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.

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

/now, How is your commute going to change?

/now – If you’re interested in what I’m focused on these days check out my new “now” page, https://brianhtapp.com/now/. I plan on updating every once and a while. NowNowNow is an initiative of Derek Sivers and is pretty cool, learn more about it here: http://nownownow.com/about.

Transportation is going to be changing quick –  The Commute of the Future? Ford Is Working on It

Laundry detergent, who would have guessed? Amazon Helped Make This One of the Fastest-Growing E-Commerce Categories Last Year

This is hilarious – Peyton Manning Talks to Brother Eli’s Super Bowl Sad Face

Incredible zero gravity video – OK Go – Upside Down & Inside Out

Absolutely correct – Good Property Managers Can Prosper Whatever the Cycle

That’s me on a billboard on Kingston Pike near Harper Audi. That photo was taken a couple hours earlier after early voting. Who says digital billboards aren’t cool?

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.

Commercial Real Estate News and Other Interesting Reading

James Beard Award-winner Joseph Lenn to open downtown Knoxville restaurant – Mary Constantine, Knoxville News Sentinel

The causes and consequences of China’s market crash – The Economist

Job Numbers: ‘Solid Foundation’ for Rate Hike – Paul Bubny, GlobeSt

‘Why I can’t get a mortgage’ – Stephen Moore, Washington Times

Where apartment construction is hottest – Diana Olick, CNBC

Estoppels – Why? What? How A Red Light Becomes A Green Light – Ira Meislik, Retail Real Estate Law Ruminations

Chinese company opening U.S. headquarters in Knoxville – Ed Marcum, Knoxville News Sentinel

Kingston Pike Sale Comp – Bearden Hill




6700 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37919
Submarket: Papermill/Bearden/West Town

+/-   2,576 square foot building
Land Area (SF): 16,191 SF
Land Area (AC): 0.37 AC

Frontage: 145′ on Kingston Pike
Traffic Count: 28,981 AADT
Parking spots: approx. 12
Use: Oil Change Service Station

Sale Price: $667,627
Sale Type: Investment
Price/SF: $259.17/SF
Price/Land SF: $41.23/SF
Price/Land AC: $1,804,397.30/AC
Sale Date: March 9, 2015
Recorded Buyer: Ashland Inc
Recorded Seller: Four Ten Investments LLC
Buyer Broker: N/A
Seller Broker: N/A
Occupancy at time of sale: 100%

Sources: Knox County Register of Deeds Office, Costar, Courthouse Retrieval System, KGIS, TDOT

Information Deemed Reliable, But Not Guaranteed

Real Estate News Update

Diocese breaks ground for new cathedral
While the rain kept many inside Sunday, some people braved the weather for a higher calling. The groundbreaking ceremony for a new, nearly $30 million cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville was attended by a few hundred Knoxville-area residents and community leaders.    Read More

Wilson Fine Gardens expands into retail
Sometimes it’s worth a trip off the main road.
That’s where Greg Wilson said he found the perfect place to expand his landscaping and horticultural services business to include a boutique retail shop and garden center.
Read More

A Bowling Alley on Gay Street? Yes! Maple Hall Coming Soon
You’ve heard the rumors about a bowling alley. I sat down with the owners of the business to get the facts about the new business. They aren’t the most likely friends to open the first downtown bowling alley in Knoxville’s history.    Read More

Auto-related jobs boosting pay of ET workers
Automotive manufacturing is not the dirty job it used to be, says Randy Boyd, the longtime Knoxville business executive who’s now Tennessee’s commissioner of economic and community development.    Read More

Introducing “Shedquarters”: The Hot New Trend Home-Based Business Owners Are Drooling Over
Space-efficient work spaces are becoming all the rage these days. They’re great for maintaining privacy and uninterrupted workflow, and they can also be cozy and stylish as well. Here are some examples of a growing trend of miniature studios (for offices and living structures), that are small enough to fit in someone’s back yard.    Read More

In NYC, debate over saving small shops amid chains’ rise
Looking for a “Seinfeld”-style coffee shop? It’s sharing the city with 280 Starbucks and more than 530 Dunkin Donuts. A good neighborhood deli? It’s competing with some 460 Subways. And the corner store may well now be a Chase bank or Walgreens.
Read More


Cedar Bluff Sale Comp

Kingston Corner

9159 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37923
Submarket: Cedar Bluff/Walker Springs

+/-  11,655 square foot building
Land Area (SF): 54,450 SF
Land Area (AC): 1.25 AC

Frontage: 170′ on N Cedar Bluff Rd
Traffic Count: 19,243 AADT
Parking spots: approx. 75
Use: Shopping Center Retail

Sale Price: $3,850,000
Sale Type: Investment
Price/SF: $330.33/SF
Price/Land SF: $70.71/SF
Price/Land AC: $3,080,000/AC
Sale Date: March 30, 2015
Recorded Buyer: Volunteer Studios Plus Partners, VS LLC, Fort Sanders Partners, Fort Sanders GP and Hembree Partners
Recorded Seller: Horne – Cedar Bluff LLC
Buyer Broker: N/A
Seller Broker: N/A
Occupancy at time of sale: Unknown

Tenants: Tom & Chee, GEICO, Essential Nail & Spa, and LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria

Sources: Knox County Register of Deeds Office, Costar, Courthouse Retrieval System, KGIS, TDOT

