As you consolidate your career in commercial real estate brokerage, there are plenty of opportunities to be had across the segments of the leasing market. There will usually be a good selection of local businesses, landlords, and tenants struggling to resolve occupancy issues.
If this is the property market segment for you, then consider how you can boost leasing inquiry and provide professional services to both landlords and tenants. There are some critical steps to the process to help you build your leasing momentum.
Let me set the scene here in your local area:
- Some tenants are looking to relocate due to pressures of expansion and or contraction.
- Some landlords have vacancy issues and pressures to deal with. Look for the vacant properties and then talk to the landlords directly.
- Some properties are quite complex in tenancy mix and occupancy. The larger properties are likely to have an array of leasing challenges including variable market rentals, upcoming lease expiries, and a changing tenancy mix.
- Market rents are changing in your town or city. Track the market rentals that apply to the different property types and precincts.
- The factors of supply and demand in the local area will shift occupancy rates and market rentals. Look for the local developments that could influence future supply and demand. Adjust your marketing efforts based on the upcoming changes to occupancy supply and demand.
- Many tenants today are looking for improved conditions of occupancy and better buildings. In talking to the tenants locally, you will soon identify what they are looking for in any new occupancy.
- Some landlords are overly aggressive when it comes to market rental negotiation. The landlords that push the levels of occupancy and rental recovery are usually the landlords that lose tenants over time. They are likely to have higher vacancy factors in their investment buildings.
- Many tenants are looking for improved factors of economy and cost when it comes to lease occupancy. Understand how you can bring factors of occupancy cost improvement into the tenant lease negotiations. Market rentals, outgoings costs, and rent review processes are ways of achieving a better rental package for the tenants that you serve. If you work as a tenant advocate, this will be a big part of your professional advocacy services.
- New projects are coming onto the market, and those projects will require a professional occupancy and leasing strategy. Many project leasing opportunities are quite large and can take months if not years to complete. If this is the type of work that you are focusing on, then be careful when considering commission charges, marketing costs, and resources to be applied to the project. Many developers will look for lower levels of commission and minimized marketing costs. They will be looking to offload many of the project leasing costs to the marketing agent.
All of these things are happening in most cities at any given point in time. They are all related to leasing and property performance. You are the best person to help resolve these challenges.
So here are some of the rules that you must follow to improve your professional profile as a top leasing agent:
- Concentrate on the market segments that have the best levels of churn and opportunity. There will be certain property precincts and buildings in your town or city that are higher on the selection list for new tenancies and new tenants. Work the buildings, the landlords and the precincts that have the best opportunity for change and churn.
- In talking to local business owners and tenants, adopt a checklist approach to understand where their business is located now, what they may need for ongoing successful business occupancy, and when their current lease may expire. When talking with decision makers, understand the pressures of today that they may be experiencing, and how they are looking at their future in the location. Show them the economies of the area that could influence their choices to relocate. Most business owners and tenants will be attracted to factors of efficiency and economy.
- Track the market rentals that apply to the property types and the precincts. When any new lease transaction has been completed, seek out the facts relating the finalized lease, and the agreed rental.
- When focusing on new properties to lease, bias your activities towards the larger properties, the quality locations, and the good quality buildings. In that way you will achieve a higher level of rental and better levels of interest as you market the vacancies.
So these are all strategic issues that can easily be applied to the tenant and landlord leasing services locally. Understand the factors of attraction in the local commercial real estate leasing market. Work the factors of attraction through your prospecting and marketing processes. The better buildings, precincts, and market rentals will always attract good levels of quality inquiry. Work with your landlords and tenants on that basis.
If you are a commercial real estate leasing agent, you can get plenty of market traction if you work with local tenants and business owners. They tell you things and that then leads to listings and better commissions with quality property transactions.
Always err on the side of leasing quality when it comes to any property listing or property choices. Why is that? Consider these things:
- Quality properties create better levels of inquiry
- The rents are higher per unit of area
- The commissions are better due to the higher rents
- The tenants are drawn to a quality listing
- Modern buildings offer a level of improvement and services that most tenants require
What are the Leasing Positives?
There are some good things evolving from working in property leasing and resolving tenant needs. Think about these:
- Leasing leads to Property Management – Many landlords are open to property management services when you have just solved a complex leasing issue for them.
- Leasing leads to Sales – A lease today is likely to be a property sale in the future, particularly if you do a great job for the landlord property investor.
- Tenants share local property information – Local tenants will tell you many things about their location and other nearby businesses.
