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How to Choose a Multifamily Realtor (Ultimate Guide)

April 4, 2020

If you’re in the market to buy a multifamily property, should you use a multifamily realtor or simply spoken, a multifamily real estate broker. While there are slight differences, we shall use both interchangeably as (MREB)? The answer is not obvious. A good commercial multifamily realtor can be helpful, but many residential realtors are useless in this regard. Obviously, if you use a multifamily realtor, you want a good relationship with a great one. Keep reading for tips on choosing a multifamily realtor as well as alternative property-shopping strategies.

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4 Signs of Great Multifamily Realtor

If your MREB isn’t great, why bother? Here are helpful tips to help you select multifamily realtors (brokers) worth their salt.

Understanding Your Criteria

Many commercial real estate brokers can point you to attractive-looking multifamily properties, but few understand attractive multifamily deals. A great MREB will take the time to understand the economics of the deal you seek. This includes your criteria for cost, cap rate, return, vacancy rates, and risks. Also, it involves amenities you want, such as submetered utilities or covered parking.

Providing Critical Information

A great commercial multi-family realtor knows you need specific data before spending much time on a property. This data includes rent rolls, comparables, ground plots, liens, taxes, and the seller’s appraisal report. Naturally, the more information you receive up front, the better you’ll know whether to visit a property. Also, you’ll be able to gauge value-add opportunities for forced appreciation.

The MREB should provide an inspection report detailing deferred maintenance issues. You want to know the age and condition of major items such as the roof, HVAC, windows, electrical, plumbing and so forth. In addition, find out if there are any restrictions on rehabbing a property or setting rents.

Experience and Expertise

Obviously, a great multi-family realtor will have great experience and expertise. You can get a feeling about a CREB (commercial real estate broker; multifamily is considered commercial) by talking with past clients and lenders. Does the broker specialize in multifamily and other commercial properties? If so, how many deals have they closed?

You can check with lenders and other professionals for an assessment of an MREB’s competence. Sometimes, as is the case of Assets America®, the commercial broker can also arrange the financing. Without doubt, that’s a definite plus and simplifies the acquisition process. A commercial real estate broker and lender has the expertise to know which properties can be profitable and which are bad deals.

Realtors as Investors

It’s also important to ask brokers whether they have invested in multifamily properties. Nothing beats property ownership to understand the risks and rewards of an investment. That kind of knowledge can help to create a great multifamily broker. Brokers who understand the alphabet soup of multifamily investing (GSI, ROI, GRM, MFU, etc.) are a cut above. Also ask whether the CREB has experience with 1031 exchanges and accommodators.

The Ideal Realtor-Investor Relationship

In the ideal realtor-investor relationship, the realtor listens carefully to your concerns and offers you valuable information you need. The process starts with an initial interview where you both feel each other out. You want a good interpersonal chemistry as well as insight into the realtor’s expertise. You should discuss in great detail your requirements with the broker including deal criteria.

If you decide to proceed, you and the realtor will review available properties, both listed and unlisted. The realtor should be able to provide you with important information about each property. Together, you can qualify the properties that you’d like to view. Ask the realtor to get you any additional information you need before bidding on a property. The broker will finalize the sale contract and guide you through the closing process.

A full service commercial real estate broker and commercial broker lender like Assets America® will arrange the financing for you. Other realtors may be able to recommend a lender or two. Ideally, the realtor can identify good subcontractors and vendors you can use to renovate or rehab the property.

How to Find a Good Multifamily Realtor

One of the best sources of good realtors is Dave Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) Program. To make this list, agents must be in the top 10% in their areas. You can go to Realtor.com and search for Accredited Buyer’s Representatives (ABRs). An ABR works for you, not the seller. Typically, the agents for the buyer and seller share the commission. Using an ABR makes it more likely that you’ll get an honest advocate for your goals.

Other sources of information about multifamily realtors include lenders, lawyers, property managers, and title agents.

Keep alert to warning signs, including:

  • Part-time agents:       These folks might have trouble keeping on top of the local market. Things can change every day and you want an agent who is actively following the market. You also want an agent who can respond immediately to new listings so that you can get in early.
  • Realtors with little or no multifamily experience: Realtors who specialize in single-family homes may be clueless about the multifamily market.
  • Agents who are relatives: Perhaps your relative is a top full-time agent who concentrates on multifamily property in your neighborhood. If not, you’ll do better with a top professional. You risk your relationship with your relative if the transactions falls through due to incompetence.
  • Agents unfamiliar with your neighborhoods of choice: This requirement is incredibly important, especially when property prices vary by block. Truthfully, the realty business is very local. A great realtor knows your neighborhood and is in touch with potential sellers who haven’t yet listed.
  • The agent charges too little or too much: Obviously, you don’t want to overpay for a realtor. However, you should be cautious of realtors who charge less than the going rate (5% to 7%). Seller agents must share the commission with your buying agent if you use one.       Selling agents who charge too little will attract fewer buying agents. If you don’t use a buying agent, feel free to negotiate a low commission.       But don’t use price as the chief criteria to judge a realtor.
  • Agents who pay to have their faces appear on online listing: Those faces appear because the agents pay for them. That doesn’t necessarily make them a good choice. Verify that the agent knows the neighborhood during the interview, don’t accept the advertising assertions.

