53 questions to ask before hiring a commercial real estate practicioner

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If you’ve never hired an agent to market your commercial real estate property the process can be daunting and many folks don’t know where to start.

There are tons of commercial practitioners, most are great and some….not so much.

How do you find the right person to help you sell your property?

After spending over 11 years in the commercial real estate business, I’ve had a chance to hire and refer business to over 37 brokers outside of the Knoxville, TN market for clients.

I’ve compiled the following checklist and interview questions to help you find the right agent for your project with minimal fuss.

Step one – private investigator

  • Ask your friends that have recently sold property if they have any recommendations.
    • Friends that are in these fields are great resources: accountants, appraisers, architects, real estate attorneys, commercial bankers, general contractors*, developers*, real estate investors* and economic development officials.
      • *these folks could be potential buyers but I would highly recommend hiring a broker and putting your property on the market so you can get the highest dollar.
  • Search LoopNet for similar properties to find brokers that are active in your market
    • Search criteria
      • Sale or Lease
      • Geography: By county (or larger geography depending on property type)
      • Building size: +/- 30% range of your property
  • Things to consider:
    • What brokers are listing the most property by similar property type and size range?
    • How many properties do they have listed?
    • Do their listings have good photos and complete information?
      • Does it look like they are still taking photos with a flip phone? – awful photos are completely unacceptable.
    • Do you think the properties are being marketed professionally?
  • Trust but verify – take your top picks and do a little sleuthing:
    • Google the agent’s name
    • This should bring up these websites:
    • Things to consider:
      • Is the agents profile complete?
      • Are they a Realtor?
      • Are they licensed?
      • Are they active members of a professional organization(s)? – CCIM, SIOR, ICSC, etc.
      • Do they communicate well online? – a lot of communicating happens via email and text.
      • Are you friends with any of their friends? – call your friends and ask what they think about the agent.
      • Does it appear that they are doing this part time or full time?

Step two – communication challenge

  • Test how they respond to inquiries:
    • Call or send a request for information on one of their listings via LoopNet or local commercial multiple listing service and see how quickly they respond. The agent should get back to you by the close of business or within 24 hours, max.
  • Setting up the interview:
    • Assuming all agents responded promptly, ask the agent to set the appointment.
      • This is another opportunity to see how well and timely the agent communicates.
    • Things to consider:
      • Did the agent send a pre-listing package?
      • Did they do a good job learning more about your project? (aka pre-qualifying)
      • Was the scheduling process clear and easy?
      • Did the agent show up on time?
      • Do they appear professional?
        • Notice their car, shoes and dress.
      • Did they come prepared?

Step three – the interview

  • Getting to know the agent:
    • How did you get started?
    • How many years have you been in the real estate business?
    • What were you doing before going in to commercial real estate?
    • What do you do for fun?
    • How are you involved in our community? (Church, volunteer, sports, etc.)
    • How do you network with: other brokers, developers, investors, chamber staff, economic developers, elected officials, planning commission, etc.
    • What professional organizations do you belong to?
    • Do you have a product and/or geographic specialty?
    • What percentage of your deals are commercial?
    • What is the average number of projects you have listed?
    • What is the average number of buyer rep projects you typically work at any given time?
    • What trade magazines or emails do you subscribe to?
    • Do you attend any national trade shows?
    • What continuing education classes have you recently completed?
    • How would your colleagues describe you?
    • How would you clients describe you?
    • Who were your two worst customers/projects? Why?
    • What did you like the most about your last transaction? Least?
    • When you think of salesperson, what words come to mind?
  • Marketing:
    • Could I see marketing material for a similar project?
    • Do you pay for upgraded listings?
    • What websites would you use to advertise my property?
    • Would you have professional photos taken of my property? Aerials? Video?
    • How would you market this property?
    • Do you share fees with other brokers?
    • What databases do you use to find and keep track of leasing and sales transactions?
    • What databases do you use to find occupiers and buyers?
    • Are you a paying member of Costar?
  • Communication:
    • How would you keep me up to date?
    • How often?
    • Who would be my primary point of contact?
    • What do you do when we haven’t had much interest in this project?
  • Process:
    • Describe the process for selling my property?
    • How do you organize the process of taking this project through to closing?
    • How do you manage your projects on a daily basis?
    • How many projects are you currently working on?
    • How long would the exclusive agreement be?
    • How do you get paid?
    • What would the commission be for my property?
      • How is this calculated?
    • When do you get paid?
  • My property:
    • Why are you interested in this project?
    • Why are you qualified to help me with this project?
    • Have you worked on a project like this before?
    • What’s good about my property? Challenges?
    • If you were the buyer, what would you want changed about my property?
    • What do you think this projects needs to be successful?
    • How does my property stack up against the competition?
    • How should we price the property?
      • What price range do you believe my property would sell for?
    • What is the percentage difference between asking price and a done deal in the market?
    • How long will it take to sell my property?
    • What do I need to do to get my property to sell for the highest amount in the least amount of time?
    • What vendors would you recommend to fix/enhance: __________?
  • Wrapping up the meeting:
    • After all these questions are you still interested in working with us?
    • What’s the next step?

