Sell, Buy, Lease: The Tale of One Commercial Property

Real estate can be an adventure – for both sellers and buyers – whether it’s a residential or commercial property transaction. The secret to making it a fun adventure is to do your homework in advance, ask all the right questions and be flexible. For commercial buyers especially, knowing all the details about what it will take to make your business concept a reality is critical. Data drives informed decisions and data, along with an experienced commercial real estate broker, is your best friend when buying or leasing a commercial property.


To illustrate my point, I want to share a cautionary tale with you, a story with twists and turns and an ending that is yet to be written.

Want a quick sale, get your paperwork in order!

It all began with an “instant offer” radio ad. While the instant offer scenario was intended for residential properties, my seller was intrigued by the idea of listing and quickly getting a cash offer for his commercial building. Purchased fifty years ago, he owned the building and the land outright. The building itself, a former barbershop, was new construction as the original building had burned down. He was ready to retire and was looking for a quick sale.

Regardless of how quickly my seller wanted to move forward, though, he simply wasn’t prepared, and to compound the matter, he was not working at all in the digital age. No email, no electronic documentation – everything was paper-based – which presented its own set of hurdles and delays. I have to admit to a bit of nostalgia working “old school,” but when you want a quick turnaround, it helps to remove all obstacles. Eventually, we did get all the paperwork done and were able to proceed with listing and sale.


 Now all of this was at the beginning of the pandemic. Businesses were closing left and right and many commercial properties were sitting vacant. In spite of this, a buyer did come along. They had a dream of opening a restaurant and they were able to make a cash offer. A happy ending for my seller, but just the beginning of the story for the buyer.

Recipe for Success: Vision + Plan + Due Diligence

It’s wonderful to have a vision for your future business. But you’ve got to also have a plan and you should do your homework before diving in. This buyer had neither a plan nor a full concept of what they were getting into. The building did not have any of the necessary infrastructures for a restaurant: no kitchen, no grease trap, only one bathroom and it needed a completely new buildout suitable for a restaurant. But the buyer had cash in hand and was all in. Literally all in. There was no money left over for any of the buildouts or permitting and so the dream was stopped cold.


I have a tenacious spirit and I never give up on a property, but sometimes luck just isn’t on your side and it seemed luck had simply run out for this buyer and would-be restaurateur. That is until they got to thinking about the possibility of leasing out the building to someone who would be willing and able to do the necessary renovations. With Covid-19 still wreaking havoc, and financing for restaurants extremely difficult to come by, it was a long shot.


As it turned out, a potential solution presented in the form of another would-be restaurant owner who was looking for a space to lease. When she contacted me, she already had her sights set on this very same building. I’m a seasoned realtor, but every now and then I am struck by how a property will come full circle. Here I am back to square one with a new dream of restaurant ownership on a property that I have already ushered through one transaction. This time, though, it is a lease negotiation.

Negotiating a Commercial Lease: Go for the Win-Win

The same advice stands, whether you are looking to buy or lease a commercial property: you have to do your due diligence. In this case, the owners want a tenant who will do the necessary build outs for a restaurant, but ultimately they will want the space for their own restaurant dreams. The tenant, on the other hand, is making a significant investment, assuming a great deal of risk, and wants a secure multi-year lease. This could be a perfect match, only time will tell. Time, and an iron-clad lease that protects both parties. 


The ending to this story is yet to be written, but I am optimistic for both parties and I look forward to dining in the new restaurant when the doors finally open again at this storied property.


If you are looking to sell, buy or lease a commercial property, I’d be happy to help you get started. Even in the midst of a pandemic, businesses are moving forward and commercial real estate transactions are happening every day. Contact me today and let’s start getting answers to your real estate questions.

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