When you own commercial property, you have an investment that could potentially provide you with income for years into the future. However, you could also find that you spend too much time attempting to keep space in your building rented, working to stay on top of on repair and maintenance issues, and running yourself ragged doing everything that needs to be done to make your building profitable. However, these tasks can be easily managed by working with professionals whose job it is to manage commercial property. Here are a few to consider:
Property Management Companies
Many owners purchase a building for the revenue it brings in and would like the rest of the tasks that come along with owning it to be taken care of by someone else. In these cases, a full-service property management company is probably the best choice.
Stephanie Luetkenhaus, Property Manager with REBC | The Real Estate Brokerage Company, explains, “We understand that every owner and property has different needs; that is why we customize a specific management solution for every situation. The services we provide include collecting rent from tenants, maintaining the building and grounds, budgeting, recordkeeping of maintenance and expenditures, and overseeing vendors that provide services such as cleaning, HVAC work, grounds keeping, pest control, repairs, etc. We also take pride in maintaining outstanding owner, tenant and vendor relationships.”
“In addition to offering a buffer between the owners and tenants, a professional property management company has the staff, contacts, expertise, and experience that many owners don’t have,” Stephanie continues. “REBC understands that property management is a service industry, and the secret to happy building owners is happy tenants. Finding a new tenant costs 10 times more than keeping an existing one, and REBC focuses on retaining current tenants by providing the best possible service and experience.”
Choosing the best property management company for your needs is key to having a profitable and stress-free real estate investment. Stephanie advises: “Plan for success. Compare services and prices and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get references — a reputable property manager will be happy to provide names and contact information for current owners and tenants. Walk their other managed properties and speak to the tenants about the service. Interview the management professional that you will be working directly with as it’s important that you can communicate with and trust this person — they will have their finger on the pulse of your building. Ultimately, you should hire the management team that you feel the most comfortable with. Efficient property management will reward the owner with a property that produces the best possible return on their investment while preserving their asset for the long run.
Many of the issues you will experience with your building are not interior ones and the help of an engineer can make your property more appealing as well as help you avoid costly repairs. Jason Thiellen with E&A Consulting says, “Some of the most important issues from a property ownership/management aspect include the following: Parking layout, appearance and amenities and stormwater run-off. Many times we have had clients come to us after many years of neglect to the property, and then are astounded by the repair costs. By creating a relationship with an engineer, a master plan can be created to effectively budget the overall repairs in an organized financially obtainable solution.”
“We can look at current parking lot configuration and determine if the stalls can be rearranged to provide a more efficient traffic flow pattern that may yield more spaces than what is currently there today,” Jason explains. “Adding additional stalls to an existing building can provide opportunities for other tenants that require a higher parking ratio than what is currently being provided. By reconfiguring the parking lot, new tenants may reconsider a site they had previously rejected.
The curb appeal of a building is paramount. The condition of the parking lot (pot holes, worn stripping, cracked and crumbling concrete), outdated monument sign, dead or dying plants, overgrown conditions, poor design of public space can all contribute to loss of tenants or the inability to bring on new tenants. Our services would help remedy these situations by identifying the issues and correcting them. The actions we would consider is obtaining contractors to make repairs, redesign of the landscaping, replacing a current space with a usable employee break area or modifying the entrance features. All of these items will add value and curb appeal to the property.
Stormwater issues is probably the biggest area that we can assist building owners in. The increase in stormwater regulations and the damage that can be caused by run off from storms and snow melt is the single largest factor to cracked foundations, sidewalks and failing parking lots. On a regular basis, we assist our clients with improving their sites and solving stormwater issues that have formed over time due to the freeze thaw weather in the Midwest. Our expertise in this area can help reduce the maintenance and replacement of sidewalks and parking lots by identifying the problem areas. After the areas are identified, creative designs would provide realistic solutions to the improper drainage which in turn can reduce the risk of future concrete and foundation freeze thaw issues.”
“Building owners and managers can truly benefit from a relationship with a civil design group that has expertise in the design/redesign of parking lots and outdoor spaces for commercial, industrial and office buildings,” Jason concludes. “Due diligence by property owners for the selection of an engineer would include visiting recent projects a firm has completed and talking with past clients about their experience with that firm. This would allow the property owner to decide if the personality and capabilities of the engineer matches that of the property owners. By creating a long standing relationship with an engineer, the property owners can help reduce/manage the overall maintenance costs that are inherent to owning any property.”
Lighting is an important component of any commercial building and becomes more important as the building (and its lighting system) becomes older and more out of date.
“Lighting is one of those things you don’t really think about until you turn your light switch on and it’s still dark,” says Rick Swarbrick, Certified Lighting Management Consultant with Superior Lighting. “It’s very easy to become complacent with your lighting if everything is working the way it’s supposed to, but what most people don’t realize is that complacency with your lighting can cost you thousands. A commercial building’s lighting can be up to 60% of the total energy consumption.