All of my checklists are a work in progress. I would appreciate any feedback in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about interviewing here are some great resources:

Top Four Sites to Search for Commercial and Industrial Real Estate in Knoxville, TN

Top four sites to search for commercial and industrial real estate for sale or lease:

KAARCIE is the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors Commercial multiple listing service. If you are looking for the best information that is updated regularly on office, commercial-retail, shopping centers, industrial, multi-family, hospitality, special purpose and vacant land this is a great place to start.

LoopNet, with over 5,000,000 monthly visitors, is the most heavily trafficked commercial real estate website. LoopNet will have most of the properties found on KAARCIE but will also pick up some non-Realtor landlords as well as mom and pops trying to for sell/lease on their own. You can search the same property types as on KAARCIE but will also pick up more investment opportunities.

TVA Sites is focused on bringing jobs (and electrical customers) to our community. Most regional economic development areas and chambers of commerce add their existing office, industrial and vacant land here. Typically the area industrial boards that own public land for economic development don’t post on KAARCIE or LoopNet so if you aren’t using a Realtor and are looking to expand this is another place you need to look.

Mmm, fresh asphalt

Couple of interesting reads from this week.

I’m surprised that the USPS is still in business…
Is Amazon Plotting an Air War on FedEx? – Don Reisinger – Fortune

What’s the future of the 30-second TV commercial?
Why Ruby Tuesday is putting all its chips on social marketing – Yuyu Chen

Sorry if I don’t pick up the phone some times!
The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now – Tim Ferriss

Yeah but AMC+Carmike still won’t be as awesome as Knoxville based Regal.
U.S. Movie Theater Chains Consolidating Almost as Fast as CRE Brokerage Firms – Tim Trainor – Costar

Get ready for big changes in student housing at UTK.
Student Housing | As off-campus housing changes communities, asset-rich investors vie for the best properties – Sara Patterson – CIRE

Photo: Knoxville friends, the driveway is finally fixed!

Why aren’t you getting up early?

Interesting stuff from this week.

Dear Santa, I want a new DJI Phanton 4…Video preview

Apartment-Building Boom Looks Set to Ease – Chris Kirkham – WSJ

New-Arena Sticker Shock – Joe Sullivan – Knoxville Mercury

Happy, Smart, and Useful – Derek Sivers

If you didn’t know… The Knoxville-Knox County Minimum Subdivision Regulations is undergoing a major overhaul. Learn more here and here.

Critical Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Before 8 AM – Dr. Travis Bradberry

This Is How You Identify A-Players (In About 10 Minutes) During An Interview – Mitchell Harper

13 major differences between successful and unsuccessful people – Jacquelyn Smith and Shana Lebowitz

How to Get Your Commercial Property on the Market Quicker

If you’re thinking about selling your commercial property be prepared to get asked for a lot of information about your property. If you want to get your property sold quicker, time to get organized.

Here is a quick checklist to get you started:

  • Most recent property tax assessments and tax bills
  • Most recent title policy insuring the property
  • Insurance policies with summary of insurance coverage,insurance inspector risk assessment report & premiums
  • Survey (ALTA preferred)
  • As-Built Plans and specifications for property (electrical, mechanical, structural)
  • Site plan
  • Copies of all recent appraisals, engineering reports, environmental reports
  • Cut sheets for furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) conveying with property
  • Warranties for real property improvements, FFE and personal property conveying with property
  • Certificates of occupancy
  • Written summary of all pending or threatened litigation, insurance claims, legal violations
  • Reports or studies to bring property in compliance with ADA
  • Schedule of special assessment districts and amounts
  • Schedule of impact fees paid or owing
  • All maintenance records for property
  • Any encroachments onto the Property, or from the Property onto other lands?
  • Are there any encumbrances on the Property that will not be cleared at Closing?
    Easements? Covenants Running with the Land?  Liens or other financial servitude’s?Leases?
  • All Leases, including any addendum’s, riders or subleases.
  • Rent roll
  • Profit & Loss Statement (keep five years back minimum)
  • Balance Sheet
  • Payroll register
  • Utility bills (keep at least two years minimum)
  • Fire protection system inspection reports
  • Tax returns

Further Reading: “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande

If you want a quick overview of The Checklist Manifesto, check out Derek Siver’s notes.

