Commercial real estate is the act of exchanging ownership of commercial property for money. From the beginning, however, I knew that real estate was about a lot more than just that.
As the founder of Matovesian Investment Group, my aim has always been sky-high. At the same time, I knew from the beginning that you can’t get anywhere with a firm foundation.
That’s why I did things the hard way — but the right way — by canvassing streets, getting to know landlords, and gradually ingratiating myself into the tightly knit Los Angeles commercial real estate community.
Along the way, I found plenty of peers to admire. I also came across certain contemporaries, however, who either crashed and burned spectacularly or somehow continue to manage churning out mediocre work to this day.
Consider this my (albeit early) memoirs regarding what it takes to be a commercial real estate agent in Los Angeles or anywhere else. More than that, the following is my testament to the one timeless principle that has contributed to my success more than anything else: Right place, right time.
What Makes A Good Commercial Real Estate Agent?
Sure, basic levels of intelligence and proficiency are required. If that’s all it took to be the right commercial real estate agent for your job, however, anyone would fit the bill.
No, being the right commercial real estate agent for the job isn’t just about getting good grades in college. If I had to distill it down, I’d say the qualities of a good commercial real estate agent can be broken into four key factors:
1. Experience In The Relevant Submarket
When it comes to commercial real estate, niche-specific experience is more important than overall selling prowess. You might be the best in the business at flipping beachfront condos in Miami. Only one problem — this is LA.
Even within the arena of Los Angeles commercial real estate, there are tons of different submarkets. In the end, personal connections are still what matters most in any business, and this is especially the case in commercial real estate.
With experience in your particular submarket, a commercial real estate agent can lean on a network of associates, delivering opportunities that less-connected agents would have missed.
2. Specializes In Your Asset Class
There are three main types of commercial real estate asset classes:
- Commercial property
- Industrial property
- Multi-family housing
Some agents handle all three types of commercial real estate transactions. Every good agent, however, leans more toward a particular specialty rather than trying to do it all equally well.
It’s just the way the life of a successful agent unfolds. You’re constantly surrounded by a network of associates, colleagues, and peers, and you naturally adapt to fit each other’s strengths, needs, and desires.
The end result is a niche that’s all your own. You can almost smell the comfort of a good niche wafting off any successful, contented agent — if only the perfect commercial real estate agent for your niche were just as easy to sniff out.
3. Optimize Your Exposure
What sells commercial real estate? Is it:
- Back-breaking labor?
- Sucking up?
Sometimes, it can be a mix of all three. All the same, there’s one cardinal factor that rules all others when it comes to selling doors: exposure.
Any qualified commercial real estate agent knows that exposure is more of an art than a science. Sure, you can pour endless cash into paid ads, but it might be an off-hand remark to a business acquaintance over lunch that gets a property sold in the end.
A good commercial real estate agent lives, breathes, and eats exposure. Their very life becomes an effort to get property in the hands of the right people, so chances to enhance exposure naturally arrive and blossom.
4. Has A Good Head On Their Shoulders
This should be a no-brainer. In my experience, however, commercial real estate agents are all too prone to making all-too-human mistakes.
It’s not like I’ve never made a mistake. But, I made most of them at the beginning of my career. These days, there’s not a prospect I don’t vet properly or an arcane financial document I haven’t mastered.
You can make it look like you’re an accomplished and capable commercial real estate agent even if you aren’t. In the end, this fourth quality is all about the feeling you get from your agent.
Hiring A Commercial Real Estate Agent
I remember looking through a list of commercial real estate agents when I was first getting started. I had preconceived thoughts about who was better than the other when in realty that never mattered. For starters, if you don’t know someone in the real estate game, you can still use the official California government list to find out if your agent has a sketchy record. Hopefully not!
In my opinion, these are the three most important questions you can ask a real estate agent you might work with:
1. Show Me Your Experience
Sure, you’re the best commercial real estate agent in LA. Tell me about your biggest sale.
Any commercial real estate agent worth their salt will immediately rattle off an interesting tale that’s short and to the point. You don’t necessarily have to schedule a formal portfolio viewing — just get a general feel of the situation.
2. How Confident Are You In Your Results?
I’m always confident before I take on a job. That’s because I only work with appropriate clients and I know what I’m doing.
Overconfidence and overpromising, however, are red flags. It’s fine to swagger, but you’d better have the clout to back it up.
3. What Makes You Different From Other Agents?
You don’t have to be the best. You don’t even have to be better. You just have to be different.
Maybe you specialize in startup studios in Chinatown. Or, you might sell entire floors of high-rises downtown.
All that matters is that your agent matches your needs. That, of course, and that they’re capable, honest, and diligently hard-working when they need to be.
Tips For Finding A Commercial Real Estate Broker
Finding the right commercial real estate broker might be a struggle. Or, the perfect agent could simply land in your lap one day.
Either way, you’ll need to observe some basic principles of conduct to ensure optimal results. I’ve found that three tips help clients connect with brokers at the highest rate of success:
1. Your Relationship is A Two-way Street
Just because you’ve found the perfect commercial real estate agent doesn’t necessarily mean the agent you’ve chosen feels the same way. There are just as many potential clients out there as there are brokers, so do the following four things if you want to start on the right foot and keep your relationship productively copacetic:
- Answer the phone when your agent calls you. Things seem to somehow work better that way.
- Commit. If you’ve found the right broker, prepare to settle into a long-term relationship. Brokers can’t stand wishy-washy clients.
- Be chill. This might seem like a weird request in the high-octane world of real-estate, but brokers want to work with clients they’d be friends with.
- Don’t flex. Brokers don’t care how much you’re worth. They want to know you’ll be a pleasure to work with.
2. Be Careful With Exclusive Representation
Are you new to commercial real estate? Then, don’t sign an exclusive representation agreement even if you love your agent right off the bat.
Getting locked into only working with one agent might work against you down the road — souring your relationship with your existing agent and precluding relationships with any others.
3. There’s No Time Like The Present
Lastly, don’t wait for that ideal broker to land in your lap. Take proper steps to manifest your ideal commercial real estate brokerage relationship today. And no, I don’t mean just setting your intentions and meditating about it.
The Bottom Line
Back when I first got started, I had no idea I’d get where I am today. Sure, I had dreams, but dreams alone didn’t carry me here.
Nope, it’s the relationships I’ve built over the years. Despite the world becoming increasingly digital, real estate remains firmly rooted in the real world of daily interpersonal interactions.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that our connections with each other are what determine the success or failure of any enterprise. Put the relationship first, and finding the right commercial real estate will be a walk in the park.