COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: What to expect from your commercial broker

Commercial real estate is a whole different animal than residential. It involves an innate sense of the marketplace, a personal relationship with the client and a knack for bringing the two together profitably. And to commercial real estate agents in northern Michigan, it means being able to juggle all types of services to meet customers’ needs.

“Traverse City is a small enough town that you have to be a general practitioner–you have to do it all,” said Michael Orden, associate broker at Real Estate One, commercial division. And, for most commercial real estate agents in the area, that means juggling transactional, investment, management and corporate services all at once.

One of the stumbling blocks for individuals trying to complete a commercial real estate deal is the complexity involved.

“It’s a lot more technical than residential real estate,” Orden noted. “There is financing, space needs, location, traffic patterns and building design to be considered. All aspects are much more laborious and fraught with places to fail. It takes me an average of six to 24 months to complete a deal and I’ve been through it many, many times.”

Most brokers will agree, though, that today’s clients are more informed than in the past. “They are much more sophisticated,” noted Bob Brick, broker-owner of Remax Bayshore properties in Traverse City. “They know a lot more details than ever before.”

But, he agreed that the complex nature of the business usually calls for a professional–especially when it comes to what Brick calls the “bundle of rights” purchased with any piece of real estate, such as mineral rights, easements and zoning. “Some properties are adaptable to anything, but others are more complicated. Zoning is different in every township,” noted Brick. “Plus, there can be environmental use issues, previous histories of the site and suitability of the property to meet your needs.”

Brick recommended looking for three things in a commercial real estate agent: experience, training and common sense. “You don’t wake up one morning and become a commercial real estate agent,” noted Brick, who has been in the business 28 years. “It takes training and experience hand-in-hand. And it takes that knowledge and common sense to look objectively for value in property.”

John W. Welsh, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors, also noted the importance of specific training in commercial real estate. He holds the designation of CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member), which signifies 200 hours of training and testing in commercial real estate transactions that–in Welsh’s case–meant a $22,000 investment.

“The CCIM program was added education in my understanding of what makes commercial real estate work,” Welsh said, noting that there are only three CCIMs in the Traverse City area. “Especially when I’m working with corporate clients, they listen to me. They know I understand the logic of the market.”

For Welsh, who’s been in the business 25 years, his top priority is working with customers to determine their needs objectively. And that means working through the emotional and financial sides of a transaction.

“Sometimes people are frustrated with an investment or just ready to retire and want the cash for a property,” he noted. BIZNEWS