Category Archives: Real Estate Tips & Tricks

Potential Fix For Medical Space Shortage & Retail Vacancies in Southern California

There is a shortage of medical space and an increase in retail vacancies in southern California right now.  So, why don’t medical tenants lease space in retail centers as compared to an office or medical building that they traditionally lease space in?  Doesn’t this solve some of the problems for both types of spaces?

Some medical tenants such as optometrists, dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and a handful of others do lease space in retail centers.  Why do they lease space in a retail center?  Because they probably make more money when their businesses are in a quality retail center with good parking, signage, and retail visibility from shoppers at the retail center.  The main criteria for any business is usually the bottom line so, if being in a retail center increases your net income, wouldn’t you want to be there?  This is rule #1.

Sometimes the rent, improvements and other costs can be higher in a retail center, but not always. If you make enough additional income leasing at a retail center to offset this cost, then this objection isn’t a good one.  Another objection might be that medical providers get more referrals from other medical providers that lease in the same medical building.  This can also happen in a retail center if there are other medical providers there. They can still get referrals from outside the retail center from these medical providers that lease in the medical office buildings if they develop a relationship with them. It might not be the same, or potentially as many, referrals as the medical building scenario, but again, see rule #1 above. At which location are you making more net income?  The referrals might not be the same as in the medical building scenario, but there might actually be more referrals in a retail setting because of the other retail tenants now referring you and the amount of potential customers a retail center has. This is especially true in comparison to a traditional medical building scenario which is much more limited in potential new customers finding you.  Finally, it’s possible that some medical providers simply think their status will be somehow lowered by leasing space in a retail center and that a nice medical building is preferred by their patients.  This might be true for some patients, but I would doubt most of them would care. If they are like me, they want their trip to the doctor to be the least painful as possible. Not to mention that a good retail center is much more fun than a boring medical building any day.  I can see some types of medical users and their patients wanting it to be quieter than a retail setting, but again -doesn’t rule #1 above trump even that for most medical tenants?

Retail space in southern California is undergoing a change.  The smaller to medium sized retail centers in particular are starting to become more restaurant/food and service focused as opposed to other types of retail uses.  Customers at retail centers want to enjoy their experience and be able to do as much as they can at one location.  So, with the foregoing in mind, wouldn’t many medical tenants fit in with this new retail trend of a retail landlord leasing to service providers like doctors and providing a better experience for the retail customer?  I think so.

If you want to learn more about leasing, buying and/or selling any and all types of commercial spaces or if you have questions about any subject related to commercial real estate, please contact me at david@djmcre.com or 805-217-0791.

Round 2: What Tenants & Landlords Should Know About Operating Expenses/NNN

In my last article on operating expense and NNN pass throughs in a lease, we looked at how expensive and unreasonable it is to require a tenant to pay its share of an insurance policy with a large deductible such as with an earthquake policy.

This month, we look at another expense that is commonly passed through to tenants where landlords pad the numbers in their favor:  Property Management Fees.

Why should a tenant pay a landlord, or the landlord’s property manager, to manage their property as part of operating expenses?  And, even if a tenant does have to pay their share of this fee, shouldn’t the fee be based upon the amount of hours actually spent managing the property?

The short answers are that the tenant really should not have to pay a landlord to manage the landlord’s property.  This should be included in the rent.  But it is almost always added.  And the amount of the property management fee should be reasonable and bear a relationship to the hours actually spent working on the property.  Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t reflect that as most management fees are instead based on a % of the total revenue collected at the project.  This fee is usually much higher than it should be, especially compared to the actual hours spent managing the property.

What is a tenant to do?  How can a tenant get the landlord to be reasonable here?  That’s where I come in.  Having directed some very large landlord companies for over 25 years has given me great insight into how to help a tenant in this area.

This is just one of many examples of operating expenses/NNN a tenant is exposed to in most leases.  Most tenants, and even landlords, don’t really understand this particular issue until it happens and it’s too late.  Stay tuned for my next blog with more examples and even some savvy advice for landlords on my recommendation on how to negotiate the leases in this area.  I also have advice on how to calculate these expenses correctly so you don’t end up losing the tenant at renewal time and/or get into expensive litigation over this matter.

If you are a tenant or landlord and want to find out how to avoid pitfalls related to leasing, buying, or selling, please contact me.  I have in depth experience and knowledge in these areas including operating expense/NNN audits related to commercial properties.

