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.

Who Really Represents You in a Commercial Lease Negotiation?

When it comes to leasing commercial workspace, too many tenants mistakenly believe that the landlord’s leasing agent/broker will somehow represent them in negotiations. Unfortunately, this is never the case.

The important question that this article answers is, “Who really represents who in a commercial lease negotiation?

As a tenant, your wants and interests are usually different than the landlord’s, at times even diametrically opposed. It’s impossible for one broker to represent both sides of your deal faithfully and fairly. There will always be conflicts of interest and the broker most often favors your landlord, not you as the tenant.

Too often, a commercial tenant begins the process of leasing office space without hiring a tenant representative to 100% exclusively represent them. Usually they do not realize that a tenant rep is not at the cost of the tenant, since the tenant rep will normally co-broke a commission with the listing agent.

At some point, tenants then find themselves too far down the road to fully benefit from the expertise, advocacy and unbiased representation of a true tenant rep. This can result in a number of troubling issues and frustrations for the tenant. These include losing the upper hand in negotiations, being subject to unfair pricing and unsatisfactory terms and too late realizing that things could have gone far better if they had a professional dedicated solely to representing their best interests.

It’s important for every commercial tenant to understand the vast difference between a tenant representative and a traditional commercial real estate broker.

Helping us answer this critical question and more is William Gary, Principal at MacLaurin Williams, LLC and founder of The Tenant Rep Channel. Gary’s firm is committed to exclusively representing commercial tenants and owner-occupants and creating valuable resources that help to educate the public on the value of exclusive, 100% tenant representation.

Differences Between Tenant Representatives and Traditional Real Estate Brokers

A real 100% tenant rep should be able to meet all the criteria needed to take the exclusive tenant rep pledge. A landlord’s agent or traditional broker simply cannot make this pledge to tenants and owner-occupants. A real tenant rep never puts him or herself in position to double-end an occupier’s transaction and double-dip on fees/commissions. That’s what traditional CRE brokers frequently attempt to do. It’s their highest goal.

Furthermore, a 100% tenant rep acts as a true fiduciary, advocate and loyal, obedient agent for an occupier. On the other side of the table, the opposing landlord’s agent does this for the landlord. A true 100% tenant rep also conscientiously avoids and turns away from conflicts of interest. Traditional brokers create and run towards them to try and double their fees in your transaction.

Vision and Mission of the Tenant Rep Channel

After resigning from the ITRA Global Organization, MacLaurin Williams, LLC still wanted to have a 100% tenant rep network to serve multi-market clients. Gary explains, “We wanted to compete harder and more effectively against large tenant rep chains and traditional brokerage houses that all perform tenant representation.”

Initially, The Tenant Rep Channel was intended to be an informal 100% tenant rep network just for MacLaurin Williams’ own use. But it escalated when Gary asked two other 100% tenant reps, Chris Carmen (Indianapolis) and Craig Melby (West Palm Beach/Asheville) if they might find a use for it, too. They were immediately interested – and so it grew from there!

Unlike traditional CRE broker networks, The Tenant Rep Channel is an informal, virtual model that doesn’t have any initiation fees, dues, required conferences, travel expenses for airfares and hotels, by-laws or contracts. The mission: Just keep it simple and base it around a shared Google map + list of major markets that every participating 100% tenant rep firm must prominently display on its own website.

Amazingly, the bigger independent, 100% tenant rep firms were just as interested in The Tenant Rep Channel’s marketing tool as the smaller firms. They still felt like they needed a big coverage footprint to compete head-to-head more successfully against the big brokerage houses, such as CBRE, JLL, C&W, Colliers, Newmark, etc., as well as Savills Studley and Cresa as tenant rep chains.

The Tenant Rep Channel’s growing success comes from its ability to provide a big coverage footprint for independent, 100% tenant rep firms. It’s an instant and very real 100% tenant rep network, with most TRC principals having 20 and 30 years of CRE experience. It’s a super heavyweight group in terms of experience, talent and skills.

Omni Realty Group is proud to be a part of The Tenant Rep Channel’s growing network.

How Awareness of the Traditional Broker Conflict Will Reshape Commercial Real Estate

With more education and awareness of the inherent conflicts of interest in the traditional CRE broker model, combined with new resources like The Tenant Rep Channel, you might anticipate that a major shift would take place in the Commercial Real Estate Industry where tenants and buyers would flock to and favor 100% tenant reps over traditional brokers.

However, Gary notes, “Too many occupiers still believe that CRE brokers are pretty much all the same, other than some work for big firms and some for smaller shops.” He goes on to add, “Occupiers often know some CRE brokers as friends or family and they’re comfortable hiring them without understanding the complexity of local agency laws.”

As 100% Tenant Reps, we’ve not done a good enough job of making it clear that the CRE Industry is terribly plagued by conflicts of interest and that these conflicts of interest frequently do serious damage to the best interests of occupiers. Most people can grasp that their attorneys should not have any conflicts of interest in their legal matters; it’s more of a Win vs. Lose situation. But occupiers don’t make the same leap when it comes to hiring CRE Brokers to handle their CRE transactions.

The bottom line is that in order to reshape the Commercial Real Estate Industry, it’s incumbent upon 100% tenant reps to better explain “why” conflicts of interest are so damaging for occupiers. We need to educate tenants and buyers on what can go wrong. Simply saying, “We don’t have conflicts of interest,“ doesn’t resonate with occupiers. It’s not nearly enough.

Occupiers need to learn why conflicts are harmful for them; how they can waste tons of valuable time and spend significantly more money; money that is their valuable net profits.

Gary concludes with these final thoughts, “One thing that we initially hoped would occur on The Tenant Rep Channel is happening. By being connected through this network, creative ideas are getting shared worldwide and some really innovative things are blossoming organically.

The 42Floors Elite Site Widget, which is a full market, commercial property search module for our own websites, is one example. I urge every 100% tenant rep to check it out and really assess the value it could have for your business. We all need to get serious about educating occupiers on the stark differences between 100% tenant representatives and traditional CRE brokers!”

Do you have another question related to the differences between tenant representatives and real estate agents? We welcome you to join in the discussion by leaving a comment below!

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