Understanding Commercial Property Investments

Do you ever feel that you should be looking more at investments in commercial property in the saturated residential property market? If this is in your mind, you are joining the new wave of investors who wants to diversify their investment portfolio with the unstable economy.

How big exactly is the commercial property market? Generally speaking, commercial property investment is not as straightforward as residential market. In Malaysia, it is almost sure that any piece of residential property will be lapped up the moment it is launched, and everyone at some point of their life will be looking for a house of their own. Some may buy a piece of residential property and rent it out instead. For commercial properties, there are a lot of other considerations.

1. Location

Location is a very important factor when it comes to investment in commercial properties. It may be true that a lot of people are looking into creating their own business, and it will not be too hard to find someone to rent your property start their business, but if the location is not right, the chances for renting out is slim.

When you wish to invest in a commercial property, look around to see whether there are other residential properties which will support the business. You may want to take a good look at the whole development project, and check residential population surrounding the commercial lot that you are aiming for.

Also, do check if the area is a flooding area, or are there any other disadvantages. Parking space is a very important factor of consideration for any business to thrive in this modern world, and you ought to make sure that there are parking spaces near the property you wish to invest in.

2. Features

Sometimes, the success of commercial properties also comes with the features included in the project itself. For example, some properties may be managed by the developer, with facilities such as wi-fi zone, making the commercial blocks into event venues or even being selective about the types of business and brand name to qualify as tenants. Some commercial properties with such strict criteria about tenants include BM Utama in the mainland Bukit Mertajam, and Straits Quay in Penang island.

Both are project examples of two contrasting backdrop. Straits Quay is a high-end sea facing project by E&O, with very high traffic coming from its branded tenants and expensive condominiums and landed property support. Meanwhile, BM Utama is a 7-unit exclusive commercial lot owned by BM Utama’s property developer, DNP Land, and is meant to become part of the lifestyle support for the almost sold-out BM Utama. The 7 units are called The Gallery, which is available for leasing only, to ensure the quality of retailers.

3. Price

Although people are talking about market price, as an investor, you should take into consideration the price and the size of the property. It is important to note that your property lease are usually based on long term contracts, and for some cases may span for 10 years instead of the normal renewable 1 or 2 years for residential properties. Also, you need to remember that returns from residential property comes from the capital value increase, but for commercial properties, it comes from income. Although commercial properties generally will cost more than residential properties, you will still need to sieve through to see if the investment can really bring you back a good return. Is the rental price of that property able to cover the loan that you took for the purchase?

If you are buying the property for the sake of making it into a hub for your own business, then it is up to you to ensure that the business that you are going to do will bring in enough sales and income to cover for the loan repayment of the property.

Commercial property leases provides an average contracted income stream of about 7 years.

4. Ownership

When you buy any property, you need to be very clear about the type of ownership that you have. Is it a freehold or a leasehold property?

Although leasehold properties are usually released with a certain amount of payment when the expiration term arrives, there may also be conditions where the land is taken back for new development. When the lease-land period is almost reached, property prices will drop significantly.

You also will want to check on the previous ownership of the property. Most properties may have more than one owner sharing the ownership of the property, so you should get a background check about this with a trusted lawyer, also to find out if there are any underlying problems to why the property is up for sale. Make sure the property sale gets consent from all legal owners.

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How to Quickly Determine the Value of Commercial Property for Sale

The value of a commercial property for sale is determined by using some simple formulas that are based upon the amount of net operating income that the property produces each year. So when you are looking at a commercial property for sale, one of the first things that you’ll want to ask the broker for is the profit and loss statement.

Some brokers who have listed a commercial property for sale may refer to this profit and loss statement as an IPOD, or income property operating data sheet. Once you get the IPOD, or profit and loss statement, you can then compare the information provided by the broker or seller to your other sources to help determine what the real numbers are. The challenge when looking at any commercial property for sale is that the broker and/or owner will often tend to exaggerate the amount of income that the commercial property for sale produces while also trying to minimize the amount of operating expenses that are reported.