What Every Tenant & Landlord Should Know About Operating Expense/NNN

So, you are a tenant that just signed an office, retail or industrial lease.  And, as part of that lease, you agreed to pay your share of operating expenses/NNN.  This may be a direct share or just increases over the base year when the lease term began.  This is normal and happens in most commercial leases.

However, what varies is what expenses each landlord includes in their operating expenses/NNN and how they calculate them.  If you don’t negotiate this part of the lease correctly, your financial exposure can be way more than all of the rent you pay over your entire lease term and could even potentially bankrupt you.

One such example has to do with insurance policy deductibles.  Most leases require you as the tenant to pay your share of such a deductible if there ever is a claim.  Sounds reasonable and normal, right?  But what if it’s for an earthquake policy where the deductible is 20% of the entire project value?  This is the normal deductible carried by landlords for this type of insurance policy.  This could cost you tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars because you have to pay your share of this expense.

Here’s an example.  Let’s suppose you lease just 5% of a building.  If the entire project is worth 10 million dollars then the deductible on most earthquake insurance policies will be 20% of that or, in this example, 2 million dollars.  Your share of this is 5% x $2,000,000 = $100,000.  How would you, as the tenant, like to have to pay this amount in a lump sum suddenly after an applicable insurance claim was made by the landlord?  Especially when your rent is only $5,000 per month to begin with?

This is just one of many examples of operating expenses/NNN a tenant is exposed to in most leases.  And most tenants and even landlords don’t really understand this particular issue until it happens and it’s too late.  Stay tuned for my next blog with more examples and even some savvy advice for landlords on my recommendation for how to negotiate the lease in this area and calculate these expenses correctly so you don’t end up losing the tenant at renewal time and/or get into expensive litigation over this matter.

If you are a tenant or landlord and want to find out how to avoid pitfalls related to leasing, buying, or selling, please contact me as I have in depth experience and knowledge in these areas including operating expense/NNN audits related to commercial properties.

Property Tax Increases Caused by a Sale: Should Commercial Tenants Have to Pay?

It’s pretty common for a commercial lease to require a tenant to pay for a property tax increase due to the sale of the property.  But is this fair?

What benefit does a tenant derive from the sale of the property?  None or minimal.  But the landlord/seller and the buyer benefit greatly at the tenant’s expense.

This property tax increase can be expensive and quite a surprise to a tenant who doesn’t understand this issue.  Example:  Suppose a 100,000 square foot office property was bought or even built over 20 years ago when market prices were low for about  20 million dollars and market prices are now high. This is very much like the current market is now.  The property could now be worth 2-4 times or more compared to when it was originally bought or built. Let’s figure on an increase of just 2 times so let’s say it’s worth 40 million now for our example.  This will cause the property taxes to go up in the same amount, so 2 times using our example.  Now the tenant has to pay their share of property taxes at this increased rate even though there is no real benefit to the tenant.

In California, the tax rate for increases is usually about 1.1% of the property value.  So, if the tenant has just 5% of the project which would equate to about 5,000 square feet and the property taxes increase as per our example above, you are going to pay the following amount now annually over and above what you were paying before:  $20,000,000 (value increase) x 1.1% (property tax rate) x 5% (your share of property tax increase) = about $11,000 per year for the remainder of your lease term.

This expense is usually quite a surprise to a tenant.  There are ways to negotiate this type of increase away but you usually have to have a very good broker to make that happen.

And this is just one example of where tenants aren’t aware of the true costs of leasing space as there are many more.  Don’t lease office space without a broker who can show you the true cost or you will be sorry.

Have more questions about: property tax or other operating expense/NNN increases, leasing, buying or selling of commercial real estate, and more?  Please feel free to get in touch!  You can contact me for help on these matters at 805-217-0791 or david@djmcre.com.

Best Way To Sell Commercial Properties

Right now is a great time to sell commercial real estate in general, but especially in Southern California where my primary market is.  Why?  Sale prices are at all-time highs, there is very limited supply inventory (so not much on the market for sale), and all kinds of buyers are looking to buy what little amount there is available for sale –driving up prices with multiple bids usually.

So, why should a seller hire a broker and pay him a commission when a seller can do it on their own?