- Landlords want help with tenant placement and tenant mix – Whilst a landlord may have a fully occupied property right now, many leases may be in need of upgrade and renegotiation at the right time in the future. As a general rule, weaknesses in leases can be negotiated away over time with better leases and rents.
- Rental and lease strategies are highly specialized – There are many different types of rents and leases; they can be mixed and matched to the investment requirements of the landlord and or the occupancy needs of the tenant (it just depends on who you are engaged by as a client). You can drill down into market rent strategies and leasing alternatives. That will then make every lease negotiation more valuable for the clients that you serve.
So you can do a long way in the property market as a specialized agent or broker by starting from a ‘leasing base’. Understand the linkages between the 5 points mentioned and build your skills and property market around them.
In closing on these points, recognize the differences between office, retail, and industrial property. Understand the leasing opportunity in each property type, and then choose the segment that offers you the most market activity over time.
You can get more commercial real estate broker leasing tips in our ‘Snapshot’ eCourse right here.
In commercial real estate brokerage leasing and sales you can find plenty of leads and opportunities when you target building occupants in a regular and ongoing way. Research your listing territory by building and then split those buildings up into tenants and businesses. Make direct contact.
Some business segments and industry types will be under pressures of change at different times during the year. Local economic circumstances and business sentiment will drive property change for some businesses and industry types.
The Canvassing Process
Assuming you can get this process underway, here are some concepts to feed into the commercial real estate canvassing process:
- Their business intentions – When you take and review all the tenants in a location, many will have future intentions to feed into their movement and growth plans. Customers and staff all place pressure on a business and with how things are done. In a manufacturing segment where industrial property is involved, property configuration and use also rises to the top of the ‘planning’ list. Most property decisions are made just before or after a change of financial year. If you stay in regular contact with business owners and leaders, they are likely to remember you when a property challenge or change arises.
- Factors of expansion and contraction – Some businesses need more or less space. Canvass your territory every day and look at how some businesses seem to be trading. If the property is of an industrial nature you can usually see pressures of change and occupation in and around the property. Observe what you can. Ask plenty of questions. Meet more local people.
- Relocation requirements – Some businesses need to be located close to transport, highways, raw materials, and customer markets. Find out how those factors integrate into your location and property types.
- Difficult landlords – Some landlords are notoriously challenging and unsupportive of tenant occupancy and comfort; those landlords can focus too much on rental returns and less on property performance. Over time that can lead to a general exodus of tenants from a property. Look for tenants that are disgruntled with the landlords in property ownership. Check out locations for distressed tenant mixes and properties with higher vacancy factors. There will be reasons for issues like that happening.
- Occupancy costs – Every tenant is concerned about paying rent and other occupancy costs. You should know what the rental averages are for a property and a lease by property type and location. If a property is aggressively rented, the vacancy factor is likely to climb over time. Distressed tenants are likely to move. That then is a leasing prospect and opportunity.
Look further into buildings, tenant lists, property occupancy, and business activity. You will always find leasing opportunities with tenants wanting to change location.
In commercial real estate leasing there are many different factors that come into consideration with any lease negotiation. That being said, some stand out as the most common issues to be worked through by landlords and leasing brokers.
Initially the tenants ‘call the shots’ when it comes to starting a negotiation and making an offer on leasing office space. The essential ‘factors of attraction’ have to be there at the very start to get things moving. Typically those issues are:
- Occupancy costs – the rental spend has to be there at the beginning of any lease negotiation. Can the tenant afford the property given all the factors of occupancy? Remember that occupancy costs add up and include base rent, outgoings, electricity, water, communications costs, and maintenance. These are base building charges that exist in most leasing deals; look at the building budget for this year and understand how that budget will impact the property and the occupants. What are these costs with your quality lease listings? Can you provide a tenant with all of these facts?
- Technology support and integration – Most tenants in office space today want to integrate their business into the World Wide Web and global market place. That requirement could include high speed online portals, reliable telephone systems for both wired and mobile communication, data cabling, dedicated antennas for special tenant use, and secure risers for highly sensitive cabling and portal communication.
- Environmentally friendly occupancy – Most office tenants today will ask questions about natural light availability, energy costs for tenants, air conditioning quality and service, and the building compliance to environmental standards and safety support systems (fire, evacuation, bomb, and other modern day threats). You will need specialised consultant or engineering reports to provide these answers.
- Business location and proximity to other tenants – Some businesses like to know who and what other businesses occupy premises in the same location. There are sensitivities that can exist between tenant types and across tenant proximities.
