Thursday, April 14, 2011

More than ever, owners should expect more from their leasing agents

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article that appeared in the "Spotlight on Retail Experts" section of the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal. Here's what I wrote:

More than ever, owners should expect more from their leasing agents

It’s nice to reminisce about the good ‘ol days when an agent could put up a sign and wait for the calls to pour in. But as most leasing agents know, it’s been a few years since that’s actually been the case.

That’s right, “most” leasing agents. Is it possible that some retail real estate professionals still haven’t learned to “work” a listing? Unfortunately, yes.

Having been through a recession that saw property values and vacancies go in the wrong direction, the most astute owners are requiring their leasing agents to do everything they can to get the best deal as quickly as possible. In addition to waiting for their signs to generate calls, the best agents provide the following:

Complete Market Analysis – This analysis outlines all the details of the space for lease, plus the competing spaces and their lease terms, and a list of tenants and tenant categories that are in similar sites.

Marketing materials and templates – Producing a marketing brochure that gets put on a company website and on LoopNet and CoStar isn’t enough. Templates for postcard mailings, email blasts, display booths at conferences, etc. should also be developed, as well as a marketing plan.

A sincere interest in the entire property, not just the vacant space – Agents can be more effective leasing vacant space when they have taken the time to study and understand the property’s retail mix, the entire rent roll and the landlord’s long-term goals. After all, it’s the responsibility of the agents involved to work in the best interest of the owner.

A commitment to working the phones – None of us are too big to make cold calls. It’s part of the job, and truly an effective way to develop industry relationships. Send that email blast, but
then pick the 20 candidates that represent the best fit for the space and call them. Then in a few weeks, call them again.

A set of eyes – In recent years, Google Earth and Bing Maps have become an agent’s best friend, and for good reason. However, nothing beats “kicking the dirt” on a regular basis. And nothing tells a landlord you’re on top of the listing more than periodic updates about his/her property and the market in general. Besides, personal visits allow an agent to develop a list of local tenants that may be interested in moving.

The benefit of third party products and services – There are many affordable tools that can assist agents in identifying tenants. For instance, web-based programs are available that offer agents the ability to search for retailers based on factors such as facility type, square footage, retail category, and more. In addition, these programs allow agents to export data, generate mailing and email lists, and create presentations.

Tracking sheets that are available 24/7 – Leasing agents have a duty to keep their clients up-to-date about their activities and progress, and tracking sheets typically do the trick. They are simple spreadsheets that list each potential tenant and every contact the listing agents have had with them. Furthermore, free online services are readily available that allow people to share secure files in real time, thereby providing landlords with the ability to check on an agents progress at their convenience.

A team – Typically an agent has sold an owner on the merits of his/her team, but the owner should know up front whether that same agent will be the one to run lead on the project. Owners should also know about the team’s philosophy. Agents that regularly share information internally are more likely to gain additional leads, and a brokerage firm that enthusiastically shares commissions is more likely to make a deal that’s in the best interests of the property.

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