Monday, February 23, 2009

Tips For Investing in Commercial Real Estate

by Rachel Spohn

Investing in commercial real estate can be a daunting, and if done incorrectly, very expensive process. The good news is you don't need years of training to be successful at it. First-time buyers who take the time to do their homework find real estate investing to be financially and personally rewarding. This article gives newbies the practical advice they need before jumping in.

First, here are a few differences between residential and commercial real estate (CRE) investments that you should know before buying anything. Commercial properties

• are valued differently. CRE income is directly related to its usable square footage, which isn't always the case with residential properties.
• often see greater cash flow. On an initial investment basis, the yield is often higher per square foot than in residential. A leased or rented multi-unit commercial property generates more income than a single-family dwelling.
• have longer leases. A longer lease length helps stabilize cash flow.
• help diversify risk. What this means is if, for example, you own an apartment building and you lose one of your ten tenants, only one-tenth of the income for that property is lost. In a single-family house a lost tenant means the entire rent is lost.
• are valued differently by the bank; find one that works with commercial real estate, and know that it will want a higher down payment than with residential investments, usually 30 percent or more.

One important similarity to keep in mind between these two types of property investment is that commercial real estate does go into foreclosure. Banks apply the same methods here as in residential properties.

Now that you're a little more familiar with the ins and outs of commercial real estate, the next step is to do some research. The worst possible thing to do is to jump right into before getting all the facts. It is important to educate yourself as much as possible to keep from making a financial blunder. Read as many books on the subject as you can. Learn the market for your geographic area.

If you have a specific property in mind, find out everything you can about that as well. Find out what the vacancy rates were with the previous owners. Talk to current storefront managers and find out what they like--and don't like--about doing business there. Don't be afraid to get out there and find the answers to such key questions as, Are current store owners planning to renew their leases? How are they doing financially? Have they been behind on rent before? What did they like about former management? Is the site properly zoned? Are any residential properties being built in the area? Is the population's median income at least at the national average, and are people maintaining their income levels? Be sure to ask to see the sellers' cash flow statements, too.

And if you want to flip commercial properties, check out the Home Seller Assist program and their 3% funding program.

Armed with this information, you will be better able to make a financially sound decision on your investment. Commercial real estate is a challenging but potentially very lucrative field, you just have to play the game right and educate yourself as much as possible.

Bacchus Development ( offers some of the most sought after commercial real estate for sale in Orange County. Rachel Spohn is a freelance writer.

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