate, you must apply your critical thinking skills and be smart.

POP QUIZ: Here’s is a simple test of YOUR critical thinking skills:

Please read the following Scenarios and answer the questions TRUE or FALSE:

Scenario No. 1: It’s Valentine’s Day. You are in hot pursuit of the love of your life. A few weeks ago, she confided in you that all she ever dreamed of for Valentine’s Day was that her lover would show up at her door, dressed in a white tuxedo with tails and a top hat, and present her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. You’ve rented the tuxedo, but now you are concerned about how much money you are spending.

TRUE OR FALSE: Since flowers are pretty much all the same, it is OK for you to skip the roses and show up with a bouquet of fresh yellow dandelions.

Scenario No. 2: For several years you eyesight deteriorated to the point where you can barely see your alarm clock. You are now considering corrective eye surgery so you won’t need glasses. Your sister-in-law had corrective eye surgery and has had spectacular results. She recommends her eye surgeon, but mentions the cost is about $5,700 for both eyes and that the surgery is not covered by insurance. A few years ago, you had surgery to correct your hemorrhoids and it cost you only eight hundred bucks.

TRUE OR FALSE: Since surgeons all went to medical school and are all medical doctors, you are being frugal and wise by asking the surgeon who performed your hemorrhoid surgery to perform your corrective eye surgery.

Scenario No. 3: Several years ago, when you first got married, you asked a former classmate who is a lawyer to represent you in the purchase of your townhome. The cost was only $375. A year later, you started a family and decided you needed a Will. The same attorney prepared Wills for you and your wife for a total cost of $700. You started your own business and your attorney friend formed a corporation for you and charged you only $600 plus the cost of the corporate minute book. Years later, when your son was arrested for misdemeanor reckless driving, your attorney friend handled the criminal case and got your son off with supervision for only $1,500.

Your business has been successful and you have built a pretty sizable nest egg, but you are tired of working for every dime and want to try investing in real estate. You have your eye on a strip shopping center. It includes a grocery store, bank, hardware store, dry cleaners (on a month to month tenancy), a couple of fast food restaurants, a gift shop, dental office, bowling alley (with a lease about to expire), and wraps behind a gas station/mini-mart on the corner. The purchase price is $8,000,000, but the net operating income looks pretty good. You figure if you turn the bowling alley into a full service restaurant/banquet facility, and convert the dry cleaners into a 24-hour coin laundry, the net operating income will increase and the shopping center will turn into a spectacular investment. You plan to pull together much of your life savings and put down $2,000,000 to buy this strip shopping center, borrowing the balance of $6,000,000. You remember that your lawyer friend handled the purchase of your home several years ago, so you know he handles real estate.

TRUE OR FALSE: Commercial real estate is the same as residential real estate [Hey, its all dirt, isn't it (?)], so you are being a shrewd businessman by hiring your lawyer friend who will charge much less than a lawyer who handles shopping center purchases several time a year. [What is this "due diligence" stuff anyway?]

ANSWERS:

If you answered “TRUE” for any of the foregoing Scenarios

STOP!

The Quiz is over.

Please find a quite place to reflect upon your life and consider whether the decisions you make consistently give you the results you desire.

If, on the other hand, you understand that the answer to each of the foregoing questions is FALSE, I am available to help you in Scenario No. 3.

For Scenario No. 2, you should follow your sister-in-law’s suggestion and contact her eye surgeon, or some other eye surgeon with equal skill.

For Scenario No. 1, you are on your own. [But, if you answered TRUE for Scenario No. 1, you may be FOREVER on you own.]

Investing in commercial real estate can be profitable and rewarding – but it requires good critical thinking skills and competent counsel.

You have a have a brain. It is strongly recommended that you use it.

R. Kymn Harp is a seasoned attorney based in Chicago, Illinois with 30 years experience representing commercial real estate investors, lenders and developers. He is a frequent speaker at continuing education seminars, and is a widely published author on commercial and industrial real estate topics including due diligence, entitlements, commercial real estate financing, and Brownfield development and financing.

Finding the Best Deals in Commercial Real Estate

If you want to be successful and profitable in the commercial real estate market, it will depend greatly on your ability to find the best deals in the commercial real estate market. You can lower your load and maximize your net profits if you only invest in commercial real estate deals that have a great amount of potential. As an investor, it is important that you find excellent deals in order to make money, but you have to remember that it takes some work on your part as an investor to find the best deals. The following are several tips that can help you find the very best deals in commercial real estate so you can make a profit and earn success as an investor.

Tip #1 – Know the Area and the Market – The most important thing you need to know if you want to find the best deals in commercial real estate is the area and the market. You need to be very familiar with the area that you are planning to invest in and you also need to be very informed on the market in that specific area. If you are not familiar with the area you plan on investing in, then you should make it your business to learn about the area and the market trends. You cannot determine whether an investment opportunity is a great deal unless you have a good grasp of the commercial real estate market in that specific area. Take the time to know both the area and the market in the area, and you’ll be sure to get the best commercial real estate deals.

Tip #2 – Make Use of Pocket Listings – Another tip that can help you find the best deals in commercial real estate is to make use of pocket listings that you may have access to. These listings can help you find and keep track of great investment opportunities. Many times you can get these listings from a broker to help you in your pursuit of excellent real estate investment opportunities. Pocket listings are commercial real estate opportunities that have not yet hit the market. So, you essentially get a jump on the property before anyone else does. If you want to find a great deal, don’t forget to make use of your pocket listings.

Tip #3 – Use Online Resources – Many real estate investors today really make use of their online resources when looking for the best commercial real estate deals. Using online resources can save you a huge amount of time; however, you will still need to be sure that you take the time to do the investigating that you need to do. There are many online websites that are geared towards investors in the commercial real estate market. Quite a few investors are using online resources to find the best possible deals, and you can take advantage of these easy access resources to help find great deals as well.

Tip #4 – Use Business Contacts to Find Deals – If you have a variety of great business contacts within the commercial real estate market, you can make use of them. These business contacts can help you find some great commercial real estate deals. It is important that you take the time to build up good relationships with these business contacts so that you are the one they inform when they hear of a great commercial real estate deal. Cultivating business contacts can take some work; however, it is worth the work if you can get a great business deal out of it.

Tip #5 – Know Your Financial Capacity and Strategy – Knowing your financial capacity and strategy is important as well if you want to find the best deals in commercial real estate. You will never want to overextend yourself financially, so you need to know your financial capacity. It is also important that you have a good strategy for investing as well in order to be successful with finding great deals in the commercial real estate market.

Tip #6 – Be Sure to Practice Due Diligence – It is imperative that you practice due diligence if you want to find the best commercial real estate deals. Due diligence is one of the most important steps in finding a great deal. Some of the things that you’ll need to consider when practicing due diligence is the existing conditions of the property, the actual value of the property, how much you can make from the property, title issues, zoning issues, and many other important aspects. Be sure that you take the time to do adequate due diligence in order to be sure that you are really getting a great deal on the commercial real estate that you plan to invest in.

Using all of these tips together can help you find great commercial real estate deals. If you want to be on your way to success, great deals are important, and these tips will enable you to find the very best deals in commercial real estate available today.

Anthony Seruga and Yolly Bishop of Maverick Real Estate Investments, Inc. work with builders, developers and other players in the commercial real estate industry to acquire and develop properties. They use progressive investment strategies that have proved extremely profitable. In addition to their own deals, they teach both seasoned and inexperienced investors how to be big players in the game. Visit the website for more info.

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.