In a real estate market that is always changing, where do you find the best deals? With today’s digital connectivity and social influencer trends, it may seem that online is the place to begin. A quick search could lead to web listings or services which depict a few properties in your area.
However, in my experience, I’ve found that in the commercial real estate world, many options are not readily in the public eye. In addition, finding a great investment property typically involves several viewings (or more!). If you only tour one place, you won’t have others that can be used for comparison. Seeing only a limited number of properties could lead to risks such as overpaying or missing details in a building which set it apart from the competition.
When new investors ask me for advice on sourcing deals, I always share that it truly is a numbers game. In my experience as an investor, I’ve sometimes looked at dozens—or even hundreds—of opportunities before buying one. Following this process means you need to have a great pipeline in place. If you have a system, you’ll be able to monitor deals over time and spot the gems. Let’s break down this approach into steps you can follow as you build your own real estate portfolio.
Step 1: Establish a pipeline tracker
You’ll want a place where you can store information about properties. You might start this in Excel or another database system. For each possibility, include the address of the place, a link to the property, contact information for the listing broker or owner, and the deal metrics. Add in details that allow you to quickly analyze and decide if a property is within your range.
Step 2: Check publicly available options
Look for online listing sites—you’ll find places like Co-Star, LoopNet, and many others that typically post what brokers send them. Keep in mind that what you view are the opportunities brokers decide to publicly share with the masses. The best deals might not be readily available to wide audiences—and you won’t be able to catch a glimpse of the opportunities that are off market on these sites.
You can also search broker websites; start by identifying who the most active investment sales brokers are in your area. In some secondary and tertiary markets, you may find that brokers act as generalists. For instance, a sales broker might also offer services as a leasing broker. Add whatever you find in these places to your pipeline tracker.
Step 3: Build relationships with brokers
After you find the names of the active brokers in your area, call them up. Ask to meet and get to know them, and share any information with them that could be helpful. As you build a relationship, they may tell you what they have in their own pipeline (keep in mind that forming these connections could take time, especially if you are a new investor, but they are worthwhile in the long-term!)
Step 4: Canvas the area
There’s really no substitute for getting out and walking around a neighborhood or driving through a sector you are considering. I recently carried out an online search for retail properties in Connecticut, and only found a couple that were publicly listed. When I drove through the area, I discovered multiple retail properties with “for sale” signs in front of them. I also spotted some interesting places with potential that were offered for lease and had vacancies. All of these could be entered into my pipeline as potential targets.
Step 5: Identify vacant or mismanaged properties
Here’s another time when you’ll want to do some research and then make a call. If you see a property that’s sitting and seems inactive, find out why. Check data providers like Reonomy to get information about the property and owner. Then reach out to the owner and ask if they have plans for the place.
Once you’ve carried out these initial steps, you’ll have the beginnings of a pipeline you can use as a resource. Remember that the most important part of finding a great deal lies in the follow through. Sometimes the best opportunities are those that have been sitting on the market—or off the market!—for months. If you circle back to them, you may discover that the seller’s motivation has changed (especially in this market). They might lower their price or be willing to change their terms. You could then move forward and acquire an incredible property. Over time, the pipeline can become an invaluable tool to help you build your portfolio and realize your investing goals.