How to Determine the Value of a Property for Sale

The reason for this is simple. The value of any commercial real estate is based on the amount of net operating income the property creates each year. In fact, each additional dollar of annual income increases the value of the property by roughly ten dollars, depending on where the property is located, and how old it is. Note that this extra net income can come from either getting additional revenue in rents, or from reducing expenses by managing the property more efficiently.

Once you understand that owners of commercial real estate will tend to present unrealistic numbers in an attempt to get a higher price for their property you’ll understand better why it’s necessary when looking at any commercial property for sale to get to know the market you are investing in. When you know what the rental rates in an area tend to be or what the typical expense ratios are for a twenty-five year old apartment building then it’s much harder for the broker or owner of a commercial property for sale to attempt to pull the wool over your eyes.

Verifying the Income and Expenses

The first step in verifying the income of a commercial property for sale is to ask for the rent roll. The rent roll is a list of what each apartment, self storage unit, mobile home lot, or office space rents for. Make sure that you get the actual rent roll because the owner or broker of a commercial property for sale may try to give you a Pro-forma rent roll instead of the actual rent roll. Pro-forma means that there is an expectation, realistic or not, of getting higher rents than the property is currently getting. My response to this has always been, “If you raise the rents up to match the pro-forma, then we’ll use the higher income amounts, otherwise we’re going to base our valuation on what the property is currently producing in income.

When looking at the expenses from a commercial property for sale, remember that you’re trying to come up with the actual amount that it will cost you to operate the property rather than what the seller’s expenses have been. So while it’s helpful to know exactly what the seller’s costs have been, I’ve learned NOT to rely on the information provided by the seller when looking at a commercial property for sale because this information is almost always inaccurate.

A Simple Formula to Use for Expenses

The expenses will vary depending on the type and age of the commercial property for sale. For example, if you are looking at buying a Class C apartment building which is at least twenty-five years old, then the expenses will run between 45 to 50 percent of the collected income each month. The collected income, known as the Effective Gross Income, is what’s left after the cost of vacancies are subtracted from the total amount of rents on the rent roll from the commercial property for sale.

The final step in determining the value of a commercial property for sale is to divide the net operating income by the capitalization rate, which varies from about 6 to 12 percent depending on the type of property, the age, and the location of the commercial property for sale. The fastest way to get an idea of what capitalization rate you should be using when looking at a commercial property for sale is to ask another broker who is not involved in the transaction.

Using Escape Clauses to Limit Your Risk

Another way of protecting yourself when looking at any property for sale is to make sure that your purchase contract allows you a period of time to get out of the deal if you are not comfortable with anything that you find. Done properly, you can often tie up a property for 60 to 90 days so that you have time to accurately determine the real value. This makes it easier to look at commercial real estate, because you can get out if you have the right escape clauses.

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Residential Vs Commercial Property Investments

Before purchasing a new investment property, you should always consider the differences between residential and commercial real estate investments. Depending on your financial means, expectations and investment plan, you will have to decide which one can be more profitable for you. Most people will invest in residential properties, as this seems to be a safer endeavour requiring less money, however, if you have the means, commercial properties can be highly profitable. You should also consider that while traditional residential property investments might not have very high returns on your investment, repossessed or foreclosed properties, can bring you a net yield of up to 12-15%.

Property Types for Residential and Commercial Investments

Houses of four units or less, to rent to private tenants are usually considered residential properties. You can invest in buy-to-let residential properties, which means that you’ll get the rental yields every month, or purchase the property solely for future resale. Residential property investments vary from more traditional buy-to-let investments somewhere near your own home to investments in overseas real estate, below market value properties or foreclosed houses. Commercial properties are for businesses, and include a variety of properties, from apartment blocks and office buildings to hotels, restaurants, warehouses and industrial buildings, just to name a few. Managing a relatively small residential property is obviously simpler than managing commercial properties, where you will often need a professional real estate management company to assist you.

