Friday, December 28, 2018

Is NOW the Right Time to Sell?

Image Attribution:

Wild stock market gyrations. A trade war with China. Housing metrics that would suggest a shift, large corporations announcing dramatic layoffs, rising interest rates combined with record low unemployment, a media touting the booming economy, and a recovery spanning nine years. So where are we headed? Great question. And one that is pondered by hundreds of small business owners every day.

A pall of uncertainty now shrouds our consciousness and permeates our conversations. Uncertainty. The circumstance that can change a robust commercial real estate market to a tepid one in no time.

When folks are uncertain - decisions are postponed. Postponing decisions - adding workers, buying new equipment, expanding into another market, or acquiring a competitor create a holding pattern for new building space needs. Given enough hesitation - our commercial real estate market freezes and lease and sale transactions are delayed.

I am certainly not seeing a rush for the exits as we witnessed in 2008 and 2009. But, the entrepreneurs I counsel are certainly making a note of the exit’s locations.

So, what should you do if you’re contemplating a commercial real estate move? I would make the following suggestions.

If you are a seller. Examine why. Be realistic. Don’t wait. You’ve elected to move your company out of state and determined your California location is excess - a good reason to sell. Your neighbor’s building traded at a record high number and if you can get a similar price - you’re a seller. If not - you’ll hold. Not a good reason. 

Marketing time, variance in ask vs take, number of buyers inquiring - all have morphed from a seller’s advantage to a buyer’s. Certainly deals are transacting - but in more neutral setting. My opinion. We will encounter a much different selling environment at the end of next year than we are seeing today. Sales will occur - but at much more realistic prices. So if your selling for the right reasons - do so now.

If you are a buyer. Be aggressive. Hold firm. Walk away. The era of crazy asking prices followed by multiple offers and feeding frenzies are behind us. In order to sell these days - a seller must respond to the offers he receives - even if they are below his expectations. Sure. Limited availability means fewer choices - but that will change. I’ve seen a shift toward bringing buildings to market NOW vs waiting. A few more availabilities coming on line will quickly balance the supply side and force sellers to come to the table.

If your lease expires next year. Understand your value. Know the market. Be aware of your alternatives. To replace your tenancy costs money - in some cases 20-25% of the total amount of your lease. If you bolt - your owner must now refurbish your space, lay fallow, concede some rent, and pay a broker to achieve a market rent. In a changing environment, the time needed to locate a new resident increases - which is lost revenue. Use this to your advantage to drive the best deal. Finding an adamant owner may generate a compromise in a higher lease rate but for a shorter duration.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services. He can be reached at 714.564.7104 or  his website is

Friday, December 21, 2018

Commercial Real Estate Advice - When Do You Need It?

Image Attribution:

Seemingly an easy retort? Certainly. I need advice when I’m buying, leasing, or selling. These three circumstances would apply to either side of the aisle - whether you are an owner or an occupant of commercial real estate. Ok. Done for this week. Well, not quite and since I’ve a few more words - indulge me as I share a few more situations in which commercial real estate advice may be necessary.

A transition. Twice last week, I counseled occupants that shared this circumstance. Both enjoy the benefit of owning the buildings their companies occupy. When the buildings were purchased - Bill Clinton was president. Ownership of the business and building were synonymous - albeit with different entities. Flash forward. Due to a couple of untimely deaths - the LLC building ownerships only have one common link to the operation’s management. Plus, in one case, the company finds itself with too much space - in other words the building no longer works. Where before both occupant and owner sang from the same song book - now the music is a bit off key. Needed is a careful parsing of objectives and a clear path forward.

Efficiency discussion. How do you get the very most productivity out of your manufacturing location, your suite of offices, or your retail store front? Often, the answer is not a move but a re-tool of the flow of the operation. Countless times I’ve toured a warehouse distribution building with the premise - the operation is out of space. Sure. The floor is consumed but the inventory is only stacked to half capacity. This “cube” space is free if you can utilize it. You see, commercial real estate is billed by the square footage. Simply, you pay for the floor area - not the volume of the building. A better investment - vs a move - might be in a new forklift to reach the heights of the building’s ceilings.

An alignment of motivation. What is optimal? Often, I find an in-depth discussion leads to a solution no one had considered. For instance. If operating capital is needed - why sell a building you own with no debt - only to suffer the consequences of Uncle Sam’s outstretched hand. A better cure may be a re-finance of the building’s equity. Another circumstance. Why hold out for the last dime with your occupant who is approaching the expiration of his lease? A simple math exercise should show you how costly replacing his tenancy will be. Share the savings. If he renews - even at less than a market rate - you both win.

