Sunday, August 28, 2011

Networking With Economic Development Offices Pays Dividends -- For EVERYONE

We all have projects of every imaginable size going. For me, current assignments include a net lease buyer looking for properties over $3 million, an investment group aggressively acquiring luxury homes over $1 million, recreational property/timberland that just went into contract, and so on. All of us in this business usually have a widely varied and eclectic group of buyers and sellers with whom we work.

Some are savvy. Others are not. And most commercial/investment real estate practioners know what assistance they want, vs. what kind of research the investor or institutional organization is willing to do on his or her, or its own. While practioners clearly know to coordinate with local economic development offices, do potential buyers or tenants always realize the same opportunity is available to them?

True, institutional buyers, utilities and other large employers will often start with county or municipal economic development officials to determine the quality of life, economic health, etc. of an area, and secondarily to determine what areas might be ripe for acquisition or development.

But individual investors have the same access as a multinational corporation. Now, first off if an investor is working with a seasoned commercial/investment real estate agent, the agent is going to know where to look. But often individuals or small companies going the solo route will just drive major thoroughfares to see what is out there, scan the newspapers, or if they have some initiative access some of the online commercial real estate tools that go beyond

This is the story of one of those instances. Another property I have is a family trust that owns Class C retail strips. I handle leasing leasing for the second generation of the family. I started work for their dad many years ago. In the beginning, it was just helping him dispose of assets as he grew older and experienced some ill health. The relationship grew. When he passed, I worked for his widow. When she passed, the adult children stepped up and I continue to handle real estate duties of all kinds for them.

It was on this family's behalf yesterday when I met two people who, among their first steps, was to contact their county economic development office to get ideas on commercial space, what tax abatements might be available, and to see if the staffers knew what properties might be for sale. Something I thought was quite out of the ordinary. Specifically, I received an email last week from just such an official with whom I had made contact several weeks ago about a building I have for sale in a bedroom community west of Columbus. Just a small commercial building, owned by one of my largest clients. He is re-deploying equity to newer assets closer to the family trust's home base, which is Columbus, and disposing of two assets -- one out of county, another out of state.

(Plus, the drive out of the city gave me an opportunity to spend some time in a community where an elderly uncle, my mom's "little brother," resides. His health is not the best and any chance to visit is a gift.)

I met the potential buyers yesterday and we had a great conversation. They have indicated they will be making a follow up appointment in order to bring in a contractor to review the building's needs for their specific purpose. They are serious and there may be an offer shortly thereafter.

There's also something else I haven't revealed yet. I only listed the property a couple weeks ago. There weren't even any signs up yet in a tight-knit community, the county seat, where signage is everything. My point is this: There are many places for investors to seek property. Often going online to search, while convenient, isn't the most enlightening solution. True, had the buyers gone online, they would have found my listing. But by going to the local chamber of commerce, they learned not only what was available but quite a bit more information I had shared with the economic development officers. Information that, while public and something I am glad to share, was not reflected in the offering listing details.

In my experience, it is rare for a local investor who isn't using an agent to go this route. Kudos to these potential buyers for thinking outside the box!

I have ALWAYS coordinated with county economic development poo-bahs. And that's no matter whether I am representing buyers or sellers. It only makes sense that individuals do the same thing -- if they think about it.

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