The Under-Utilized Tenant Representative

NOTE: This post applies more to small and mid-sized businesses than for large enterprises with in-house real estate and facilities employees.

Since I transitioned into commercial real estate, I have served as a tenant representative for thirteen clients across eighteen active or completed transactions.  About one-third of these deals have come from existing corporate clients, while the others have come through referrals and various prospecting methods I employ.  Whether this number of projects sounds like a lot or a little, there’s one thing they all have in common – if given the opportunity, I could have provided so much more to these clients.

Except for a few particular brokerage firms that focus exclusively on tenant representation, like UGL Equis and Studley, most commercial brokerage houses have built up their tenant representation work out of their existing property management and leasing practices.  An Entrepreneur.com article from a few years back identifies roughly when the shift to begin focusing on tenant needs took place, stating that the process still does not suitably address the needs of the tenant – “most brokers… continue to focus on the specific goal of the property owner–the signing of the lease or purchase agreement.”  Using the term “out-tasking”, the article continues by stating that the right approach is to look at the business strategically and determine what processes, or tasks, can be delegated to an outside firm.

Unfortunately, smaller firms do not typically have the resources or know-how to determine which processes can be outsourced, or even what processes they may have to deal with in the future.  As a result, I feel that many firms, including those of several existing clients, still look on a commercial real estate broker as a space finder, neglecting to appreciate the vast resources we may have at our disposal to help them with more of their facility and real estate needs.  For instance, when was the last time you asked your tenant rep to perform a lease audit to ensure that you weren’t being overcharged for operating expenses (see Are you being served… more expenses than you deserve?)?  Or called on your tenant rep to help you evaluate your space plan to see if you might be able to improve space use and decrease your rentable area (see Calculating your office space needs)?  What about asking your broker to peruse your lease to see where key terms might impact future financial planning, relocation or expansion possibilities (see There’s gold in that contract)?

You may be wondering why I italicized “transactions” and “deals” in the first paragraph.  My goal was to emphasize that these client experiences were based on the old perception of broker as space finder.  At the end of the day, tenant representatives can do a lot more than help their clients simply find space.  We can help you identify your site requirements, ensure that you find the right space on your timeframe, assist you with navigating the build-out and furnishing process and more.  In the past several years, the industry has evolved significantly to better meet client needs.  Now, all you have to do is ask.

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2 Responses

  1. I think that Jacob has hit the nail on the head. Most companies don’t know much about Tenant Representation because companies, like CresaPartners, do not take listings. Because we don’t take listings you won’t see our signs on buildings or ads in the papers. We rely on relationships and “doing the right thing” for our clients. As a tenant representative at CresaPartners we think of ourselves not as Brokers but as Advisors. We help you align your real estate plans with your buisness plan by utilizing our fully integrated team. Jacob mentions that tenant representatives not only locate space, rather we also help you quantify your options and “right size” your space. Take a look around the market and ask yourself, “Who is on your side of the table.”

  2. Brandon,

    I’m glad to see you posting on here. I know that we tenant representatives have our work cut out for us, since we generally have to sell twice – once to demonstrate the value of tenant representation and then a second to actually win the client. “Tenant reps” at the big full service firms do not help us, since they often have conflicts of interest and sometimes only show their company’s listings to prospective tenants – I saw an example of this just a week ago, with a broker trying to “help” my exclusive client. Keep up the good work representing the users, who often don’t have the same real estate expertise as the landlord’s broker and can use the support of us tenant representatives to ensure that they find the right space and the right terms.

    Sincerely,
    Jacob
    Blogger and Tenant Representative

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