If you are looking for a home, the internet has become a game-changer. People have instant access to websites like Zillow, Trulia and Street Easy as your go-to places to rent, buy and sell properties.
Commercial real estate, and particularly finding office space is a little less straightforward. There is no uncomplicated method to finding the most relevant property listings online, much less trying to find a knowledgeable broker to assist you in the process.
If you’re in the market for office space, here are a few consumer websites that you might consider looking at. Some come more recommended than others.
Loopnet is currently the largest consumer-oriented commercial property database in the country. They have been around for a while, and cover virtually every major market in the U.S. They claim to have over 800,000 listings that are currently available, so there is a considerable amount of information here.
That is the good news, now here are some caveats…
The property listings on Loopnet are added not only by the individual member-brokers, but by owners and consumers as well. Brokers have an ethical obligation to get their facts straight, but they do sometimes make mistakes. On the other hand, owners and their representatives typically make lots of mistakes, and sometimes they are intentional. As a result, you will see a disclaimer at the bottom of every listing stating that Loopnet is not responsible for “any and all representations” of the properties listed. You should always be prepared to verify the information that you receive here.
Another downside with Loopnet is that viewing their listings is only “free” to a point. After viewing a few properties, they ask you to pay for access… and it can be very expensive.
Tons of ads for available office space exist on Craiglist within the markets it serves, but as I mentioned with Loopnet, determining the accuracy of some of the listings can be quite a chore. Some of the terminology used by the individuals who advertise in Craigslist can seem like it is in the Klingon language, and quality pictures of commercial space can be hard to come by. You may also enter the post to find it doesn’t even represent the advertised space.
If you choose to browse Craigslist to gather some preliminary insight on the market, I recommend that you should first trust the ads that are put up by licensed brokers.
Browsing properties on Commercial Search is currently free for consumers. And the sites database is populated with listings from its parent company Xceligent. For those of you who are not familiar with Xceligent, it is the Commercial Real Estate equivalent of the MLS for residential properties. Xceligent itself is only accessible by licensed broker/subscribers, and the information is verified before the listing goes online.
Commercial Search provides reliable property and contact information and the ability to download a property brochure if the listing broker has provided one.
A BROKER ACTING AS A TENANT REPRESENTATIVE
A tenant broker is a licensed professional who can help you find spaces matching your criteria, tour those spaces with you, and help you navigate all the way through the leasing process. It is an added bonus if the broker has a business background as well.
Here are a few ways a good tenant rep can save you time and money:
They know the market and what to expect in terms of price.
They often know the owner/landlord involved. Same goes for the landlord’s agent.
They can do all the legwork for you, from coordinating tours to getting floor plans to physically measuring spaces for you.
If they are your “Exclusive” Representative, they represent your interests first, not the landlords. Giving them the flexibility to negotiate savings and amenities on your behalf.
Their fee is (usually) paid by the landlord, meaning that the service comes at no cost to you.
TO SUM IT ALL UP
The process of finding suitable properties for your business can be a complicated mess. I once heard a good quote from a client that tired of trying to do it all himself…. “This process reminds me of the time I tried to drill a hole through my head.” I think he lifted the phrase from the movie Ghostbusters but it applies to the complexity of commercial real estate as well.
SO….WHO YOU GONNA CALL?