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What to Look For in a Commercial Real Estate Agent

Posted: June 26, 2017 by Anna Jotham

When buying, selling or leasing commercial real estate, you have a lot on the line. Oftentimes, the decisions you reach will make or break your business, so it’s critical to have a solid commercial real estate agent on your side.

But what makes for a solid commercial real estate agent? A lot of it comes down to personality and character as well as skill and experience. Most vetting today begins with a recommendation from a friend or colleague. Whatever way you find the agent you’ll still need to assess them for yourself. The best ways to do that are (1) go online to check out the agent and read their reviews, (2) interview the agent, and (3) ask for and check a few references. 

Throughout the process, here’s what you should watch for:

Personality and Character
  • Successful commercial real estate agents are naturally curious. They’ll want to understand your business and your objectives, especially with regard to your property, so look for someone who will ask a lot of good questions—and will listen well to the answers. While doing so, pay attention to their communication skills. In addition to asking questions and really listening, do they explain things in a way that demonstrates their knowledge in a way you can easily understand?
  • You’ll also want someone who is disciplined and will follow through. A good gauge for this is to ask the prospective agent to provide references following the meeting; then pay attention to how timely they are with providing references along with anything else promised during your initial meeting. This will also give clues regarding their organizational skills. 
  • Finally, you need someone who is easily accessible—that is someone who will return your call, text or email in a reasonable time frame. You can put that in the column of questions to ask references.

Skills and Experience
When it comes to skills and experience, you’ll want to go with someone who has a solid real estate firm behind them—both in brand and reputation. These people tend to be those with the most marketing resources plus several professional colleagues who can aid in your search for a buyer or tenant.

At the same time, you’ll want to find someone with a solid, personalized marketing plan designed specifically for the commercial market. Today, marketing a commercial property means more than sticking a sign out front and listing your property on a multiple listing service. A progressive marketer will be one who has a cache of digital tools to match the way people looking for property shop today. 

Keep in mind you’ll not only want someone who can do a great marketing job, but also someone who will directly solicit potential buyers and sellers they know from their network. That task alone calls for someone who knows the area. That’s important because people who know the area well will also understand the local market and upcoming or existing opportunities that may not be widely known to others.

It goes without saying that you’ll need someone with experience and a solid performance record. This will indicate someone with strong negotiation skills who can get the job done. It’s especially helpful to ask what experience they have with properties like yours or the one you’re looking for. 

When considering experience, a commercial real estate agent will also know about the financial side of the transaction, aiding you not only in establishing a fair price but also in ways to structure lending, including an understanding of how properties may depreciate or 1031 exchanges.

Questions To Ask
So how can you gather all that information efficiently? Most of it comes down to the interview and the references. Following are questions to include to help you gauge whether the agent meets your criteria.
For the agent:
  • How long have you been working in commercial real estate?
  • How long have you been in this area?
  • What are some other properties like mine that you’ve handled?
  • What challenges did you encounter on those properties?
  • How would you market my property?
  • Do you have any advice or insight for me on financing?
  • Will you please provide me three client references and perhaps the escrow agent you usually use?
For the references:
  • What are the agent’s strengths?
  • What are the agent’s weaknesses?
  • Did you feel that they really listened to you?
  • Were they easy to reach?
  • How was their follow-through?
  • Did you enjoy working with them?
  • Most importantly, would you use them again?

Because there’s so much at stake when dealing with commercial property, you’ll find it’s worth the extra time to thoroughly vet your agent. The good news is once you find the commercial real estate agent that’s right for you, you won’t need to search any further on future properties.

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