Finding the right fit

Whether you’re paying rent or collecting it, you need a commercial real estate agent who is tailored to your particular needs. Chris Wright, a Senior Vice President with Grubb & Ellis Co., has advice for tenants and landlords looking for the right fit. Business owners and building owners can both benefit from choosing a team of agents instead of an individual.

“You are setting yourself up for failure if you choose just a single person,” Wright says. “You get more coverage and more ideas whenever you have more than one person representing you. That can be in the form of a duo, or simply knowing you have the strength of a strong brokerage company behind your representative.”

Smart Business spoke with Wright about how to choose the right agent for your needs.

What should you look for in an agent?

Do the homework on the agency you’re working with, but word of mouth is always the best. Find not only an individual but a brokerage company that has a great reputation. I really think it can be that simple. Don’t pick someone based solely on their time in the business. If you are a smaller business owner, with a 2,000-square-foot need, it’s not a bad idea to add a member to your real estate team that is early in the business to help find the best solution for you. They can add a great dynamic to your agency team and your search results. They’re hungry; they’re going to go out there and fight to get you the best deal possible. Teaming a young professional with a real estate veteran can really increase your level of service, if you do your homework on the team that will be representing your needs.

How should you decide what type of agent is right for your particular needs?

In commercial real estate, we have different product types in which agents tend to specialize. Product types typically narrow to: office, industrial and retail. Find someone who is an expert in your product type. For example, industrial agents approach a lease very differently than office or retail agents. Finding someone to provide you with a level of expertise on your particular product type can save you money on your rent almost immediately. Secondly, find someone who is up to date on the ownership entities you will be dealing with as a tenant. In today’s economy, it is becoming more and more important for tenants to do their homework on their future landlord prior to signing any lease. Landlords are increasingly struggling to meet the financial needs of the buildings they own. There is no particular landlord type that is immune. Landlords both large and small are having to work harder in today’s market to stay on top of their financial situation. Finding an agent that knows the ownerships and understands the ways to protect you in landlord default situations can be crucial.

What can happen if you pick the wrong type of agent?

You may not get the best deal possible, you may not find the best space possible or you may pay too much for what you get. You may also expose yourself to potential risks in the way the lease is written. Having somebody watching out for you will help make sure that you’re not exposing yourself to future problems when you need to relocate or your lease expires or you’re coming up on your expiration. There are a lot of nuances with leases; having somebody who is the right individual with the right skill set will make sure that you are well-protected and that your interests are addressed thoroughly.

How do you build a strong relationship with your commercial real estate agent?

Communication is the number one thing. As long as you are communicating and you are asking questions (and the broker is doing the same), you should be in great shape. If communication does break down, make sure that you have the ability to negotiate an amicable split in the contract you have with your broker or whoever is representing you.

What are the keys to getting the most out of your real estate agent?

Again, communication is the key. That is the most important thing in the relationship; that’s how you get the most out of your real estate agent. Also, challenge your agent. The good agents won’t need to be challenged, but there is nothing wrong with asking challenging questions and expecting that your agent is going to exceed your expectations, and challenging them to do so.

CHRIS WRIGHT is a Senior Vice President with Grubb & Ellis Co. Reach him at [email protected] or (972) 450-3291.