- Branding – What image and branding can the tenant bring to the property? There will need to be strategies in place for directory boards, advertising, signage, and logos. In a building with multiple occupants, the strategies should be set. Each tenant will have certain branding demands; in some cases you can ask for extra rent to be paid for special considerations such as ‘naming rights’ and the directory signage.
- Landlord – Many tenants know all too well that a landlord can make or break comfortable lease occupancy. Some landlords are just too tough on tenant occupancy, fitout use or flexibility, and mid-term rental review negotiations. Over time that can make things really frustrating for tenants that just want to get on with business.
- Fitout – What will be the fitout requirements and specifications for any tenants? The landlord should determine what ‘standards should be set’ when it comes to tenant fitout and construction; in that way the quality of the building is maintained. The landlord should also determine what they will regard as ‘base building’ as any landlord cost in a fitout.
When you have these 7 factors under control for your lease listings, you have most of the lease momentum under control.
Some of your commercial real estate clients will have vacancies in their investment properties to work through and resolve. Those vacancies are a real opportunity for you the local leasing broker. If you have a large database of tenants in the local area then you will have plenty of attraction and leverage to offer to local landlords. Sell your professional leasing services from the strength of your database.
Ultimately the clients that you serve just want to get a tenant. You can offer the best solution as part of that process. Talk about the best tenant types that you see for the vacant premises and then offer the client a specific way to attract those tenants. Here are some factors that you can drill down on as part of your client offering:
- Presentation of the premises
- Property improvements to strengthen promotion
- Time of marketing to lift enquiry rates
- Best promotional channels
- Leasing alternatives
- Rental structures
- Incentives to offer tenants
- Special advertising methods
- Tenant mix strategies for the overall property
- Rental improvement strategies
So the message here is that any vacant property or premises is a major opportunity for working with an investor for the longer term. Don’t just let the single leasing requirement be the start and the end of the matter. Look at how you can extend your services for the client.
Develop a leasing team in your office that can handle the leasing requirements in specific locations and across property types. Ensure that the team can speak and present comprehensively into the rental and leasing market locally; that will mean across specific rents, marketing situations, leasing documentation, inspection processes, and negotiation approaches.
When you open the client up to the many extra leasing services that you can offer for the longer term, benefits arise for both you and your brokerage. Try some of these for starters:
- Taking a property through a growth phase for a new renovation or project opportunity.
- Upgrading leasing services to a full property management appointment.
- Expanding the client’s investment requirements to other local properties and opportunities.
- You can be seen as the leasing specialist that is helping results happen over the lease duration and across the tenant mix.
- A good leasing outcome today can be a sales requirement in the future with the same client.
All of these things can lead to fee growth and diversity for the brokerage. Comprehensive fees are driven from diverse leasing services. Are you ready to lift your service offerings?
As you service and help commercial real estate investment clients, lease covenants and terms can be a critical part of property performance and the established tenancy mix strategy. Every lease can be potentially different, and in a property with a number of tenants in occupancy, lease interpretation and management becomes really important.
To take matters a bit further, it is worthwhile establishing a checklist of lease topics and ideas to review with every property investor client. Understand what the client is looking for and how the terms and conditions of any lease will impact the clients overall investment result.
Ways to Review Leases
Here are some basic ideas and questions to raise and investigate as part of the lease structure and review process:
- Property Usage – understand the legal use of the property and the current zoning that applies to existing planning regulations. The tenant and the lease should be matched to the legal use of the property. The lease itself should clearly determine and control how the property will be used by the tenant. The permitted use clause within the lease should be quite specific and detailed. In a property with many tenants this strategy becomes even more important and critical to the tenant mix.
- Rental Structure and Strategy – the lease will reflect the strategy behind rental charges and collections. The lease may reflect gross or net rentals depending on the occupancy situation. Outgoings will also be recovered as part of the rental strategy across the year. Always review a lease in detail to understand how the rental structure works and the outgoings are recovered. When you understand the figures, you can compare them to the levels of market rental in the local area for the property type.
- Lease Terms and Conditions – comprehensively review all the terms and conditions of every lease within a property. Look for the variations that could have an impact on the landlord and their investment requirements. Look at the expiry dates and the options situations that will occur during the lease term. Some leases will impact the property cash flow and hence the investment. Learn to read lease documentation and interpret the longer term property cash flow. Compare the net rental results regularly to the potential property value, and in doing so achieve the capitalization rate or yield result for the client. Compare those figures to the current market conditions and the property type.
- Property Budget and Rental Budget – when working with an entire property and the lease strategies behind the investment, ask to see the overall property budget and particularly both income and expenditure in an itemized form. From the budget you can assess expenditure rates per unit of area and compare those expenditures to other properties locally; you can also see how outgoings expenditure is recovered from the tenants given the existing lease documentation. From an investment perspective, your leased property should be within the expenditure averages for the property type.
