The other day I was at a networking event, and met a young lady starting a new business. Like many pursuing the American dream, she was full of passion and energy. I thought her concept and business plan were great. I started asking questions about her business, and about 15 minutes of conversation she stopped me. She said “You’ve asked me more questions, and offered more advice on my business than the broker I used to find the space for me!”
I’d like to say I was surprised. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many agents don’t seem to take the time to understand their clients’ business needs and wants. Perhaps they are too inexperienced to ask the right questions? After all, if you were to hire an employee, you would interview them before offering them a job wouldn’t you?
So what is a client to do? Well, I suggest you “interview” the broker. Ask the agent questions before hiring them.
What are good things to ask an agent? More importantly, what questions should you get answered during the interview process with a broker? Start off with the basics. Get a sense for what an agent can offer you. Ask questions, such as:
- How long have they been in the business? Although all agents must be licensed, this is really only the beginning of their training. There is no replacement for experience. To this day, after 30 years in this business, I still learn something new almost every week.
- Most commercial real estate agents try to specialize in on particular asset class, whether office, retail, multifamily or industrial. There are some agents who can, and do work different asset classes. This is very difficult to do. Typically agents specialize in an area, and have been in the business for many years.
- Similar Needs
- Do they know the special needs your business requires? Whether in the form of build-outs and lease structure for tenant representatives; investment strategies for investors; or attracting the right tenants and/or tenant mix for landlord representation.
- Working Relationship
- Will you be working directly with them, or an assistant? Too often a client interviews an agent, decides to work with them, and finds out the agent is “to busy.” Somehow they’ve been assigned an assistant to show them properties, or even to analyze a property for them. Sometimes what you see, is not what you get.
- Marketing Plan
- Everyone is different. Every property is different. A good agent should also give some thought into how to approach your marketing needs. How will they strategize to help you achieve your goals?
You’ve asked the questions now, but more importantly, how does the agent respond. What questions do they ask of you? They should be asking not only about your business, but also qualifying you to determine the viability of consummating a transaction. You don’t want to work with an agent who is so hungry for a deal, they take any business.
You want to work with an agent who believes in your business plan. Who understands it. A broker who will look out for your best interests, and fight to get you the best deal. A bonus is, they may also have ideas for your business which you may not have considered. This is the value of a good agent.
Remember, to help ensure the success of a transaction, don’t look for any agent to help you out. Interview them, and be prepared to be interviewed back.