In this time of the internet, search engines and the birthing of AI, individuals are doing a lot of their “research” on their phones or computers long before making many purchasing decisions. This approach is appropriate for purchasing decisions that involve modest expenditures with short-term consequences. Significant decisions that combine major financial exposure — and can affect the perception of you or your business — are decisions that should not be left to an online query and the appropriateness of the “key” words used to conduct the search. Decisions of this magnitude — commercial real estate selection in this case — warrant the engagement of a professional to guarantee the highest probability of a positive outcome.
The simple truth is that you can lease or buy a property without engaging a real estate professional to work as your advocate. However, the knowledge and expertise that a commercial real estate agent provides is invaluable, helping you negotiate the business terms of a lease or sale beyond just the price.
The obvious reason to have an agent on your team is that 100 percent of his or her time is spent pursuing and executing real estate transactions. An agent lives and breathes real estate in the same way a medical doctor lives and breathes healthcare. For the same reasons you seek a doctor’s guidance when needed, you should also seek the guidance of a real estate agent when needed. An agent knows and understands the marketplace, is aware of with whom to do business and who to avoid, what is coming to market but may not yet be online and has access to commercial listing platforms not available to the public. Additionally, the listings that are shown online and are accessible to the public I have found too often to be inaccurate, confusing, incomplete and can be an inefficient use of time.
In addition to being able to access your agent’s data sources, market knowledge and professional connections, generally the tenant or buyer (in the Hampton Roads area) doesn’t pay the commission. While this isn’t 100 percent true of all properties or all property types, it is generally the case that the seller or landlord pays all commissions and has those commissions built into their pricing. Similar to residential real estate, the buyer or landlord usually has an agreed-upon fee with the agent, and it is split with the agent bringing the buyer or tenant.
As an owner, when selling or leasing your property, having an agent provides you with current market knowledge and a broad exposure to market your property. Additionally, most commercial buyers and tenants are represented by a real estate professional who is savvy and wants to engage with another real estate professional to effectively and efficiently negotiate and consummate the deal.
A few years ago I was engaged by a client who was a buyer in the clothing industry, and an expert negotiator. I asked after a very successful transaction why she used me to do the negotiating. She told me that because I was in the real estate market every day, specialized in only commercial property, knew the product, the market pricing and had a detailed history of the buildings, I was much more likely to negotiate the best outcome. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, an experienced agent is the best tool to provide you the knowledge needed to get the best deal possible.
There are a number of other reasons why a professional agent can be a huge asset: familiarity with contracts; access to reputable vendors and contractors to get pricing for improvements or repairs; specialized knowledge about planning, zoning and codes, to name a few.
A friend of mine runs the service department of a local automotive dealership. He has many great stories about the do-it-yourself, YouTube watching handyman who tries to take on a major repair and ultimately ends up back at the dealership, repairing or replacing parts that could have cost much less time and expense had they come to the professionals in the first place.
When it comes to buying, selling or leasing a commercial property, yes, you can do the job yourself. Alternatively, what you gain by having a full-time commercial professional on your team will usually save you time, money and energy by the end of the transaction.