Friday, December 16, 2016

An Improvement Allowance - A Primer

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I recently authored a piece entitled "The Commercial Real Estate is ALMOST Perfect - Now what?". If you missed the missive, no major misstep - you can click the link and get up to speed. One of the excerpts I want to explore today is:

"Once the true cost of the new offices is determined, we now must negotiate who pays - you, the owner, or some combination of you and the owner. Generally, an owner will be reluctant to pay for an improvement that adds value today but may need to be ripped out in the future."

There are circumstances in which an owner will in fact write a check, as a concession, for improvements to a space - in the case of a building in shell condition, or if the building is in need of some updating and the owner prefers to throw a wad of cash at the problem vs. doing it himself.

What follows are some issues to understand before you negotiate changes to the space.

What is it. By definition, an improvement allowance is a sum of money the owner of a building will invest in improvements to his building. These improvements could be new offices, new flooring, paint for the offices or warehouse area, expanded electrical circuitry, or truck door enhancements such as load levelers.

Turn Key vs an allowance. In a turn-key situation, you are requesting your new layout be entirely created by the owner of the building without a cost to you, the occupant. An allowance conversely, is a fixed amount of money the owner will spend on your layout with no guarantee the sum will cover the entire cost. If an allowance is all you can muster, make sure you understand the true cost of your improvement with adequate wiggle room in case of a surprise.

Not all deals. Understand that not all transactions will offer an allowance for improvements. We frequently see this in industrial deals. An owner will possibly freshen the offices with a coat of paint and some new flooring but will be unwilling to do much more.

What an owner will pay. Generally, an owner will pay for "general purpose" improvements - those that will be re-usable by future tenants.

Ways an allowance is paid, when and how. The best for you, the occupant is to have the owner provide a turn-key allowance as a concession. He produces your layout with no cost to you other than your timely rent payments throughout the term of your lease. The worst for you, the occupant, would be a complete repayment, with interest, of the improvement dollars the owner invests in the building.

SNDA. If a substantial investment is needed to shape your space into habitable form, make sure the lease you sign includes a Subordination, Non-Disturbance, and Attornment provision. Simply put, this clause will protect your investment and tenancy if your owner loses his building - your business home - through  foreclosure.

Management fee. One of the "gotchas" that exist within an allowance is the owner's right to charge you a fee for managing the process of building your improvements. Let's say the owner will invest $100,000 to mold your arrangement. Your construction costs $100,000. You're golden! Oops, the owner is charging you $5000 to oversee the construction. Now, your new arrangement is tipping the scales at $105,000 - guess who pays the $5000? Yep! The one reading this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Go #cre OLD SCHOOL! TUESDAY Traffic Tips

Little things matter a lot! Today, I explain a few ways to go "old school" and boost your relationships with clients and your fellow brokers. Thanks to Mike Wolfe, Steve Deverian, and Michael Fine of our Ontario office for the inspiration of today's VIDEO tip.

Friday, December 2, 2016

When Should a Build-to-Suit be Considered

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We just sold a building located out of the state of California. Our client is an investor who purchased the Texas building to affect a tax deferred exchange.

Cash flow, ease of management, and the multi year lease had appeal to the buyer. For the next 10+ years, our client will enjoy clipping the coupons of rent payments. 

The building is leased long term to a Fortune 500 company. A build-to-suit was accomplished for the tenant four years ago.

So, what is a build-to-suit and when should one be considered? I believe one or more of the following circumstances would dictate building new versus buying or leasing an existing building.

Lack of availability. Industrial vacancy in Orange County, California is the lowest in history. 98 of every 100 manufacturing and warehouse buildings are occupied. If your company needs to grow into a larger building, chances are you'll be hard pressed to find one. The lack of available buildings should suggest a good climate for a build-to-suit. The trouble is - there is very little undeveloped land in the county. Even if you wanted to build a building, no vacant land exists to accommodate the build. In the case of the Texas building above, there were NO vacant buildings within the desired city - but a surplus of affordable, available, buildable land sites. Thus, the choices were - build or consider another city.

Special purpose building. This is similar to the circumstance of "lack of availability" yet very different. If you are patient, and occupied buildings are present in your market, eventually one will lay fallow, create a vacancy, and need a new occupant. A special purpose building contains features that don't exist in the market - a warehouse with 40' ceilings, or a building with acres of excess land for outside storage, maybe one constructed to store highly combustible or explosive contents. Our Texas building required tow of these - VERY high ceilings and acres of excess land for expansion and trailer storage.

A unique deal structure. Recently, a grocery distributor required a class A constructed warehouse building in a size that didn't exist in the city they desired. Additionally, the occupant wanted to own but couldn't afford to purchase land, build the building and carry the debt on a building under construction they couldn't occupy until completion. The solution was to interject a developer who purchased the land, built the building, leased the building to the grocery distributor and granted the occupant an option to buy the building once completed.

But, be wary of the following issues.

Lotsa lead time. Few if any occupants can predict their space needs two to two and one half years in advance of a move. However, you must allow this much time to complete a build-to-suit.

Complete understanding of the mechanics. The basic structure is - land is owned or purchased, new construction is planned and permitted, building is built, new construction is occupied. Easy, right? Yes, if you own the land, already have the plans drawn and permitted, have a bucket of cash to spend on the construction, and don't need the building for several months. Complexity is added with each un-checked box.

Financeability. You need to understand how the financing of a build-to-suit works. I could write an entire post on this subject, however, some of the highlights are - vacant land will generally need to be purchased for cash, a construction loan will precede the permanent loan, a couple of appraisals may be needed, land owners won't allow their loan (if seller carried) to be junior to a construction loan - are you yet confused? Exactly - not a simple transaction!

Understanding you will pay more. I discussed this in detail in a previous post entitled Build CRE and They will Come - Seven Reasons they Won't. I would encourage you to take a look at the reasons you will pay more to occupy a new build vs. an existing building. In short the reasons are - land prices, soft costs, entitlements, time value of money, financing, economies of scale, and market forces.