This post originally appeared on tBL member Michael Kushner's blog Omni Realty Group and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.

The outbreak of COVID-19 hitting the United States has brought with it a tidal wave of challenges and uncertainties. This has been a wakeup call for so many businesses and individuals who must now struggle to adjust. Particularly for business owners who either own or lease commercial real estate such as a retail location, industrial space, or offices, the order to work from home and stay at home has drastically changed their need for brick and mortar space.

Whether it’s right now or once COVID-19 has passed, it’s highly likely that businesses in Pennsylvania and across our nation will have a drastic shift in their commercial real estate needs. In such times, business owners should be reminded that having a tenant representative on your side to represent you and negotiate for you as you reduce the amount of space you currently occupy, move to new office space, or change the terms of your lease is highly beneficial.

In an effort to help business owners understand how a tenant representative can be a benefit to them, and how this relationship works, we want to help answer some of the most common questions surrounding a tenant representative’s role. This first of which is “How do tenant representatives get paid?” Too often, the answer is confused with or lumped into the same category as how listing agents, who represent the landlord or seller, are compensated. But this is not necessarily the case.

What’s important to note is that exclusive tenant representatives, also called buyer’s agents, are unique in that they exclusively represent those looking to rent or buy commercial real estate. They never represent the landlord or seller, and for good reason. As you can imagine, that creates a conflict of interest which you can read more about here.

To answer the question regarding how a tenant representative/buyer agent is paid, here is a breakdown of important points to provide a clear explanation.

Typical Commission

The amount a commercial real estate agent receives on a commission is calculated as a percentage of the total commercial property sale price or lease value.  The percentages are negotiated in the listing agreement.  It’s important to note that it is illegal due to anti-trust laws to set a market or industry-wide standard for commission percentages, but on average most commissions range from 4% to 8%.

The variance in commission rates is due to a number of factors. In areas that have a surplus of office space, brokers may receive higher commission to entice tenants to particular properties. Brokers may also get varying commissions for office, retail and industrial spaces.

Co-Broke Commission – No Cost to the Tenant or Buyer

While tenant representatives/buyer agents provide their clients with incredible benefits, it’s important to note that the tenant/buyer is not responsible for a tenant representative’s/buyer agent’s fees. Properties for sale or lease that are listed with a broker specify a commission to be paid to the listing broker and shared with the broker representing the buyer/tenant. Landlords are the ones responsible for paying the fees. Most landlords have budgeted for the payment of commissions.

Although tenant reps/buyer agents are incredibly helpful for tenants/buyers looking for commercial real estate, their services also benefit landlords or their listing agent, as they help fill vacancies. Because tenant representatives/buyer agents allow listing agents to quickly turn over empty space, they are often willing to pay for their services. As a result, a buyer/renter can usually enjoy the services of a tenant representative without having to pay anything.

One caveat is that in very rare circumstances, landlords or listing agents may refuse to pay the tenant representative’s fees. Normally, this only happens when the tenant representative was not engaged from the very beginning of the tenant or buyer looking for space which can muddy the waters. This makes it all the more important to begin any commercial real estate search with a tenant representative on your team.

Advantages of Working with a Tenant Representative

If a real estate broker representing the landlord/seller encourages you to do a direct deal without a involving a tenant representative/buyer agent, proceed with extreme caution. The landlord’s/seller’s broker will likely tell you that you will save money by eliminating the tenant representative’s/buyer agent’s fees, but the truth is that the landlord/seller is likely to pay the same amount to their own representative even if you forgo a tenant rep/buyer agent. Plus, not having an agent to advocate for you during the negotiation process could mean ending up with a higher rent rate and less than favorable lease terms.

It’s important to have the knowledge and expertise of a tenant representative/buyer agent to guide you through the leasing/buying process and represent your best interests. A tenant representative/buyer agent can also make your property search less time consuming by showing you only properties that they know fit your criteria. Think of them as your tenant/buyer “concierge.”

Despite the fact that the landlord is responsible for paying the tenant rep/buyer agent, you should rest assured that the tenant representative/buyer agent is working for your best interests. This is because they don’t get paid until you find a great deal!

Has the impact of COVID-19 caused you to rethink the use of your commercial real estate spaces? If you need to downsize or renegotiate the terms of your lease, keep in mind how a tenant representative can be an advocate for your best interests.

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