Friday, October 11, 2019

Cut Out the Broker - Save 6%! Maybe Not

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I told the owner of my building, hey if you decide to sell, call me first. I'll buy it and we can avoid paying the 6%". REALLY? This was a conversation I recently heard. I was not eavesdropping, mind you. I was the guest of a network buddy of mine at the monthly meeting of trade organization. The conversation was between my friend and one of his clients - that I had met previously. As I stood there with them - I recalled trying to help him last year with some space issues he was facing - for FREE!

The comment really irked me and I flippantly responded, "yeah, by all means, cut out those greedy brokers!" The client quickly excused himself and walked away. He realized the comment struck a nerve.

I've thought about that encounter a lot over the past week and have tried to imagine myself in his position. If I leased a building and had an opportunity to buy it, would I "cut out the middle man?"

Indulge me and I will attempt to explain why I wouldn't - with full disclosure that I have seen the "end of the movie." By the way, I believe this buyer's sentiment is rooted in the premise that "we didn't find the building or negotiate" the deal - so where is the value? I also believe his position is on widely held by most occupants of commercial real estate.

Here is the value - a commercial real estate professional can anticipate the issues and structure the deal around them or formulate a suitable alternative. This is BEST done before final terms are negotiated, but sometimes, we are shackled.

So let's assume we are talking about a 20,000 sf building, a $4,000,000 purchase - or a $240,000 ($4,000,000 x 6%) dollar savings (potentially). $240,000 represents $12 psf on the square footage of the building. A lot of money for sure! However, if the buyer overpays (based upon market data that brokers track) this "savings" can be consumed quickly.

What if the property doesn't appraise? How does the buyer bridge the gap? Brokers are skilled at solutions due to the market comps, current avails, etc.

What if something "untoward" is discovered - historic hazardous materials, seismic zone, non ADA compliance, unpermitted office or other improvements, a sprinkler system that is inadequate, a lien against title? OK you get the idea. A seasoned professional - has overcome these challenges many times before.

Who will handle the management of the deal's execution - escrow, title, inspections, loan qualification, review of leases, estoppels, etc? A real estate attorney trained at identifying issues - but equipped to resolve them?

What if specialized consultants are needed in the execution process? Buyers can utilize our networks.

So how do you "hear the buyer's concerns?” Remember, the buyer is convinced you are excess baggage.

From experience, I reduce the fee and offer to manage the transaction. Specifically, in return for my involvement, the fee is 1-2%. I justify this because I didn't find the building or negotiate the terms - just like the client believes. But, I can add significant value from the agreement forward to close.

As we know, negotiating the terms is generally the EASY part. The execution is the difficult step. Win win, done!

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

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