This article originally appeared in Inside Business - The Hampton Roads Business Journal, on July 20, 2015.
The task of buying, leasing, or developing commercial real estate is daunting.
With so much at stake and so many complex decisions to make, business owners are reluctant to take on too much of the process themselves. To be sure, in many cases hiring a trusted commercial real estate agent can be the best option for a business owner.
But for some, being detached from such a vital business decision is unthinkable. Moreover, not all business owners can afford paying professionals to provide real estate solutions.
For business owners willing to engage the process, we offer ways you can be your own commercial real estate agent without making mistakes - before you pay other people.
Remember, you are making a strategic business decision, not a real estate decision. Your business strategy should determine your real estate moves, not the other way around. For example, an established business looking for a long-term location with equity potential would likely consider ownership, whereas a start-up retail shop business would generally seek a short-term lease. Since no outside professional can tell you more about your business’s strategic plan than you, be sure you understand how the real estate transaction fits in.
There is plenty of useful information available on the Internet when you become your own commercial real estate agent. Online resources like the local Multiple Listings Service, LoopNet, Co-Star and even Craigslist can provide free information on available properties in your area. Using a mapping program, like Google or the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps available from most local governments, even more area information is available. When doing research, try to find answers to the following questions:
Even when a business owner acts as their own commercial real estate agent, they are going to need professional assistance in other ways. But be careful - your cousin with a small construction firm or retired banker uncle may not be the right person to help you with major business decisions like this one. Take the time to do reference checks on the professionals you bring on board - a bad lawyer, contractor, appraiser or banker can cost you thousands in lost opportunities or unfavorable negotiation outcomes.
You can save thousands by being your own commercial real estate agent and avoiding the cost of hiring outside professionals. Do as much research as you can, be confident in your decisions, and perhaps most important, recognize when it is worth the money to pay for professional help.