Alternatives to Multifamily Realtors

You have several options when you want to invest in multifamily properties without relying on the seller’s realtor. And if you want to sell a property, you have the alternative of handling the sale yourself.

Buyer’s Representative

If you are a buyer, you can choose to rely on the seller’s representative or hire one of your own.

Pros

  • You gain an expert ally:  A buyer’s agent gives you access to an experienced professional who can answer your questions. Furthermore, the agent can negotiate on your behalf without any divided loyalties. You can’t rely on unbiased advice from the seller’s agent. Moreover, any information you reveal to the selling agent can undermine your own negotiating position.
  • You get the best available deal: Your agent will help you achieve the best price and the best terms. A good agent will aggressively pursue your interests when dealing with sellers, obtaining the best deal available.
  • Buyer’s agents can warn you of problems: Good buyer’s agents can help you avoid mistakes. For example, they can alert you to a declining neighborhood or to upcoming development that’ll hurt your property’s value. In addition, they know what kind of properties pack the best value and potential resale value. They’ve seen plenty of problems suddenly arise and know how to navigate the solutions. You can’t rely on the seller’s agent to divulge problems that aren’t apparent.

Cons

  1. You may need to sign a contract: Most buyer’s agents require you sign a contract. A good one will agree to an initial one-day contract to give you the opportunity to change your mind. Contracts guarantee that buyer’s agents will receive their commission share when the transaction completes. That’s only fair. The contract also ensures you will get the undivided loyalty of the agent.       Furthermore, a contract opens the possibility of find properties for sale by owner and pre-listed properties. A good contract works for you, not against you.
  2. Buyer’s agents may not be sell-side experts: That’s possible, but rare, because buyer’s agents constantly work with sellers. As licensed professionals, buyer’s agents have same access as their selling counterparties to market information.
  3. You pay directly for the buyer’s agent: Another myth! Sellers that list on a multiple listing service must reveal the commission that they will share. That commission comes directly from the seller’s proceeds. In effect, you get representation for free. However, for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) properties present a different situation because you will pay directly for the buyer’s agent. Good agents may be able to negotiate a price that includes their commissions.      

Indirect Multifamily Investing

You can enjoy the benefits of multifamily investing without the responsibilities of individual property ownership. Vehicles for indirect investing include REITs, real estate mutual funds/ETFs, and shares in multifamily companies. Naturally, you won’t need a realtor when you invest indirectly.

Pros

  1. Hands-off management:       You’ll like this if you don’t want to spend a lot of time managing property you own. Know that you won’t have any say in the selection and management of the property.
  2. Diversification:       You can own shares in multiple properties all at once. Instant diversification can reduce some of the risks of ownership.
  3. Liquidity: You can quickly buy and sell publicly traded shares. It takes longer to sell private shares and even longer to sell properties themselves.

Cons

  • Lack of control:  You may not want to surrender control to a fund manager or property company. If you like calling the shots, you want to directly own your properties.
  • Cost: You have to share net operating income with fund managers or property company executives. Over the long run, you’ll pay more this way than you will a buyer’s agent.
  • Risk: Some fund managers and property company executives are incompetent or dishonest. If you hook up with one of these, you might lose your entire investment.

How Assets America® Can Help

You may know that Assets America® is a leading loan broker for real estate, businesses, yachts, and aircraft. But did you know that we are also a licensed commercial real estate brokerage! We can help you find, purchase, and finance multifamily properties starting at $5 million. Contact us today for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you ask real estate agents when buying multifamily property?

You want to get full access to all the financial information, inspection reports, and rent rolls. You also want to know whether the agent has any felony convictions or regulatory discipline.

What is a normal commission for commercial real estate agents?

Normally, real estate agents collect a 5% to 7% commission. If you use a buyer’s agent, the agents will share the commission. Typically, the seller pays the commission from the sale proceeds.

Is it necessary to have a realtor when selling a commercial building?

No, you can sell the building yourself. However, if you do so, make sure you understand all the legal requirements. It can be risky to do it yourself, but you’ll save the sales commission.

How is realtor commission calculated on commercial lease?

The realtor receives a commission based upon the total value of the lease. If two agents participate, they split the commission 50/50 unless otherwise specified in the lease agreement. A typical commission percentage is 5%.

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