Monday, July 8, 2013

How to conduct a foolproof #CRE building tour

I provide Location Advice to owners and occupants of industrial buildings in Southern California. I conduct over 100 building tours a year...not just a single building showing...but multiple building tours in the same loop. I have assembled the steps to touring through my years of walking industrial buildings. If you require your location advisor to use these steps (all of them), I can assure you the tour will be foolproof!

Some assumptions: We will start with the premises that you have engaged control of the requirement to one broker (and don't have several brokers competing for the same requirement), the requirement is able to be fulfilled with a reasonable amount of market orientation (your expectations are realistic), and that you have shown your advisor your current location. If one or more of these "premises" are not absolute, then your odds of participating in a successful building tour are drastically reduced.

Your location advisor should:

Create a preliminary list: I start with one of the multiple listing services available in our market. If the requirement is an industrial deal, I use the, CoStar. I like to sort by square footage only...not with any other parameters. This method yields a lot of results...many that are not a match...but I feel better going building by building or space by space and culling from that basis.

Involve your client in paring the list: Once I have sorted the list, I will send the survey (no floor plans or brochures) to my client. I believe it is important to get the client involved at this stage for a few reasons. The client gets an idea if there are a ton of alternatives or a few. The client sees the pricing. The client sees, by city, where the majority of buildings are located. I will generally include a few outside the client's geography so that they can compare. How many of us have excluded an area only to have the client question us about it...or worse, relocate there!

If possible, select 3-7 alternatives from the pared list: During the occupant market days, this was easy. Now that our market is more of an owner's market, this is increasingly more difficult.

Insure the alternatives' availability, get floor plans, touring instructions, additional costs, etc.: Now comes the heavy lifting...phoning or emailing listing brokers. Usually, one or more of the selected 3-7 have leased, sold, or are in a stage of negotiation that warrant passing on touring. I always ask the broker if there are offers pending so that I know where we stand. Once I have the brochures, I save them in Dropbox so that they are accessible while I am mobile and so that I can modify a floor plan on IAnnotate.

PREVIEW: If there is one mistake most advisors is that they don't PREVIEW! My rule, which I seldom break, is I don't want to see the inside of a building the first time with my client. Previewing allows you to locate the lock box, test that clunky key, locate the power panels, check the sprinkler calcs, understand the neighbors and access, etc. If you want to add a twist to your previewing, take a video of the preview and forward this to the client. You'll score major points with this step!


Follow up on any discrepancies: After the previews, I have a list of follow up questions for the listing broker. I can then lead a tour, not direct a mutual discovery.

Assemble the tour book: I start with a summary and a locator map with a separate section for each building...brochure, floor plan, etc.

Drop the book off the day before the tour: Where possible, this is a great step! Especially, if the client is from out of state and has some time to kill in a hotel room the night before.

Meet the client at his/her office: I review the tour, answer any questions, make any last minute changes to the loop. Remember, if your client has the book from the day before, they may cull some choices.

Take one car: This is the best arrangement as all of the feedback between buildings is discussed and you can gain a sense of the direction of the requirement.

Start with the BEST alternative FIRST: I like to say, "lead with your ACE". Why leave the ace in your hand? Start with the best! This communicates to your client that you listened, understood, and translated that listening and understanding to a suitable alternative. My understanding is that in residential tours, the opposite is the case...worst first. If you start with the worst first commercially, your client will wonder if you listened and understood.

Good luck with your new foolproof building tours!

Monday, July 1, 2013

What I learned from the crash of 2008

I provide Location Advice to owners and occupants of industrial buildings in Southern California. Five years ago this summer we were riding high at warp speed toward the precipice of a financial market crash like none of us (lest you survived the Great Depression) has ever seen. I was completely un-prepared as were most of my clients and colleagues. I knew that obtaining financing for commercial properties was becoming more difficult but was completely unaware of the havoc that the financial meltdown would wreak to owners and occupants. Banks stopped lending, owners stopped buying, occupants stopped moving and most of us in the CRE brokerage business wondered if there would be a CRE business in the future...probably the most difficult six months of my professional career...which spans four decades. So I am pleased to say that as I write, I am still here, still providing advice to owners and occupants, and I like to believe, much wiser. What follows is a discussion of the three things that the crash of 2008 taught me.

Network strategically: I enjoy people, I am social, but I wasn't very good at networking. I attended the obligatory broker open houses and a few Lee and Associates company events but didn't really understand how valuable a good network can be in terms of the referrals it can provide...therefore, I rarely (never) attended networking events...Rotary, chamber's of commerce, and was completely unaware of networking organizations such as BNI, Provisors, LeTip, NAWBO, etc. I had a very good "down stream" network of contractors, lenders, escrow and title agents, architects, sign companies, telecom providers, IT providers, and the like so I was used to referring business "to" people. But most of my referrals were "from" other brokers or past clients. The first networking event I attended in the summer of 2009, I attended trying to "sell" something. Unfortunately, no one attended with the purpose of "buying" anything. When I discovered my "target market" and could easily describe it, understood the other professions that had the same target (complementary but not competitive), and started to network with these professions...the world of referrals opened wide.

"Work out loud": My wife of 34 years, Carla, coined this term when describing to me what blogging as all about. She said "Allen, blogging is working out loud." You write about things that you do every day so that others may benefit." I realized that many of the things that I do every day...touring, prospecting, previewing buildings, describing processes, negotiating transactions, etc. were in fact blog worthy. The various channels of social media lend themselves to authentic content created while working out loud...YouTube videos of virtual tours, blog posts about tricky lease clauses, Facebook posts of client testimonials, tweets of all of the above. I also discovered that "working out loud" is a great way to stay "top of mind" with my clientele...they see me present on YouTube, they see what I am up to on Facebook, they follow my tweets of industry data, ALL the content is search able. If I am headed to a new meeting, the prospective client can gain a wide understanding of my practice before we meet. Our time together is consequently more productive.

Prospect creatively: I used to cold call like a maniac and was very good at it! After 2008, I  am much more creative in the ways I prospect. I search for an angle that will separate me from my competition (and it is fierce)...whether an introduction from someone in my network, a blog idea that would benefit their company, a video of something of interest in the market OR a virtual tour of a building close by, a clip of an article that featured the company, a person that I know that the company would benefit in knowing, etc.

The results have been exceptional! 2010 was my best year in 29 years in the business and 2012 was a close second.