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Subject:  Re: Location, Location, Location? Date:  5/21/2002  12:20 PM
Author:  feedmehuman Number:  5837 of 15018

Do you just go to a realtor's office, or is there some 'super secret' way to do so?

There *is* a secret, and I'll tell you for a fee.

Barring that... I learned a couple of years ago that, unlike residential realty, commercial realty isn't on one big database that a single realtor can access. At least not in the Southwest.

What I did was to drive around and examine locations, and write down phone numbers. Figure out how much square footage you need, and compare that to the sizes of the locations you check out. You might want to bring a tape measure along.

You can find a commercial realtor to represent you. He/she will be paid a fee by the owner of the property you end up renting (in a separate agreement), most likely. I called a residential realtor friend of mine and asked him to recommend someone for me. She knew the ins/outs of negotiating with landlords and was quite helpful.

My top choice looked pretty good, and we got into negotitations. A (40-page) lease ended up on the table, but when I started asking questions, the property owner started getting flakey and not returning calls. Every time I asked a question, he'd add another demand. Finally, he changed his mind and decided he didn't want to do business.

I was stunned, but got off my butt that weekend and drove around and reviewed the other properties on my list. My realtor was out of town for a few days, so I made some calls on my own. I found two very similar properties a mile up the road that were on opposite sides of the same intersection. I basically pitted them against each other to compete for my business. They fell over themselves undercutting each other, and I had a new property with a signed lease (12 pages) in two weeks.

That first-choice property with the flakey landlord is still unrented a year later.

Things to keep in mind: ask the landlord to warrant the HVAC system for a year after you move in. Remember that in addition to rent, you may be paying common-area fees (groundskeeping/insurance/maint.) that are shared by all tenants. Unless you put a cap on these fees in the lease, they can skyrocket without warning. Landlords seem loathe to limit these fees, and it took awhile before mine agreed in negotiations to limit the yearly increase on those fees to 5% per year. Of course, they didn't incorporate that agreement into the lease when it was drawn up, and I didn't spot it until after I signed it. Watch out for that. No problems with fees yet, touch wood.

Mine was a new property, which had some bugs to work out. Of course, your lease will specify that you accept it "as is" so if there are problems that existed before you moved in, they are now yours. Mine ended up missing a fire alarm. I discussed it with my property manager without throwing a tantrum, and they installed it for me at no charge.

I figured my business (music lessons) would get most of its business from school teacher recommendations and the yellow pages. But the recommendations are slow, and the walk-ins by people who happen to drive by are much more numerous than I expected. Don't skimp on the neon signage! A company logo that looks good on a business card isn't necessarily so great on a lighted sign. Keep it simple.

Probably more info than you wanted, but I hope it helps.
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