In reviewing these four topics, you can move further into issues of property performance. Start with the basic information and move into levels of greater detail with every lease document, each tenant in the mix, and cash flow opportunity.
If you provide specialist leasing services to property investors and landlords, you will need to be well versed in commission negotiations and commission standards. Many of the clients that we work with in commercial property today are quite experienced when it comes to commission and listing negotiations with agents. On that basis you should have some points of difference in your professional services to convince clients that you are the best choice of agent when it comes to solving a vacancy problem.
The message here is that your specialist services should be of substantial quality and complexity to support a fair and reasonable commission payment. Landlords will find easier to use your services and pay the required commission if you can prove that you comprehensively understand and control all of the following:
- current levels of enquiry with local tenants
- an understanding of what tenants are looking for in the property market today
- have a major market share when it comes to leasing local properties
- successfully transacted a good selection of quality leases in the local area
- have a database that is up to date when it comes to tenant movement and tenant requirements
Far too many agents think that they need to discount their commission as part of winning the listing. Nothing could be further from the truth; most investors and landlords today understand that the vacancy is costing them a lot more in loss of rents and loss of outgoings, than in any minor saving to be achieved through a discounted commission. If the landlord pushes for a low commission, they really don’t appreciate the commitment and drive that you can bring to the listing on an exclusive basis; perhaps you haven’t sold your skills sufficiently when compared to other agents.
The landlords that we serve are simply looking for the vacancies be filled professionally, that is with a good tenant at a reasonable market level rent. If you can prove that you are the best agent to satisfy the leasing requirement, then the listing will be easier to convert.
As a general rule, the leasing commissions that we negotiate should be supported by all of the following professional services:
- Comprehensive market coverage to the targeted tenant market
- One-on-one contact direct into the business community
- Online and off-line unique and special marketing initiatives to attract enquiry
- A good knowledge of exactly what tenants are looking for when it comes to the location and the property type
- A timely approach to encourage inspections and lease negotiations
- A good knowledge of lease documentation when it comes to improving the property for the landlord over time
- A detailed consideration of the special strategies that apply when it comes to incentives, market rents, renovations, and lease documentation
So there are plenty of things can be done here when it comes to providing a specialised and professional commercial leasing service. If you can prove that you actually provide all of the points mentioned here, it will not be difficult you to convert more clients and listings as part of the lease marketing process.
When it comes to taking an inquiry from a tenant in commercial real estate, it pays to have a comprehensive checklist or process to support questioning and to track the requirements of the tenant.
So every property inquiry is likely to be quite unique given that every business and corporate tenant will have special factors of occupancy to take into account; every enquiry should be matched to the required property across a number of criteria.
Here are some ideas to help you determine exactly what the tenant is looking for:
- Before you say too much and give away valuable listing information, understand exactly who you’re talking to, get their contact information, and ask plenty of questions to understand how they have reached the point of calling you. Sometimes you will find that the inquiry is actually being made by another agent or broker within your town or city. It is questionable in that case whether you would tell them too much about the listing.
- If the person approaching you will not share their contact details and property requirements openly and honestly, then it is best to restrict the information that you provide across the telephone.
- Find out if they have been inspecting other properties locally with the other brokers and agents. That fact can frustrate your discussions, negotiations, and property introductions.
- If the inquiry appears genuine then it is time to arrange a meeting, and potentially an inspection of the property. The ‘face to face’ process in our industry is really important.
- The tenant may be operating a business in another location. You can inspect that other property to understand space requirements and fit out design. You can also understand how they interact between business units.
- Ask the tenant about their customer interaction and resource requirements. Both of those factors are likely to impact property choice, design and location. They also may create special needs when it comes to car parking, property exposure, and the future need for expansion or contraction.
- The services and amenities in any property will be of interest in a lease choice or tenant negotiation. Find out what the tenant needs when it comes to communications, access, power, water, gas and air conditioning.
- The quality of property will impact design and layout. That will also flow through to environmental efficiency, and building operating costs. A landlord of a property today should be very careful when it comes to property outgoings. Excessive outgoings are likely to deter or derail a lease negotiation.
- Rental and outgoings budgets should be questioned and understood as part of taking the property inquiry. Some tenants have unrealistic expectations of just what they can get for the rent to be paid, when it comes to property choices in certain areas or locations.
So there are some specific things that you can question and resolve as part of taking any leasing requirement or inquiry. Be prepared to drill down on all the right facts before you arrange a site inspection with any tenant. Qualify the tenant for the listing or the inquiry in a comprehensive way.
