First, simply put your nose to the ground. This is free, and often takes you far! Start getting a feel for the pulse of your target area as it pertains to commercial real estate. Subscribe to the local MLS listings (which will provide data properties for sale) and follow all local realtor pages on social media (or just put them in your web surfing favorites if you are somewhat diligent about your online activity). If you have trusted realtors in your immediate acquaintances, residential or otherwise, let them know what you are looking for so they can bring new listings to your attention quickly.
As you look through properties, you will begin to notice some patterns about your reactions to properties in relation to specific location. The goal should be to get to a point where you can draw a circle around a geographic area where you could “live.” (Most of the time, this won’t be an actual “circle”.) While you are entering this phase, also begin to note property specifics that are essential to you. For example, in a high-density urban downtown area it may not be essential that you have your own building, or that you even own it! Long – term lease in a rural community does not make as much sense (more on this dilemma later). When you’ve got this pinned down, and it’s time to get serious and hire the best commercial realtor around. Try to be objective – if you have a member who’s a great commercial realtor, go for it. But saving on fees is not worth losing the right piece of property.
The next step is to understand that your role is to evaluate the properties brought to you by your realtor. Of course, look for properties yourself, but if your realtor is good, they should see most new properties before you do. Give your realtor a checklist of information you need in order to evaluate properties.
These properties are going to be harder to evaluate than, say, looking for a house. There are so many things to consider, and having the realtor complete the checklist beforehand lets you know at a glance how feasible the property is in very general terms. Otherwise, you will spend your time chasing down loose ends. Credible realtors have an excellent skill set for answering these questions. So, email this checklist to the realtor, and let them know that for each property you look at, you will need answers or direction before you will be able to pursue anything further!
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