By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Commercial real estate can produce a profitable second income source for residential salespeople or constitute a lucrative specialty in its own right. But whether you’re extending your business to include a commercial division or starting out in the commercial market as a rookie salesperson, there aren’t any shortcuts in selling commercial real estate. Unlike many real estate titles, How to Succeed in Commercial Real Estate, by John L. Bowman (iUniverse, 2002; $26.95) doesn’t trade in empty promises of effortless profits—the author freely admits that his book won’t reveal how to make millions in real estate without lifting a finger. Bowman, a 30-year commercial veteran, calls real estate “one of the last bastions of free enterprise in American business,” where your profits are tied directly to your talents and hard work. The book does offer an overview of the tools you’ll need to compete in the commercial sector.
The book offers insight into both the technical and practical aspects of the market, employing a conversational style to lighten up material that might otherwise be dry reading. “Chapter 1: Where to Start” offers advice for beginning salespeople on how to evaluate whether commercial real estate is the right career for them and how to choose a brokerage. Additionally, it provides summaries of commercial specialty areas including office, retail, industrial, and investments. Particularly in larger markets, Bowman says, generalists are a dying breed.
The author’s colorful descriptions read like advice from a friendly uncle on the family business. When he notes that industrial real estate “historically has been where the ‘real men’ go” and sums up investment brokers as “the computer hackers of the commercial real estate business, you get a feel for the business, beyond a generic job description.
Later, the book addresses more nuts and bolts aspects of the business. “Chapter 3: Contracts” and “Chapter 4: Technical Knowledge.” are required reading, whether you are expanding your present business or just starting out in real estate. The former explores forms with which novice commercial salesperson should familiarize themselves, such as earnest money agreements, offers to lease, leases, and counteroffers. The latter chapter explains legal and industry terminology, mathematical calculations required for commercial real estate transactions, as well as issues that might affect your business, such as zoning and environmental restrictions.
The book’s second half might not offer as much new information for experienced residential salespeople—these sections deal with universal issues such as time management, negotiation, and professionalism. Commercial novices with no previous real estate experience will probably benefit most from them. If you’re moving into commercial real estate from another career path, the tips offered in “Chapter 5: Salesmanship”—such as never showing anger, consistently keeping a positive attitude, and always remembering to be yourself—will prove more beneficial than if you have years of sales experience to fall back on. Experienced salespeople might want to browse through these sections as a refresher course. For instance, if you have a chronic procrastination problem, you might want to check out “Chapter Six: Organization” for time management tips.
Readers looking for easy answers will walk away from How to Succeed in Commercial Real Estate disappointed. However, those interested in an accessible, basic introduction to the subject will find it useful. Often real estate titles will try to tell you that it’s easy to succeed in the business without really trying. This book offers a more honest appraisal—it takes hard work and knowledge to get to the top in commercial real estate—as it does in residential.