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!


  1. Allan, I enjoyed the read, great advice from your industry expertise. The principles translate to other lines of business also. Good communicating, listening to the client, putting in the pre-call time to identify with their needs, ultimately leads to a successful execution of the search and transaction. Our time and our client’s time are limited- let’s not waste it!
    Thanks for sharing.
    By Justin Schaller

  2. Thanks Allen; this is a new career change for me and I've noticed that many of your advice points, with the exception of a few, are similar to how my mentoring broker prepares for his tours. With that said, as I venture off on my own in the coming months, I'm certainly going to keep in mind your points. The advice about preparing a tour book, as well as visiting the property first with a video blog were especially helpful.
    By Benjamin Peterson

  3. Thanks for listening, Benjamin! Good luck in your CRE career.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Excellent advise from a CRE person who actually "gets it" with the prelim virtual tour rather than wasting time to visit a space in person with a client on a first tour. As a fellow CRE broker, I started a virtual tour provider business to add synergy to my brokerage business, and yet most brokers in my area do not use this tool. For a listing agent it makes a ton of sense , time is money and wasted time on wasted tours ends up costing more in soft costs than one may think.
    By Steve Shire

  6. Another common, and easily avoidable, problem is wasting too much time (and therefore money) on a property which turns out to be contaminated, all for want of a $2,500 Phase I. My favorite war story - we (my consulting company) were called to a large factory in los Angeles to look at mold. When we arrived, we saw the inside was yellow - arsenic. We did the Phase I or free just to be able to propose a Phase II. The thing had large tanks under the floor, and many tanks all around outside, so the lowest Phase II cost we could propose was $200,000. Then the bombshell - the potential client told us he has already bought it!

  7. OK I give. What's with the bow tie in the video? This should be interesting.

    1. You...more than anyone...should understand authenticity...Mr. brown shoes:)