Friday, January 1, 2021

6 Non-Starters for Commercial Real Estate Deals

Commercial real estate transactions, akin to a dance, take two to tango. In the case of a lease - opposite are the tenant and landlord sometimes called Lessee and Lessor. When a building purchase is considered, a buyer and seller square off. Customary in both is a negotiation which precedes the agreement - a lease document or purchase and sale contract. Outlined in most negotiations is a set of deal points - price, term, concessions and the like. Generally, both sides of the aisle have representation - a commercial real estate professional or a real estate attorney. Depending upon the dollar consideration, both vocations may be employed. Frequently, a general outline is submitted by brokers and agreed to to by both parties and then attorneys fine tune the language. When a deal takes flight - it’s a beautiful thing. But, there are some requests which prevent lift-off. A few of these “Houston, we have a problem” are listed below. 

Termination clauses. Occasionally in a lease arrangement - especially with major corporations - an “opt-out” provision is requested. Simply, these give a tenant the right to terminate their lease prior to the expiration. Flexibility - in case the space is outgrown or exceeds capacity - generally is the reason. But these wreak havoc on the back and forth. You see, an owner expects a flow of income for several years. Rate, concessions, and motivation are reflected. If this stream can be interrupted - landlords view the worst case and react accordingly. A five year lease with a termination after three really is a three year commitment. 

Options to buy. Options benefit the occupant. Period. Terribly one sided and limiting - many owners simply refuse to consider them. You see, if the title holder grants an option to buy, he’s locked in. Sure. He can sell to someone else, but the new buyer must honor the option. It’s murky. Softer solutions exist. Rights of First Refusal or Rights of First Offer are examples. 
Special purpose tenant improvements. If you’re looking to a landlord to fund your freezer cooler space, add a clean room, or double the amount of private offices - expect some reluctance. Typically, dollars invested to modify a building are viewed for their reuse. An owner considers how valuable the adds will be to future residents and responds accordingly. 

No financing contingency. We sold a property earlier this year for the income it produced. Our buyer was a well-heeled investor with ready cash to deploy. He will not occupy the building but will own it and reap the returns. His offer did not require a loan - therefore his performance was not conditioned on a lender nod. However, most buyers who plan to house their business within the premises need some time to get funding. A seller unwilling to allow this contingency may force a buyer to look elsewhere. 
Closing extensions. A seller planning to re-invest the proceeds through a tax deferred exchange has strict timeframes to follow once the sale consummates - 45 days to identify within a 180 day completion. Therefore, we occasionally see extension requests. If closing is delayed, the clock remains at zero until the deal is done - thus giving the seller “free time” to find a replacement property. Buyers are in peril, however, as loan commitments or operational needs dictate their timing.  

Lengthy contingency periods. Sellers seek certainty of close. Extended uncertainty will kill most transactions. A great example occurs when a buyer contemplates a use change - like converting industrial to residential. Municipalities have something to say and they say things quite deliberately. It’s not uncommon for the rezoning - if needed - to eclipse 18 months. An awful lot can change in that period. Consequently, few sellers are willing to “tie up” their property on a maybe. 
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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