Researching the Real Estate Market

While you will always need some knowledge of the property market and current conditions to make a successful investment, residential properties are simpler to research and value. It is relatively easy to compare different residential properties, their prices and investment potential in a given area. Commercial properties, however, are often unique and require specialised knowledge to value accurately and to establish an investment plan.

Risks & Yields

Residential properties are generally regarded as low-risk investments. They also tend to cost much less than commercial properties and will thus be more affordable, especially if you’ve just started building up your investment portfolio. The relatively low risks and the low purchase price, however will also mean that your profits are lower, and your return on investment will come mainly from increases in capital value.

Commercial properties, on the other hand have higher risks, but also higher potential returns. The significantly higher prices will also mean, that for personal investors, only collective investment schemes are affordable for larger commercial property investments. The relative unpredictability of the commercial property market will also bring more risks. While residential property prices generally double every 10 years, this is not true for commercial properties. You can expect a net yield of up to 7-10% on commercial properties, which is higher than the net yield from traditional residential property investments, and a large part of your return on investment will be in the form of rental income.

Rental Properties

A successful investment plan for both commercial and residential properties is to rent them out. Residential leases tend to be much shorter, usually around one year, and private tenants are often considered less reliable than businesses. Landlords will be liable to pay for repairs, which might incur unexpected additional costs. Commercial properties, on the other hand, are leased out for a longer time, 5-10 years is not uncommon, and the yearly increase in rental yields will be more significant. Businesses are also often considered to be more reliable tenants and commercial tenants are generally required to pay for repairs. You should also consider that while commercial properties can bring you a secure and high rental income, it is also much more difficult to find commercial tenants.

Exit Strategy for Residential and Commercial Properties

One investment plan is to rent out your property as detailed above. However, property flipping, or future resale can also be a profitable strategy with both kinds of investments. Residential property can be sold quite simply to another investor or somebody who intends to occupy the house, and as long as the property is in a good condition and in a well-chosen location, you should generally be able to sell it at a significantly higher price than its original purchase value. Commercial properties can bring huge profits, but the process of resale is more complicated. The property must be sold to another investor or investor group, and it should have a successful and profitable record, to be attractive to the buyer for investment purposes.

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Commercial Property Investment Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

You’ve probably heard about the commercial real estate bubble, here’s the ugly truth that lenders and other insiders don’t want you to know. Despite all the hype, not every commercial property is in trouble. The key for you as an investor is to avoid certain pitfalls and learn from other investor’s mistakes.

Before the economic and credit boom that has led into the recent downturn, conventional lenders capped loan amounts at 65 percent of the value of the property. This means that your $10 million commercial property would qualify for a maximum loan of $6.5 million. The current problems with commercial property investments started when hedge funds and private equity lenders began offering much higher loan to value ratios, meaning they would lend against your investment property with as much as 80 percent of the value of the real estate.

Mistakes Made by Commercial Investors

Some investors decided to refinance their $10 million commercial property for $8 million and get $1.5 million out tax-free! What seemed like a great deal at the time has come back to ruin the typical commercial property investment. The problem was that these loans needed to be refinanced after five years. Owners who pulled money out of their investments like this began down a path that has led to the troubles we are seeing now.

Fast forward from then to now and you’ll see that the entire economic climate has changed. Most sources of financing for commercial real estate have dried up. Owners with a property that needs to be refinanced are finding that unless the LTV ratio is 65% or less and the property is performing perfectly, it’s almost impossible to get refinancing for their commercial property investment.

You can’t tap into those hedge funds and private equity firms because many of them have gone out of business. So you are left with two options:

1) Create a workout with the existing lender where they refrain from foreclosing against your property in exchange for a slight increase in the interest rate, or other benefit that you can give the lender. In some cases the benefit to the lender is that they don’t need to take your property back. The truth is that the lender really doesn’t want to take back your property if they can avoid it.

2) Bring other investors into your deal by offering them a decent rate of return on their investment along with giving them a chunk of your equity. Make sure to contact a commercial property investment attorney who can help make sure that you meet all of the SEC guidelines if this is the path that you choose to go down.

