10 Habits of Successful Commercial Real Estate Investors

David Cohn
Nov 16, 2023
CRE Investment

Investing in commercial real estate (CRE) is a tough business that demands a blend of skills, ranging from market knowledge and strategy to people skills and resilience.

While formal education in real estate can be beneficial, it's not the be-all and end-all for success in this field. Instead, there are certain behaviors and practices often observed in highly-successful CRE investors.  

1. Understanding the market deeply

Successful commercial real estate investors don't just skim the surface; they dive deep into the market trends and conditions of their chosen locale.

This goes beyond a cursory review of current listings or a quick read of annual market reports. Proficient investors dedicate time to dissecting various elements that influence the market, from socio-economic data to industry-specific trends.

Let's break down some of the key factors successful investors consider:

· Employment statistics -

The health of the job market often correlates with the demand for commercial spaces. Higher employment rates can lead to increased demand for office spaces and retail locations.

Investors who pay attention to this data can get a sense of whether it's a good time to invest in commercial real estate or perhaps unload some.

· Mortgage rates -

Current and projected mortgage rates significantly impact the real estate market. Lower rates usually make it cheaper to finance property purchases, thus creating more demand.

Investors who keep tabs on these rates are better positioned to make buying or selling decisions.

· Industry trends -

Knowing what industries are growing can provide insight into what types of commercial Real estate assets will be in demand.

Let's consider a practical example. An investor who is aware that a tech boom is coming to a particular district might anticipate a rise in demand for modern, well-equipped office spaces.

Acting on this information, they could purchase older commercial buildings at a lower price and then renovate them to meet the tech industry's needs.  

By the time the boom is in full swing, these properties will not only be in high demand but will also likely command higher rent.

This level of deep market understanding can make the difference between seizing an opportunity before others even see it and missing the boat entirely. 

In highly competitive or volatile markets, this sort of foresight is invaluable, giving investors the edge they need to succeed.


2. Viewing investments as formal businesses

Successful CRE investors don't just see theiractivities as  commercial real estate investments—they seethem as fully-fledged businesses. To achieve both immediate and futureobjectives, they create comprehensive business plans.  

These plans serve as navigational tools that help clarify the larger vision, keep them aligned with their core objectives,and navigate around smaller obstacles that may arise.

Given the complex and demanding nature of commercial real estate, a well-structured plan can be the keystone for stayingorganized and focused on achieving business goals.

3. Specializing in a niche

“Jack of all trades, master of none.” This saying definitely holds true in commercial real estate. Specializing in a particular niche—whether its office spaces, retail centers, or industrial properties—allows an investor to acquire in-depth knowledge and expertise.

For example, imagine an investor who decides to focus on renovating outdated commercial complexes. This niche demands specific knowledge about construction costs, local building codes, and potential issues tied to older structures, like asbestos or outdated electrical systems.  

An investor specialized in this area would know not just the ins and outs of renovation, but also how to navigate the unique challenges tied to transforming aging properties.

The benefits extend beyond knowledge and expertise. Specialization can also help establish a strong reputation in the industry. Let's say our investor successfully turns several outdated commercial complexes into modern, profitable ventures. 

They will not only earn a significant return on investment but will also become known as the go-to expert for this type of project.

This reputation can lead to more business opportunities (such as partnerships or investment offers) and can even command higher fees for consultancy or joint venture arrangements.

Focusing on a niche can also offer competitive advantages when it comes to sourcing deals. Sellers and brokers are more likely to approach an investor known for expertise in a particular area, giving the investor first dibs on potential opportunities.

This is especially beneficial in competitive markets where quality properties can attract multiple bids almost immediately.

Specializing doesn't mean an investor is limited forever. After mastering one niche, an investor might choose to apply the same in-depth approach to another area of commercial real estate, leveraging their skills and experience in new ways.

But the principle remains the same: deep expertise in a specific area leads to better decision-making, a stronger reputation, and ultimately, higher chances of success in this competitive field.