Information Deemed Reliable, But Not Guaranteed

Real Estate News Update

Painting With a Twist: New Business Comes to the Arts District
121 S. Gay Street will soon be the home to Downtown Central Painting with a Twist.
Read More

Blessings abound after fire guts Saint George sanctuary
The Rev. Anthony Stratis recognized his congregation’s many blessings amid the rubble of a major fire that gutted the sanctuary of Saint George Orthodox Greek Church early Sunday, hours ahead of the parish’s planned Orthodox Easter services.    Read More

ULI to host tour of $56M research building at Cherokee Farm
If you’ve driven south from downtown Knoxville on Alcoa Highway, you’ve seen the University of Tennessee’s Cherokee Farm campus taking shape. This week, the Urban Land Institute will host a tour of the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials, a $56 million, 140,000-square foot research facility on the campus.    Read More

Interest Rate Hikes Likely in June
The Federal Reserve is signaling that it will likely take action on increasing interest rates in two months, despite recent data that shows a weakened economy. This would be the first rate increase since 2006.   Read More

Uber Mixes In a Softer Approach in New Delhi
Uber Technologies Inc. is fighting a multifront war here in the capital of India, one of the company’s most important and fastest-growing overseas markets.    Read More

A Look at the Tax Year 2015
The 2014 tax season is nearing its end and many taxpayers have already pocketed their refund checks. The Internal Revenue Service says it has processed more than 96 million federal income tax returns so far this year, through April 3. The IRS has issued more than 77 million refunds, with an average refund amount of $2,815.    Read More

Blackstone’s Deal With G.E. Highlights Its Real Estate Holdings
As Blackstone’s top executives fan out across the globe, pitching their services at elite gatherings of investors, they invariably tell the crowd: Hope you guys like this hotel, because we own it.    Read More

Industrial Land at Premium as Users’ Needs Shift
Demand for e-commerce fulfillment centers and new manufacturing facilities has shifted industrial space requirements from large properties to mid-sized buildings, already in short supply following the recession. The shift is contributing to higher prices for infill land parcels.    Read More

Commercial property values up 11% in March from 2014
Commercial property values last month rose 11% year over year, according to Green Street Advisors. Values are up 87% from the low point in 2009 and up 14% from the last high point in 2007.    Read More

Shopping Center Sale Comp

Washington Pike_3.9.15

5308 Washington Pike
Knoxville, TN 37918
Submarket: East Knoxville

+/- 18,881 square foot building
Land Area (SF):  102,802 SF
Land Area (AC):  2.36 AC

Frontage: 250′ on Washington Pike
Traffic Count:  19,545 AADT
Parking spots: +/- 60 free Surface Spaces are available; Ratio of 3.19/1,000 SF
Use: Shopping Center

Sale Price: $2,000,000
Sale Type: Investment
Price/SF: $105.93/SF
Price/Land SF: $19.45/SF
Price/Land AC: $847,457.63/AC
Sale Date: February 27, 2015
Recorded Buyer: SCGVI – Washington Market LLC
Recorded Seller: Cary Group Funding LLC
Buyer Broker: Unknown
Seller Broker: Unknown
Occupancy at time of sale: Unknown

Sources: Knox County Register of Deeds Office, Costar, Courthouse Retrieval System, KGIS, TDOT

Information Deemed Reliable, But Not Guaranteed

Real Estate News Update

Historic South Knox school to be sold
The Knox County Commission is expected to approve the sale of the old Giffin school in South Knoxville for $1,000 to Knox Heritage this month.  Read More

Rita’s Italian Ice coming to Fountain City
According to a sign posted at 4885 N. Broadway, Rita’s Italian Ice will soon be a new Fountain City tenant.   Read More

A ‘Goldilocks economy’ for commercial real estate
More than five years since the official end of the Great Recession, this is shaping up to be a recovery for the ages — and for commercial real estate.   Read More

More Demand, Less Supply for Student Housing in 2015
The student housing business faced declining college enrollment in 2014. At the same time, developers finished more purpose-built student housing properties than ever before. But these new student housing communities leased up very quickly anyway.
Read More

Simon Property Bids $16 Billion for Macerich
Cash-and-stock deal would combine two of the largest shopping-mall owners in the U.S.
Read More

Twin Cities Fallout: Target To Cut Several Thousand Jobs, Restructure HQ
Target Corp., the second largest property owner in Minneapolis with real estate holdings assessed at $224 million, announced plans to cut “several thousand” jobs over the next few two years.   Read More

Shopping Center Sale Comp

Comp outline

7805 Montvue Center Way
Knoxville, TN 37919
Submarket: Papermill/Bearden/West Town

+/-26,138 square foot building
Land Area (SF):  147,320 SF
Land Area (AC):  3.38 AC

Frontage: 242′ on Montvue Rd
Traffic Count:  28,981 (2013) – Kingston Pike
Parking spots: +/- 195
Use: Retail/Office

Sale Price: $3,550,000
Sale Type: Investment
Price/SF: $135.81/SF
Price/Land SF: $24.10/SF
Price/Land AC: $1,050,295.86/AC
Sale Date: January 2, 2015
Recorded Buyer:  Volunteer Studios Plus Partners
Recorded Seller:  O & C Properties, LP
Buyer Broker: Unknown
Seller Broker: Unknown
Occupancy at time of sale: Unknown

Sources: Knox County Register of Deeds Office, Costar, Courthouse Retrieval System, KGIS

Information Deemed Reliable, But Not Guaranteed

Related Property
7808 Montvue Center Way, Knoxville, TN 37919

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