Are commercial fixer-uppers worth the time, expense and effort? My answer to that would be that the right fixer-upper with numbers that make sense can be the right strategy to use. In fact, these types of properties can be an easy way to see an instant value increase in the property but like with any deal, only if the costs to rehab the property make sense.
Commercial fixer-uppers employ one of my favorite value plays called "repositioning". That means that either the tenant base changes, the appearance of the property changes or that both of these options are exercised on the properties.
In residential real estate investments, the idea of investing in a fixer-upper is to acquire the property at a significant discount due its condition. In commercial property, the same still holds true but in commercial properties can account for greater cash-on-cash returns. Perhaps you’ve found a property that needs some cosmetic care. Maybe the exterior needs to be updated with a new look. You’ll be amazed at how a small investment can net a high return in value.
Apartment buildings can be a great opportunity for repositioning. In strategies like these, the first thing I usually change is the exterior paying special attention to the parking lot, roofing and sidings. I do other simple things like updating the landscaping and putting new signage on the property which are quick ways to give a new appearance to an older building.
I might also consider repositioning the tenant base with this same apartment building. I’ll replace tenants who don’t pay or don’t fit the target tenant profile with ones that do. This may take months to accomplish, but the increase in value can put the worth of the property through the roof.
When repositioning a commercial property, make sure you keep on top of excessive rehab costs. Have a plan and get estimates upfront. The lack of a rehab plan can cost thousands of dollars to fix especially if the rehab doesn’t produce the results you desire. Remember to also use professionals to get the job done. Trying to be cheap by doing it yourself may mean that you don’t end up with the professional upgrading that your property needs. This will not only waste your time, it’ll cost you the tenants or your building.
A lot money in the deal to help cover the expenses of repositioning. Taking too long to get paid is one of the reasons a fixer-upper investment will fail. If you aren’t collecting the necessary rents to cover the mortgage because repositioning is taking longer than expected, you could have a disastrous situation on your hands. Set a plan that is realistic financially before you commit yourself to any fixer-upper deal.
Commercial fixer-uppers may also be candidates for using a value strategy called "forced appreciation". This means that property appreciation occurred because rents were raised or expenses were lowered. Was the previous owner afraid to raise rents because he felt the property was in disrepair? Did the property have expenses on the higher side and what will it take to lower the costs? Simple fixes to problems like these can increase the net operating income and the overall property value.
Get rid of your fears about working with commercial fixer-upper properties. By using sound strategies such as repositioning or forced appreciation, you can ensure that your investment will be a success.
Dave Lindahl is one of America’s most successful, hands-on, real estate investors. He has written 3 best selling books: "Commercial Real Estate Investing 101" co-authored with Donald Trump, "Emerging Real Estate Markets" and "Multi-Family Millions." Dave Lindahl is a regular guest speaker at CT REIA. Go here for the current list of upcoming real estate investing seminars in Connecticut.
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