  • Simply put, the seller will not be able to get the maximum price that a good broker can.   Many brokers have clients waiting in the wings to buy a property and these clients will pay top dollar if they are allowed to make the offer first.  Also, the price a broker is able to sell a property for more than pays for their commission.
  • Sellers don’t have the same marketing ability as a broker.  The world has become international and your reach has to be international.  The dollars are flowing into the US from other countries right now and international buyers are willing to pay more many times.  Brokers also know what is needed in terms of a marketing package to interest buyers. It’s complicated, expensive, and time consuming to put this package together properly.
  • The timing of when to put the property up for sale is critical.  When is the market peaking?  Is there a lot of competition on the market for sale now?  Good brokers will usually know what is for sale on the market as well as off market, but sellers won’t.
  • The repairs that you need to make to the property before you put it on the market are also important.  Some are worth making and some aren’t.  A good broker usually knows what to recommend.
  • What should the asking price of the property for sale be?  What if there are no comparable prices for the sales price because the sales price is higher and the property won’t appraise for the sales price?

There are many other factors in selling a commercial real estate property; but, in my opinion, it starts first and foremost with the right broker.  Doing it on your own is always a mistake.  If you don’t hire the right broker or if you do it yourself, it will cost you.  I have seen it many times.

 

 

Best Way to Find Commercial Properties to Buy in Southern California

Right now is a great time to sell commercial real estate in general, but it’s an especially great time for it in Southern California where my primary market is. Why? Sale prices are at all-time highs. This translates to a very limited supply of inventory –there is not much on the market for sale. All kinds of buyers are looking to buy what little amount of inventory there is available for sale and, as a result, they are usually driving up prices with multiple bids.

So how do you, the buyer, find anything to buy?

1. Don’t try and search on your own for a property to buy. You simply won’t be able to find all of the properties out there and especially the ones not listed for sale. Hire a commercial sales broker that is experienced and knowledgeable in the market you want to buy in. Don’t use a broker that also does residential sales or doesn’t specialize in the specific type of commercial building you are trying to buy (for instance, don’t use an apartment, office or industrial broker to buy a retail property). The sales commissions are paid by the seller, so you don’t get a discount by not using a broker. Therefore, it’s a no brainer to use a broker.

2. Some of the best deals on commercial properties are for those properties that aren’t yet on the market listed, but are still for sale. How do you find these as a buyer? The broker you pick has to do this for you. So, make sure you pick a good one that knows how to find the properties like these that aren’t currently listed but are either still for sale or properties that an owner would be willing to sell.

3. You have to get prequalified and make sure that you are set to go when you find the right property. This will also help you in your search to know exactly what you can and can’t afford and/or what you need to target your buying search for.

4. Your broker has to set up search parameters and alerts for the online sites like Loopnet and CoStar so that, if and when a property is listed for sale that meets your criteria, you know about it the same day it happens. I can’t tell you how many times my buyers have simply been able to complete a purchase because I was able to show them the property immediately when it became available and we got to it first and were prequalified already as per #3 above.

There are many other factors in finding a commercial real estate property to buy, but it starts first and foremost with the right broker. And doing it on your own is always a mistake. If you don’t hire the right broker or do it yourself, it will cost you. I have seen it many times.

Feel free to contact me for help on these matters at 805-217-0791 or david@djmcre.com

Commercial Leasing: Hidden Tenant Costs That Tenants Shouldn’t Pay

When leasing commercial real estate space of any type, there are many ways for landlords to hide extra costs from tenants that tenants are usually not aware of.

Two of the most common ways to hide such costs are related to the tenant’s share of operating expenses (or NNN or CAM) and measuring the building.  Retail tenants in particular have to be extra careful here as they have high exposure related to NNN expenses because they pay a direct share of NNN expenses and not just increases over a base year such as is common in office and many industrial leases.

If tenants aren’t careful to use a broker that understands the operating expense share, this cost to the tenant can be quite large during the lease term.  Many times this costs starts out low and then later on in the lease gets quite high.  It is best, in my opinion, to negotiate an overall annual cap and also have a list of expense exclusions that aren’t reasonable for a landlord to include as part of the tenant’s share.

An example of unreasonable tenant expenses would be for earthquake insurance.  Earthquake insurance usually has a deductible of 20% of the entire property value and is an expensive type of insurance to begin with.  It would be a shock for a tenant to receive a bill for their share of a deductible that reaches into the millions, but this is exactly what happens in the real world after an earthquake hits.  There are many more expenses like this that should not reasonably be part of the tenant’s share.  Some more common examples include: Common area ADA upgrades, capital expense replacements and renovations, insurance deductibles in excess of $20,000 for any particular policy, including new  expenses in future years that weren’t part of the original base year (for office leases) , and adding costs that aren’t really necessary like artwork, etc.

