Renewal or New Lease? Don’t Go Naked.

How long would a snail survive without its shell; a porcupine without its quills; a skunk without its spray? As a commercial real estate broker representing occupiers in their commercial real estate dealings, I strongly encourage retaining a broker when dealing with a renewal or new lease.

Certainly, you are capable of finding space; there are numerous data providers like Costar and Loopnet. An exceptional broker is your interpreter and guide. An exceptional broker knows which landlords are well capitalized and which landlords are not. An exceptional broker orchestrates your transaction in such a way that you will be assured that you are making the best deal possible, and that you will experience minimal downtime in your business. An exceptional broker anticipates issues and navigates you through the deal process. An exceptional broker knows what a good deal is (if you are unrepresented, you may not know a good deal when you see it, and negotiate too hard, or more likely, you will leave money on the table or forget to address critical lease language issues).

Most important, an exceptional Broker represents you, not the landlord.

Tenant Rep Broker, Generalist or Dual Agent? A broker that represents buildings, represents landlords. There is a different mindset when you represent the Landlord. There is one goal: get the space leased up! In addition, and probably most important, the Landlord’s broker has a fiduciary obligation to the Landlord.

But lets be realistic. In small markets, most brokers cannot make a living just representing users. They are Generalists. They represent buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants. A Generalist has a broad perspective that can come in handy.

Effective January 1, 2015 (SB 1171) new legislation requires brokers and agents to provide extensive disclosures in leasing transactions as to who they represent. The law went so far as to suggest that there is a conflict even when your agent’s firm represents a building (even though your agent is not associated with the building.) Practically speaking if you are looking to pick an agent and you are concerned about a conflict of interest (dual agency) see what properties the agent represents. Frankly, you can ask the agent to disclose what properties they represent. If they don’t represent any buildings you would consider, then I would say that you will be in good hands, so long as the agent is experienced and has the expertise to get the job done.

Brokers that represent only Tenants (Tenant Reps) are very effective and supposedly have no conflicts. Even if an agent (or their firm) represents no buildings, they can still have a conflict. For example, what if the Tenant Rep represents a tenant looking for similar space in the area you are looking? That certainly would be a conflict, particularly in a tight market with limited options.

What if you don’t want to move, you just want to renew your lease? Should you still retain an agent to represent you? Of course! The agent will create a competitive environment that you cannot create on your own. I just finished up a negotiation where the tenant acknowledged there is no way they would have gotten as good a deal on their own, and this is a client that negotiated their previous renewal on their own.

If the Landlord’s agent is doing their job, when the time is right, the agent will approach you about renewing your lease. You may have developed a good relationship with this agent, but the simple fact remains, they represent the landlord. So when the Landlord or its agent approaches you regarding a renewal, let them know you have an agent or you plan on retaining one. In most renewal negotiations, the landlord will happily pay your agent’s fee, in fact it is usually in landlord’s budget. When a landlord pays a commission, that means they finalized a renewal, and the tenant is staying. A commission is always less costly than filling up a vacancy.

There is conflict inherent in the business everywhere. As a broker, the critical tenet is to do the right thing, treat people fairly and look out for the interests of the party you represent. As the Occupier, when hiring an agent, look into the potential conflicts and hire an experienced – and exceptional – agent where the likelihood of conflict is minimized.

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