What is ahead. Many of my meetings these days start with the question - how is the market? My response. We are seeing signs of cooling - variance in closed amounts vs asking prices, more time on the market, fickled investors, a more cautious - “let’s wait and see” attitude from occupants. The crazy thing - this slow down in activity hasn’t resulted in a rise in our vacancy - but it will. You heard it here.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services. He can be reached at 714.564.7104 or  his website is

Friday, December 14, 2018

Five Year-End Considerations for your Commercial Real Estate

Image Attribution:

A column like this one would normally be reserved for a period closer to Auld Lang Syne. However, with the dawn of December and Black Friday behind us - we will blink our eyes and it will be 2019. So let’s get a jump on those year-end issues - shall we?

Here - in no particular order are the five things I suggest you 
address during the final month of 2018.

Budget for 2019. If you are a tenant, chances are the owner of your building has compiled a projection of operating costs for 2019. Taken into consideration are things such as property taxes, insurance, utilities, landscaping and any repairs planned for next year. These estimates are rolled into a monthly bill which you will receive January 1. As the occupant, you have the right to audit these expenses - which I recommend you do. If you own the building you occupy - I suggest you undertake a similar accounting. Simply take a look at that property tax bill you received in October. Remember the first half is late if not paid by December 10. Next drag out that insurance premium and review it. Finally, will your gardner expect a raise next year? Are you planning to add solar or replace the roof? You now have the basis for billing your occupant.

Locate your lease. Easy, right? Except when it’s not. I’d suggest keeping both a digital and a hard copy. Make sure you have the latest amendment signed by you and the owners. Next take a quick peak at things such as the expiration, options to extend or terminate, and increases in your base rent. Calendar any dates of importance for 2019. Must you give your owner a six month heads up you will be exercising your tight to expand into the suite next door? Yep. How’s the time to note that. No lease with your tenant? No better time than now to commence a new one come January 1.

Check on your loans. Will any of the debt mature in 2019? In our environment of rising interest rates - now may be a great time to re-finance. If you agreed to a variable rate loan - your payment may be bumping up. Plan accordingly.

Tune up those systems. Roofing companies get very busy and very cranky once the rains hit. Doubt what I say? Ok. Just wait until you’ve water pouring onto your computer numeric machinery and need someone to immediately patch the hole. Good luck! During the brief business respite we experience during the last two weeks of the year - why not engage your roofer to complete an annual maintenance? Now that the weather is cooler - have your HVAC company replace the filters and insure all is well with the cooling. Finally, has your warehouse sprinkler system been certified recently? Take care of that while the timing allows.

Project. Will 2019 be business as usual? Or, will next year find you searching for a new building to buy or lease? Remember - inventory is still scarce. Plan for the process to take longer.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services. He can be reached at 714.564.7104 or  his website is

Friday, December 7, 2018

3 BIGGEST Issues Confronting Occupants of Commercial Real Estate

Image Attribution:
As a commercial real estate professional - my travels take me to many cool businesses. You see, close to half of my practice is consumed advising owners of closely held manufacturing and distribution operations on their commercial real estate requirements. A typical week will include three to six meetings with entrepreneurs. Resulting from my outreach is a “pulse” of sorts on the issues facing these companies - the occupants of commercial real estate. 

So, what are these business owners sharing with me? That dear reader, is the subject of today’s column.

Lack of quality employees. Unemployment in Orange County and the Inland Empire is the lowest in history. Doubt what I say? Try this simple exercise. Next time you’re out to visit your neighborhood - you decide - observe the number of “help wanted” signs. They are everywhere! Add a bit of skill or complexity to the position - a computer numeric machine operator, welder, diesel mechanic or heavy equipment driver - good luck. “Poaching” trained workers from competitors is widely practiced these days. What is the solution? In my opinion, a more focused effort on the part of our community college system, trade schools, and vocational training in our high schools to prepare young folks for the skills necessary and the jobs available.

Increasing costs. Minimum wage, rents, tariffs - all add to the up-tick in operating costs. Let’s take your typical distribution company as an example. Defined is a business that stores and ships things - but doesn’t necessarily make the items they ship. Contained in their operating expenses are three main categories - labor, space, and the price of the products that enter and leave the warehouse. See any issues there? Yep. A distributor’s three main cost centers are increasing wildly! Here is a simple example. If rents bump up by 30% - that company must figure a way to absorb the higher cost. He’s three options - raise prices, lease fewer square feet, or take the hit in his bottom line.

Legacy. Countless small business owners with whom I deal are on the back nine of their careers. Many are thinking about the 19th hole. The problem is - too few of them have an exit planned - a family member who will assume the reigns, a sale of the business to a competitor, or what will be done with their commercial real estate once the company is sold. Once such operator finds himself with a building ownership which doesn’t mirror the company ownership. By the way, he is the common member of both. Now he faces differing motivations when it comes to the real estate direction - sell, raise rents, etc.

What issues is your business facing? I’d love to hear from you.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services. He can be reached at 714.564.7104 or  his website is