Measuring the building is another area where landlords can pad the numbers that will result in a higher rent to the tenant without a tenant even knowing it’s happening and  this happens most commonly in office buildings.

Landlords can and usually do include the tenant’s share of the common areas as part of the tenant’s rent.  This is called a common area load factor and increases the actual or usable square footage of the premises (and therefore the rent) leased by anywhere from 5-20% and sometimes more.  Some of the common areas are legit and some aren’t.

I recently found one industrial landlord adding 5% to their usable square footage numbers just because they had an exterior overhang on the building even though it was not enclosed space.  Another office landlord blended two methods of measuring a building and used the average overall load of the building for the first and second floors but the actual load of the building for the third floor because the load numbers were higher this way.  When I discovered each landlord doing these things they both reduced their numbers so my client was able to save rent in the percentage that the load was reduced.  This makes sense because a tenant pays rent on the usable square footage plus the common area load (called “rentable square feet).  So, if the load gets reduced –so does a tenant’s rent.

Do any of you have stories like this to tell of landlords padding their numbers?  Unsure of whether or not something you’ve experienced falls into this territory? Comment and share your stories below!

Are you concerned that you might be unaware of some of the same things happening to you?

Feel free to contact me for help on these matters at 805-217-0791 or david@djmcre.com

HOW LANDLORDS CHEAT TENANTS WHEN MEASURING THEIR LEASED SPACE

When was the last time you measured your leased space before signing or even renewing your lease to make sure that the square footage is correct?  You probably never have.  The landlord usually tells you what the square footage is and you accept it without taking this important step as obvious as it seems.  You should always measure the usable square footage of your leased space before you sign or renew your lease.  Measuring the common areas of a building is not usually practical though as it’s more expensive, complicated and time consuming to do this.

As a tenant leasing space, you usually pay on rentable square footage (RSF) but only actually use what is inside your space.  This inside space is called usable square footage (USF).  The RSF usually contains something called a load for the common areas.  This load is your share of the common areas such as restrooms, corridors, stairways, etc.  Most loads in office buildings are between 15-20% of the USF and if they exceed this number the building can start to become pretty inefficient.  Retail and industrial users should not have a load at all or a small one at best unless for some reason they have substantial common areas which aren’t the norm for these types of buildings.

I can’t tell you how many times I have found that the landlord has unreasonably padded the square footage number especially for the tenant’s share of the common areas.  Items like roof overhangs, penthouses, elevator shafts, etc. have been included.  Once I discover the padded numbers, I am able to get a reduction from the landlord on either the square footage and/or rent.  Buildings are valued on square footage so the more square footage the higher the rent and the higher the value of the building.  This means that the landlords usually want to maximize the square footage anytime they can.

BOMA 2010 is the current architectural standard for measuring buildings that landlords like to use but it contains optional items that can be added to the common areas like roof overhangs that many times should not reasonably be added.

It is not always easy to figure out how a landlord has cheated or creatively measured their building and your space.  Landlords usually hate to disclose this information.  But you should always push the landlord for full disclosure on this issue and require them to send you their measurement calculations.  Even then, you need to have someone with experience in this matter review this information to verify that it has been done correctly.

Hiring a broker with experience in measuring buildings can help.  It always pays to have your own broker represent you; especially one that is knowledgeable in this area and in other areas related to landlord profit centers that most brokers aren’t aware of or simply don’t have experience with like operating expense reconciliations and invoices.  Hiring the right broker and taking the time to figure out whether your square footage is correct or not will usually be worth it and you will save money.

Outsource your commercial real estate department for free – and save money, time, and headaches

Frustrated by how much time and energy it takes to lease or buy commercial real estate (office, medical, dental, retail, industrial, etc.), whether you have to open up multiple locations across the US or even just one?

What to look for in commercial real estate deals

Although you’re great at what you do relating to your business, you’re probably not an expert at all the aspects of commercial real estate that affect your bottom line: Continue reading

Commercial Leasing: Never do it on your own

You are a business owner with barely enough time in the day to run your company, much less worry about real estate. Someone on your staff reminds you that your lease will be expiring in a few months, so you start to think about what that will mean. Mostly, your current space works for you. You might need more or less space and the carpet and the paint might need replacing but it works. You are comfortable and moving is a hassle!

At the same time, you begin to notice all of the “Available Space” signs on your way to and from your office some in nice buildings. Continue reading