Commercial real estate brokers are typically at the pinnacle of the real estate world. Most are knowledgeable, professional and extremely skilled. They are also typically extremely busy and many speak a language that makes perfect sense to them but can be opaque to an industry outside. As you interview for your next CRE broker, here are five things to look for.
The Right Experience
Not every CRE broker with "30 years of real estate experience" is the same. Someone with 28 years as a developer and 2 years as a broker, or a person who spend 20 years in residential before trying his hand at lending for five years and then becoming a CRE broker isn't the same as a person with real brokerage experience. While more brokerage experience is almost always better to have than less, generally anyone with at least 10 to 15 years of experience can capably represent you on mid-sized transactions. If they have experience that is specific to your needs, that is even better.
While it might seem like the best CRE broker is the one that has all of the answers, a high degree of skills at asking the right questions is even more important. Brokers that ask good questions are able to assess your needs and find better solutions for you. They also learn more about their opponents in negotiations. Finally, when a broker takes the time to ask you questions, it also means that he values you and your business.
The best commercial real estate brokers are typically extremely busy. As such, it is unreasonable to expect that your CRE broker will answer the phone each and every time you call. However, your broker should get back to you within a reasonable amount of time -- typically on the same day unless you call in the late afternoon. He should also respond to emails and make himself available to you, understanding that he has multiple customers.
Asking good questions isn't enough. Your broker should also be a market expert, with answers to your questions right at hand. While it isn't reasonable to expect him to be knowledgeable about every property type in every market, he should have a keen understanding of his specialty and of the commercial real estate industry in general. Certifications like SIOR and CCIM point to a broker's experience and knowledge, as well.
An Extensive Personal Network
Finally, because commercial real estate is no longer a local business, your CRE broker should have an extensive national and, for many companies, global network. This allows him to give you a single point of contact but to let you access a broad range of people to bring local expertise to your transactions.
Some clients work with brokers at large national or global firms to tap into those firms' networks. However, because of the unique way that many commercial real estate firms are structured, those networks are typically weak and may not always include best-in-class practitioners. Instead, look for a CRE broker with his own extensive personal network, regardless of where he work. A connected broker taps into firm networks, industry associations, certification groups (like CCIM and SIOR) to find the best brokers in each market, rather than just the ones that carry the same business cards as him.
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