What Makes a Safe Commercial Property Investment

The problem with many owners of commercial properties today is that they got into a deal with a bigger loan than they should have. Now, these commercial property owners can’t ride out the recession because the loans are coming due and they’re short, or worse, upside-down.

Investment rule #1

-Leave the equity in your property.

· Successful property owners don’t pull out their equity at the top of an up cycle; they leave the equity in their commercial property investment so they can ride out the downturns. The “commercial meltdown” doesn’t apply to property owners who left their equity untouched. While it’s true that the commercial property values have come down from a high peak. The typical commercial real estate investment is far more valuable today than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Investment rule #2

-Stick with conventional lenders.

· By taking a short term hard money loan commercial owners placed themselves at the mercy of the fickle market. A conventional lender would not have financed more than 65 percent of the property value, allowing the owner with a cushion against fluctuating property values.

When structured correctly, your real estate investment may not provide you with an overabundance of excitement, but during times like these, a stable, performing real estate investment is just fine.

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Why Invest in Commercial Properties Instead of Single Family Homes?

While there are many people who seem to believe that investing in residential real estate and single-family homes is the way to go, investing in commercial properties is much better. Instead of focusing your real estate investing on residential properties focusing on commercial properties is a better option for a variety of reasons.

First of all, when it comes to investing in commercial properties, you will not have to worry about personally qualifying for a loan. The property itself qualifies for the loan. You usually will not have to worry about personally guaranteeing the loans when it comes to investing in commercial properties. Non-recourse financing is the type of financing most often used for commercial real estate investing. If your loan is foreclosed on, the bank will take the property, but they can’t come after you personally. Also, it will never affect your personal credit score.

You will also have the opportunity to deal with professional tenants when it comes to investing in commercial properties, instead of dealing with the tenants that come with residential properties, which is a huge benefit.

Another reason to invest in commercial real estate is to maximize your potential for profit on any one deal. You would have to invest in a lot of single-family homes to generate the kind of profit you can make on one commercial real estate investment.

So, with the proper education and training, it can be the right move to break into the field of commercial real estate investing.

How Much Money Will You Need?

Before you start purchasing commercial properties, it is important that you know how much money you are going to need to get started. Even though you will be able to get financing for your properties there are still going to be some fees that you are going to have to pay for on your own. So, how much money should you have available? Well, for the pre-closing and closing costs you are going to have to pay, you should have about 3-5% of the amount of the loan available, as well as 10-20% of the purchase price for the down payment. While you may not need that much money, it is best to plan on this amount just in case.

Where to Get the Money

Once you know how much money you will need, you are probably wondering where you can actually get the money. There are a variety of different places that you can get the money you will need. Commercial mortgage brokers are one choice. There are also some private lenders that may be able to provide you with the money that you need, so be sure to consider all of your options.

Using the Money

When you actually are ready to get the loan for your commercial property you will probably have to explain to your lender what you are going to use the money for. This means that you’ll need to be able to communicate to the lender what you are going to do with the money. There are several things that you may have to do with the money. You may need to use the money to acquire or purchase the property, and in this case, the lender will probably be able to loan you about 80-90% of the money you will need. In some cases you may need to use the money for a refinance of a property and the same amount will probably be available to you for refinancing as well. You may also need to have the money for construction of the property, including renovations, rehabilitations, and building that occurs on the property.

Keeping Yourself Protected

When you decide to invest in commercial properties, it is important that you keep yourself legally protected. Many people sue over a variety of things in today’s world, which means you’ll need to have plenty of protection. Be sure that you never own the properties in your own name, or you could be sued personally. You need to have a LLC or a corporation. This way, any lawsuit would be directed at your company and not at you personally.

A Good Team is Important

If you are going to get involved in commercial real estate investing, it is important that you have a good team to work with you. You should begin to form a good team immediately. You can ask for some recommendations from other people who invest in commercial real estate so that you are sure to get good people for your team. Some of the people that you will need to have on your team include a good commercial mortgage broker, a real estate attorney, a real estate accountant, a good insurance agent, a realtor that specializes in commercial real estate, and a company that works in property management.

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