4. Upholding ethical standards

Though there are no strict ethical guidelines binding CRE investors, those who succeed in the long run often exhibit a high standard of ethics.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool in this business, and an investor's reputation can make or break opportunities. Fair dealings, transparency, and mutual respect are traits that encourage more business interactions and partnerships.

5. Generating referrals

A significant part of business growth in this field comes from referrals. Successful investors know the value of maintaining good relationships not just with clients but also with business partners, contractors, and even competitors.

By being attentive, professional, and solution-oriented, they build a reputation that encourages people to refer more opportunities their way.


6. Prioritizing ongoing education

In a fast-paced CRE market, continuous learning isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity. With ever-changing laws, economic trends, and market conditions, successful investors dedicate time and resources to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

· It's essential to be familiar with federal laws that impact CRE, like the Americans with Disabilities Act or tax codes related to property depreciation.

The US is unique in that each state can have its own set of regulations affecting property ownership, leasing, and taxes. Investors might find themselves navigating complex state-specific environmental regulations or zoning laws.  

Constantly updating oneself on both federal and state legislation is crucial to avoid legal complications.

· Market trends in the US can vary dramatically from region to region. An investor who has primarily dealt with retail spacesin the Midwest might find the market dynamics entirely different if they decide to invest in industrial properties on the West Coast.

Ongoing education through courses and seminars focused on regional market trends can provide valuable insights into these variances.

· In addition, the US CRE market is also influenced by broader economic and societal trends. The rise of e-commerce, for example, has had a significant impact on retail spaces, while the increase in remote work is affecting the demand for office buildings.

Savvy investors keep an eye on these macroeconomic trends and may attend national conferences, read industry-specific literature, or follow reputable real estate news sources to stay updated.

· Finally, many investors engage with professional associations like the National Association of Realtors (NAR) or the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) to keep abreast of industry best practices, new technologies, and evolving customer needs.


7. Enlisting a skilled accountant

Understanding tax obligations and benefits can be a complex process that requires specialized knowledge. Wise investors hire a seasoned accountant to navigate tax laws and financial strategies, thus freeing themselves to focus on their core business.

The initial investment in an accountant often pays off in long-term tax savings and financial planning.


8. Being aware of risks

Like any investment opportunity, CRE comes with its own set of risks—from market volatility to complex legal challenges. Savvy CRE investors don't shy away from these risks; instead, they strive to understand them thoroughly.

· They keep an eye on market trends and economic indicators that could signal potential downturns. For instance, if there's a growing trend of companies adopting remote work, it could reduce the demand for office spaces.  

Awareness of such trends allows investors to be agile and adapt their strategies accordingly.

· Legal complexities can pose significant risks especially when venturing into new types of commercial assets or different jurisdictions.

This could range from zoning laws that limit the use of a property to complicated tenant-landlord regulations.  

Experienced CRE investors often consult with legal professionals to navigate these challenges, ensuring they are not just compliant but also protected from potential legal disputes.

· Diversification is another strategy used to mitigate risks. Opting for properties that offer multiple income streams (such as a mixed-use building with retail space, offices, and apartments) provides a safety net during market downturns.

· If one income stream suffers, the other components could potentially offset the losses.

9. Leveraging outside expertise

Even the most skilled CRE investors know they can't do it all on their own. Whether it's legal advice from a lawyer or market analysis from an expert, they understand the importance of leveraging other people's skills and expertise.  

They recognize that the cost of hiring experts is often outweighed by the benefits of avoiding costly mistakes or seizing new opportunities.

10. Maintaining strong relationships with lenders and other funding sources

Good rapport with lenders, private investors, private hard moneylenders, or other financial backers builds trust and can lead to better loan terms and quicker financing.

Such relationships are especially beneficial for getting favorable rates, flexible repayment options, and quick access to funds when a new property becomes available.

In volatile markets, having reliable financial partners can provide a safety net, making it easier to secure funding and giving you a competitive edge. Keeping your financiers well-informed and involved can offer both short-term and long-term benefits in your CRE ventures.


At Capital Investors Direct, we offer quick and easy commercial real estate loan solutions tailored to meet investor goals. Interested in specialized financing options? Contact us today to talk about your CRE project.