They say that ‘curiosity killed the cat’, however that is not the case in commercial real estate brokerage. Curiosity is a good thing for any agent or broker to develop, and will encourage the right information that helps with results in prospecting and marketing efforts. Are you ready for the ‘curiosity’ challenge?
So it is a fact, being ‘curious’ should be a core skill to develop for any property agent or broker. Asking questions in a professional way will help you get to the right facts of the market, and the best people looking to do something with local property.
In a sensible and professional way, questions well-crafted will help you find listings and client opportunity. An agent or broker that cannot or does not ask lots of questions will not succeed as a top agent, and will struggle to find market share.
Here are some basic ‘sample’ questions to explore as part of that process of questioning and establishing professional agent curiosity:
Owner Occupier Buyers
- What property types do you prefer?
- How did you find this property?
- What have you looked at recently?
- Do you need to sell another property to make this work for you?
- When is the right time for you to buy?
- What improvements do you need on your short list of requirements?
- What budget do you have?
- What services and amenities will you need in the property?
Owner Occupier Sellers
- When is the right time for you to sell given your current property use?
- Why will you need to move?
- What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the property?
- Will you need to relocate and have you found something else?
- Given the property market today, what expectations do you have of the sale process?
- What are the outgoings for the property today?
- How much space do you need?
- What’s your rental budget?
- What have you looked at locally?
- What improvements do you need?
- What staff access and amenities will you require?
- How does car parking and customer access impact your property selection?
- How long will you be holding the property?
- Is your priority centred on income or capital gain?
- What priorities will you have in tenant mix and lease tenure?
- Is redevelopment a consideration in your purchase?
- Have you explored financing options today?
- Is this a ‘blue chip’ single investment for you or part of a portfolio balance?
- Is this purchase a part of a portfolio strategy?
- How will you be using the property?
- What are the critical improvements and fitout configurations that you must have?
- When is the ideal time of property changeover for you?
- Are you moving from another location?
- Who are the decision makers when you finally find the right property?
- What have you looked at elsewhere?
- What have you liked about where you are now?
- How do raw materials, customers, or end user markets impact your property decisions?
Are you ready to ask some good questions? I hope so; the best property agents do it all the time.
In commercial real estate brokerage today the negotiations required for some properties can be complex and protracted. On that basis you should have an established negotiation management process to use at a personal level or within your real estate office. The process helps you and also the team leader or sales manager to understand the status of the current deals and the commission opportunities.
It is a sad fact that some agents are less experienced when it comes to complex property negotiations. On that basis the negotiation tracker can assist in deal momentum and closure. The sales manager or team leader can then closely monitor the stages of the deal and potentially get involved if closure is taking too long.
Here are some strategies to help you with a ‘negotiation deal’ tracker:
- The tracker itself should apply to the separate stages of activity in both sales and leasing. This then suggests that you will have a checklist specifically designed for property sales and another for property leasing. If you get involved with retail leasing, the complexity of that will also require a specific checklist.
- This process can help maintain control across deals and agents when the market is busy or the property is challenging. The levels of experience between agents can sometimes expose a brokerage to liability and indemnity risks. The checklist can help you from an insurance and risk management control perspective.
- A rule needs to be set that all deals will be documented in and processed through the negotiation checklist for the office. At the end of every working day the checklist should be updated by each agent for the deal and the client in question. In this way the sales manager can oversee the momentum of the negotiation and help with any hurdles that may be occurring.
- As a general concept, any negotiations should be soft on people but hard on the issue; don’t bring personalities into a negotiation, but focus on the issue.
- Every sale or lease negotiation will have documentary requirements to legally protect the client as they move to contract and on to settlement. Some agents will have a weakness when it comes to documentation; accuracy and knowledge are a challenge for some. The checklist can help identify those weaknesses and control the actions of individual agents. Again, this is beneficial from an insurance and risk perspective.
- A good negotiation should be a satisfactory outcome for all parties (including the agent on behalf of their client). The momentum to the process will be established through a sense of urgency and the professional skills of the agent.
In many respects you can improve an agent’s negotiation skills through ongoing training and role playing when it comes to selling or leasing the various property types. In any market and at any point in time there will be common problems of negotiation that pop up and require action; the weekly sales meeting is the best place to talk about them. In our industry you never really stop learning.
Closing the gap on any property negotiation should be the target in any property sale or lease scenario. Design a checklist involving the factors to achieve that control and directed momentum. The client will appreciate the professionalism, and over time that will help you with other business opportunities and referrals.