Commercial Real Estate Essentials

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As investors, we’re always looking for ways to increase the value of our properties. Most of us are familiar with the more conventional ways of doing so: decreasing expenses and increasing income. What if I told you it was possible to increase income without raising rents or decreasing expenses? Let’s explore a few ways that is possible.

Increasing Value with Vending Machines

If you own a fairly large complex, it would make sense to install a vending machine. Assuming you’re an expert of your market, you could effectively target your tenants by placing products you know your tenants would want in the machine. The best place to put your vending machine is in an area that generates a solid flow of tenants; the laundry room or near the pool (if you have one and your property is located in warmer markets) are two good choices. Even modest vending revenues increase the property’s value significantly. Assuming the property is in a 6% Cap rate area with yearly vending revenues of $720, you would have increased the property value by $12,000! Not too shabby given our modest revenue assumptions.

Tapping rarer, but more lucrative, value potential

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As real estate investors, we know that the value of commercial buildings is determined by dividing its Net Operating Income (NOI) by its Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate). By definition, Value = NOI / Cap Rate. In other words, the property’s value is greatly magnified by relatively small increases in Net Operating Income. To illustrate, for a given Cap Rate (say 6%), every extra dollar in NOI increases the property’s value by $16.67 (=$1.00/0.006). In low Cap Rate areas like San Diego, that means there’s a huge opportunity to increase your building’s value dramatically!

Factors Affecting NOI

There are a number of obvious things one may do to positively affect the NOI of a property: raise rents, cure vacancy, decrease expenses. Well, what do you do if your building is 100% occupied at above market rents, and the property is so efficiently managed that you can’t think of a way to decrease expenses? Should you accept the status quo and simply keep up the good work? You could, but where’s the fun in that? You would be overlooking the unlimited number of ways to optimize not only your property’s NOI, but your returns as well.

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commercial-loan-modificationAs the residential real estate market has seen a massive level of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures over the past twelve months the commercial real estate market so far has not seen the same kind of fallout. However, this could soon change. In fact, Apartment Finance Today dedicated an entire section of their industry magazine in July to what they title “The Gathering Storm” in commercial real estate.

There are quite a few factors that have contributed to the coming problems in commercial real estate and one of the main issues is the fact that many commercial real estate properties were purchased with loans that were backed by commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS). These CMBS were underwritten with extremely aggressive terms, often offering as much as 90% financing with loan terms that only stretched for five years. Now, according to Apartment Finance Today, apartment building values have dropped as much as 30% and those loans are beginning to become due. “As apartment values continue to descend, the LTV ratio of existing debt gets skewed. A loan that was made at 75 percent LTV two years ago may now be at 85 percent LTV or higher,” said says Don King, head of national agency lending at Needham, Mass.-based CWCapital.

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real estate riskInvesting in real estate is just that—INVESTING. Risk comes with the territory. The key to successful real estate investing lies in the analysis and due diligence of a potential income property. When done prudently and methodically, the investor’s risk is not only greatly mitigated, but he or she should have clear line of sight as to the property’s return potential. Sounds relatively straightforward, right? Well, this task becomes much harder when the seller tries to make a monetary gain by feeding on the inexperienced investor’s lack of knowledge or inadequate due diligence. Luckily, we’re all savvy investors at BiggerPockets.com and we know how to spot these seller exaggerations and fallacies. Let’s examine some of the common ones.

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Executive summaries are one of the most important aspects of commercial loan package submission, however, many new investors spend the least time and energy on this essential component.  I recently had the opportunity to interview Lori McMahon of LJ Commercial Property Services.  She creates and submits executive summaries as her profession and is considered to be an expert in the field.  Below is a list of questions and answers exchanged by a new commercial real estate investor and Lori.

Commercial Executive Summary Q & A

1. Q: At what point do you begin putting together the Executive Summary? Before/during/after contract has been submitted?

Lori: It’s different every time. Before is fine as long we put that in as the status on the Funding Opportunity Page. Many of clients have wanted to find out if they could get any interest prior to signing the Contract to Purchase. Anytime is good as long as it is directly after you sign the contract because you must understand that in these times, it is taking anywhere from 45 to 90 days for funding…

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