In Search of Opportunity

There’s no doubt that times are tough. The Dow is down more often than up, major companies are begging for more and more bailout money, smaller retailers are going out of business and homeowners are increasingly losing their jobs and defaulting on their mortgages.But many commercial real estate players’ businesses are rooted in taking risks and identifying opportunities before they become obvious, all with the intent of netting greater returns. Indeed, the current situation has been termed unprecedented and compared most closely to the Great Depression, with no bottom yet in sight and the Federal Reserve Board repeatedly postponing its expectations for a turnaround. And a steady stream of companies are launching workout businesses, positioning themselves to buy or broker the problem properties that may be the first real estate to emerge out of this situation.But recognizing future opportunities is not the only mark of success in this business. Those determined to close deals now are finding new ways to finance their transactions, given the loss of more traditional alternatives. From regional banks and insurance companies to seller financing to Small Business Administration loans and even cash, determined buyers are unearthing solutions that work for them.This year’s Hot Brokers have been finding innovative solutions, as well. Though many of last year’s most significant deals occurred earlier in the year, before deal flow really slowed down, a number of top negotiators did resolve a variety of challenges and managed to close transactions even as conditions grew tougher. And they continue to do so today.Narrowed to 10 leasing brokers, landlord representatives and investment sales professionals from around the country and across property types, these dealmakers shared advice that they have received during their careers, as well as guidance based on their own experiences, and some of those words of wisdom may be particularly helpful now.Many of our Hot Brokers emphasized the importance of working hard and focusing on client needs. Among other suggestions, though, were the following: “Keep your eye on the ball, focus on the fundamentals, and good things will happen even in a bad market,” a mentor once told Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.’s Jeff Liljeberg. Al Cissel of Transwestern cautioned, “In a down market, you tend to want to go in 150 different directions. You have to stay focused.” Be nice to people on the way up because you may see them again on the way back down, Darian LeBlanc of Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers recalled his father saying. And Lori Schneider of Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services Inc. suggested embracing the inevitable: change. Perhaps the best advice to keep in mind in the current market, though, is a Yogi Berra quote referenced by Eastern Consolidated’s Brian Ezratty: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”These negotiators are not the only ones offering useful advice and other insights to CPN and its readers. We continue to add contributors to our experts’ blog, From the Inside. Additions in the past month include Dawn Clark, principal of architecture firm NBBJ, blogging on Global Green Design. Visit the blog directly at www.cpnfromtheinside.com or through www.cpnonline.com for observations on a variety of business sectors and major markets and to offer your own thoughts.After all, trading ideas and experiences can benefit all of us as we navigate choppy waters in search of new opportunities.Suzann D. SilvermanEditor-in-ChiefP.S. If you have thoughts on these or any other issues, please e-mail me at suzann.silverman@nielsen.com.