What am I missing? Feel free to add suggestions in the comments below.

Multi-tasking is so 1990’s.

iStock_000049007044_DoubleMulti-tasking is so 1990’s.
I remember back to my earlier interviews and all employers wanted someone who was good at “multitasking.” I haven’t interviewed for a normal job in a while but I’m hoping that question has been thrown out the door. We’re constantly bombarded with distractions these days so it’s really important to shut stuff off and focus so you can get things done. This article from Success magazine, “How to Get More Done in Less Time” by  Michael Maven has some great tips. For the past year I’ve been using the “One Page Productivity Planner” from Brendon Burchard and it really helps me move the needle on what is most important.
 
BT’s Summer Mix is Out!
People are always asking what new albums to buy. If you haven’t gotten on the Spotify bandwagon you should check it out. I’ve been a premium subscriber for a while now and it is fantastic. If you buy music on a regular basis, this will save you a ton of money and let you discover a massive amount of music. Since my first dual deck boom box, I’ve been making playlists. Every season I’ll add all of the songs that I like to a seasonal playlist. Here are the 88 songs that I loved listening to this summer. The Fall – 2015 playlist is in the works and will be published the first day of winter. Enjoy!
 
Ever wonder what Mr. Jefferson’s Public Land Survey System looks like 230 years later?
Follow @the.jefferson.grid on Instagram to see what they find next.
 
Commercial Real Estate Rents in Knoxville are Affordable
10 U.S. Tech Markets with Fastest Growing Rents – Elaine Misonzhnik, National Real Estate Investor
According to the NAI Knoxville Q2-2015 Market Report office rents in the Knoxville are are averaging $14.72 per square foot. The closest comparable city in this list is Raleigh, NC and their average office rents are $23.31 per square foot. Ouch.
 
Funny Clip of the Week
I guess this is what Neyland will be like since AT&T upgraded the cell service. Hilarious. Folks opposed to the new cell tower in Fountain City might be on to something…

Three Tools to Help with Habits (and One Habit You Can Start Today)

What is one habit that would make you happier and more successful?
Here are four things that can help you get started:
Is the commercial real estate industry ready for how business is changing?

Bob Whetsel on Downtown, Cumberland Avenue and Retirement – Our own Josh Flory interviewed Bob on his recent retirement as the City of Knoxville’s Director of Redevelopment.

Friday’s Miscellaneous Debris (Late Edition)

Eggs: Do you eat eggs? For breakfast, I’ll typically have a whole egg with then two egg whites with spinach, beans and salsa. It’s pretty healthy but occasionally I need a cheat day. Big Ass Fried EggIf you’re going to cheat you might as well fix cheese eggs. The best cheese eggs in the world are from the one and only Waffle House. Here’s their secret recipe for cheese eggs. Here are six other ways to cooks eggs if you aren’t in to american cheese.

Chip and Pin: Swipe to pay is on the way out and “chip and pin” is in. I used my Apple Pay for the first time and it’s super simple. This is going to be a big shift for retailers and customers this October. Square Trying To Help Small Businesses Meet October Deadline For New Chip and Pin Credit Cards (Consumerist).

Books: If you haven’t gotten the memo, you should read at least ten books a year. I’m always looking for ideas and would appreciate suggestions! Here’s a good looking list: 10 Success Books That People In Their Thirties Should Read (Lifehacker). Please leave suggestions in the comments section below.

Showers: One of my favorite things about vacation is the chance to shower outside. One of my complaints about our place at Seacrest Beach, FL was that we didn’t have a proper outdoor shower like our house in Folly Beach, SC. Here’s a list of 29 outdoor showers that look pretty cool.

Focus:  How in the world do you get things done without having a proper to do list or checklist? One of my favorite books is “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande. I put a lot of effort in thinking through a proper checklist for my projects and how I plan my day. This one page day planner by Brendon Bruchard is really great and helps me get things done and moving forward. This article brings up some good points about freeing up time to focus on the important stuff, How To Stop To-Do Lists From Ruining Your Life (The Guardian).