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Opportunities in the Market

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In the last Tenant Tactics we discussed some of the many opportunities afforded by today’s topsy-turvy economy as it related to leasing commercial real estate. Landlords are more aggressive in many ways. They openly discuss and accept creative extensions to leases or reconfiguration of spaces. In addition, many are renegotiating renewals much sooner than the typical three to six months prior to termination and offering aggressive rents or additional concessions along the way.

Last month I was privileged to be asked to sit on a panel at the monthly NAIOP meeting. NAIOP is the leading organization for developers, owners and related professionals in office, industrial and mixed-use real estate. I sat on the panel with Perry Schoenfeld of LBA and moderated by David Wensley of the law firm of Allen Matkins et al. While in some ways I felt like a hen in a fox house, representing the tenants’ perspective in a room filled with landlords, it was most interesting hearing about lease restructuring from the landlords’ side. Interestingly, much of the rhetoric paralleled the framework outlined in our last Tenant Tactics.

On the other hand, I did observe one interesting point.  There was a level of frustration on the part of some landlords that the tenants “asked for the moon and didn’t understand the process.” Should they be surprised? For the most part, most all lease discussions landlords have with tenants are through their broker who interfaces with the tenant’s broker. Restructuring is much different.

In the case of renewals, tenants often try to negotiate on their own believing “we’ve been a good tenant so the landlord will give us a good deal.” The landlord starts by offering their view of fair market value. Tenants will usually at least make a call to a broker or surf the NET just to get an idea of market conditions so they have a base from which to negotiate. Unfortunately it remains the professional with all the tools against the weekend player.

That scenario has changed dramatically in the past ten years in that most professional landlords prefer to have brokers represent the tenant during renegotiations in that:

  • Negotiations tend to go smoother
  • Tenants feel they are getting a better deal by being represented
  • Landlords find paying the broker fees saves as much as 16% on their cash flow considering should the tenant move out they would not only have to pay a fee to a new broker but also have to assume the cost of down time and additional tenant improvement costs 

However, today’s economy creates a unique situation where negotiations are based not solely on fair market value for which most brokers are equipped to provide market information but rather complex negotiations which significantly include a mix of the tenants’ business planning, multifarious lease restructuring issues AND fair market value.

While landlords have no issue dealing with tenants directly on renewals if the tenant is not represented, they find it frustrating when addressing today’s more complicated issues. It was not surprising at the reaction I got when I raised the point at the panel discussion that tenants are not real estate people and therefore certainly do not understand completely the finer points of real estate. I noted a 1993 survey I had helped develop for the UCI Graduate School of Business which clearly concluded that while real estate is the second largest line item on the budget, most all companies often shift their real estate management (other than actually located premises) to individuals within the company who are not involved in real estate on a day to day and continual basis. These individuals are often good negotiators in their personal sphere of influence so they therefore believe whole heartedly that the skills are transferable. The reality is that for the most part they manage the real estate process particularly when it comes to acquisition of real estate but their brokers primarily do the negotiations with the landlord.

Conversely, in the case of creative restructuring it gets a bit more intricate. On the tenant’s side there too often is little help that is available to them. The choice is, other than moving forward on their own would be to engage an attorney or possibly the broker who initially represented them in the transaction. Typically there is no commission on such transactions. Most brokers and landlords look at commissions as a onetime fee for completing an initial lease or renewal.  Brokers may likely turn down this type of assignment unless an additional fee is paid. Few brokers have our philosophy that commissions are in actuality a retainer for future services provided throughout the term and that service should be continual through the leasehold or engagement.

The best of both worlds is to engage a broker to address the real estate issues and a good attorney to review the legal portion. About half of the transactions we have completed in the past 8-10 months involved some sort of a restructure. Different times call for different approaches. If you are considering restructuring you need to engage outside advisors. You and the landlord will appreciate the process and the result will be a win-win for all parties.

Guest Post by our Orange County, Ca Member
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Lease Negotiations , Office Relocation , Office Space Negotiations , Orange County Office Space , Tenant Representation

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