Superior Lighting can help business owners manage this by doing a survey of the building (lighting audit) and making recommendations for replacing outdated, high energy consumption lamps with new high efficiency lamps and ballasts. One recommendation that is very common in commercial buildings is replacing all T-12 fluorescent lamps with T-8 lamps. T-12 lamps were outlawed by the federal government and are no longer manufactured.”
“A great way to manage expenses is to put the building on a scheduled inspection program so that outages and be prevented. It costs more to replace lamps on an individual basis then to upgrade your lighting system. You will make your money back shortly through energy savings and city rebates.”
“Proper security is part of the foundation of business,” explains A.M. “Bobby” Brumfield with Leonum. “It prevents exposure to risks involving employees, property and information. It also helps to define the culture of a company. With a robust security operation, clients, vendors and employees alike understand immediately the value that owners and management put into the company. Your standard security categories are Facility Security, Information Security and Personnel Security, although specific security designs are based on the individual company needs. These could include the basics, such as access control measures and firewalls or as detailed as armed security, IT Tracking (Data Monitoring) and Biometrics controls.”
“Leonum becomes the client’s Security and Safety Department,” Bobby continues. “Outsourcing these responsibilities saves our clients the money and headache of hiring staff and managing the suppliers needed to perform these services. We offer the full range of security services and we have facility security and safety experts as well as partner with premier vendors. We begin by assessing the true needs of our clients. Once we understand our client’s core focus, we will design a security plan based around the budget authorized.”
Bobby concludes by saying, “Businesses must understand the importance of developing security and safety plans. Not only are plans needed to foster safe business cultures, but these plans are the first line of defense during major events. With proper planning, mitigation of these events are far more successful.”
Sandy Hammers with Sparkling Klean has a few suggestions for building owners when it comes to best managing their buildings. “You should update as needed to keep up or surpass competitors and always keep in mind what type of tenant would be interested in size and/or location. You should always renovate as necessary and install and maintain safety measures such as exterior lighting and signage. Finally, keep in mind that perception is everything. A clean, well-maintained building will remain in good condition by saving surfaces (carpets, walls, counters, fixtures, etc.) throughout. Finding the right cleaning company is important, and it always helps to ask for references and to check with the Better Business Bureau. You should also make sure you take the time to get to know who manages the company so you can tell what their values and customer service is like. For example, our company has received numerous awards for our safety record and this shows that the health and safety of our employees, our clients and our community are very important.”
Whether you hire cleaners, have a janitorial staff or perform the cleaning yourself, where you get your supplies is important. Katie Egan with Egan Supply Company explains, “Egan Supply Company offers janitorial supplies and equipment. Business owners, custodial professionals and home owners can stop in and browse our products and our trained staff is available to assist with any need including product applications, tips and helpful hints to economically tackle any cleaning issue. In addition to the store, we do have a full service janitorial equipment repair shop. Our technicians are factory-trained and we stock a variety of equipment parts and accessories. We are also proud to carry a wide selection of environmentally-savvy products.”
Parking Lot/Sidewalk Maintenance Professionals
Cindi Goff with Broomers explains, “Keeping your parking lots and sidewalks free of cigarette butts, glass, cans, leaves and other debris helps create a professional appearance for your property. It also shows your customers that you pay attention to details and helps your curb appeal. A professional sweeping service is a perfect choice to help you keep up with this aspect of building management. How often you use a sweeping service will depend on the type of business and how much traffic goes in and out of your parking lot. Large retailers may have their lots swept at least once a week. Many professional buildings have their lots swept on a monthly basis. All parking lots at a minimum should get a spring sweeping to remove sand and salt left from the winter. Sweeping also helps to preserve your parking lot surface from the salt. If you only have funds for one sweeping a year, make sure it gets cleaned sometime in April after there is no longer any threat of snow.”
Her suggestion for choosing a sweeping company involves asking if they sweep with water and if they will blow off your sidewalks, dock or dumpster areas and clean out any corners. “Your lot is not clean unless the corners are clean,” she explains.
Debra Maxfield with Stripe it Rich also knows the importance of parking lot services. “A parking lot is the first impression a customer has about you and your business. It offers your customers a convenience and safety in entering your place of business. An aesthetically pleasing, well-maintained parking lot will add value to your business and will help you avoid potential pitfalls with safety-related issues. A building owner should be selective about who they hire for their parking lot service needs. Their time is very valuable and they should have a company they can depend on, with quantitative, documented testimonials. They should be concerned about excellence in customer service and performance as well as the return on their investment dollars.”
Managing your property investment becomes effortless when you pre-plan and work with the proper professionals. Make the decision of how much you want to be involved with your investment and choose the proper professionals to work with from there.