Commercial real estate sales and leasing brokers earn their living through commissions.
In order to make money, they have to be working the phones and taking meetings on a weekly (if not daily) basis. That’s the tried-and-true, best way to generate commercial listings.
That’s much easier said than done, however.
In this article, we take a look at the specific ways in which sales and leasing brokers can actually generate more CRE listings—via MLS, by scouring pre-foreclosures, capitalizing on expired or FSBO listings, and by utilizing off-market property intelligence to foresee owner’s likely to sell.
We even look at ways to break into the market of million dollar-plus listings, as well as how to get more CRE rental listings.
How to Get More CRE Listings
Picture this: You’re sitting at your desk surrounded by co-workers…
They’re all talking about the deals they’ve just closed and the five- and six-figure commission checks that are rolling in.
Your competitive drive kicks in, and you’re left thinking, “How do I get a leg up? How do I close more deals?”
From a high-level, getting more listings is a matter of knowing how to generate a large number of high-quality leads, paired with an ability to nurture those leads into converting.
Simple enough, right? Well, not quite.
There are many different types of listings, and many different markets, so the means of getting listings varies quite a bit from one agent to the next.
Below, we’ll go through each listing type, give a bit of context on how to find leads for those listings, then give in-depth script examples along the way to help you close those leads and start winning more deals.
How to Get MLS Listings
Every commercial real estate broker, whether in sales (property and debt) or leasing, should have access to the Multiple Listing Service (otherwise known as MLS).
MLS is a central repository where most investment properties are listed for sale through a broker.
Of course, anything posted on MLS is typically on-market and already listed with another broker – so how does this help you?
MLS is a great resource for monitoring transactions and following trends.
For example, you may be working with an investor who is looking to grow their portfolio of multifamily properties.
You can use MLS listings to keep track of multifamily deals as they come to market, then bring these deals to your client if they meet their investment criteria.
You can also use MLS as a starting point: Let’s say your client is interested in land development, with a focus on building apartment communities with 200+ units.
You see that a 50-unit value-add apartment building has recently been listed for sale. While this doesn’t exactly meet your client’s investment objectives, it still might be a lead into other nearby deals.
Look at the properties surrounding that 50-unit building. Is there an opportunity to acquire the adjacent lots?
A simple Google search will allow you to look at what’s next door. In this case, you notice a small, run-down retail center is adjacent to the 50-unit building.
Now, you have an opportunity.
Your other option is to hop into Reonomy to analyze those nearby properties and connect with the owners directly.
Through Reonomy, you learn that the retail property is owned by an out-of-state landlord who has owned the property for 20+ years.
You can access the owner’s contact information to initiate a conversation about whether that owner might be interested in selling the property.
Using a combination of MLS and Reonomy, you’ve now uncovered an opportunity to renovate the 50-unit property and redevelop the retail center into 150+ units.
Combined, this is a great match for your client’s investment criteria and you’re able to line up this deal – partially on-market (the MLS-listed property) and partially off-market (via Reonomy).
You’ve created a deal where there otherwise wasn’t one, and your client is thrilled with the results.
How to Get Pre-Foreclosure Listings
Even in the best of markets, there are occasions when commercial properties fall into pre-foreclosure.
Pre-foreclosure is when an owner has fallen behind on their mortgage payments and the lender has issued formal notice that the property could be subject to foreclosure, if the payments do not become current ASAP.
There are a few platforms that provide information about properties in pre-foreclosure. Zillow is one, though most of the properties featured on Zillow are smaller and often residential in nature.
That said, you can filter Zillow’s search results to look for multifamily investment properties.
You can also look for lots/land in pre-foreclosure. Depending on the zoning of these properties, they may be attractive development sites for office, retail, hotel and other users.
Foreclosure.com offers a free 7-day trial before requiring a subscription. Subscriptions start at $39 per month.
REDX has multiple paid options, also starting at $39 per month. The more expensive REDC memberships provide more detailed property information, and in some cases, include automatic alerts when pre-foreclosures come to market.
You can also identify commercial properties in pre-foreclosure using Reonomy.
In a few clicks, you can search your market for properties based on current stage of pre-foreclosure and/or auction date.
Pair that with the ability to access contact info and connect with owners, and you quickly have yourself a list of highly qualified pre-foreclosure listing leads.
Now that you have the owner’s contact information, how should you approach them?
Having a strong script in hand is critical when calling the owner of a pre-foreclosure.
Pre-foreclosure owners are often stressed out and realize that they need to sell quickly. Capitalize on the need for a quick sale by highlighting how you can add value.
A sample pre-foreclosure calling script might look something like this:
(You call looking for Stuart Smith, the property owner, but get a gatekeeper).
You: “Hi, is Stuart available?”
Gatekeeper: “No, he’s not in at the moment. Can I ask who is calling?”
You: “Oh, okay! I’m looking for Stuart Smith in regards to 123 Foxwood Road. Am I calling the right number?”
You: “Do you happen to have a phone number where I could reach him?”
With Reonomy, normally you’d be able to get Stuart’s number directly via the app, even if Stuart owns the property as part of an LLC.
Once you’re able to reach the owner…
“Hi Stuart, this is Mary Jenkins from Elderwood Properties. I’m calling you because it seems as though your bank has started foreclosure proceedings at 123 Foxwood Road.
I just wanted to touch base and see if there was any way I could be helpful to you at this time. I work with a number of buyers and sellers of commercial properties like this one, so I’d be happy to jump in and help you get a nice return despite the quick turnaround.
Are you currently working with a broker?”
“Great, I’ll update my records. But why don’t you jot down my contact information while I have you.
If things don’t move as quickly with your broker as you had hoped, maybe I can help you out. In the meantime, would it be helpful if I shopped the property around to people I know who invest in commercial real estate?
Maybe I can bring your broker a buyer.”
“Do you have a few minutes to chat? If you’re willing to share a bit more information with me, such as where things stand in the pre-foreclosure process, I can provide you with more targeted advice.”
The goal here is to be friendly and helpful. Initiate the conversation as just that, a conversation – not as a direct sales pitch.
With Reonomy, you can actually skip the comment above, because it seeks information that you can find within the app.
If you’re using Reonomy, that talking point could become:
“Do you have a few minutes to chat? I can see that you are approaching Final Judgement of foreclosure on your property. I’d love to be a resource in helping you avoid such a situation.”
Remain empathetic to their dilemma, but speak specifically to their properties and portfolio to build a rapport. Show them that you really do want to help and have put in the effort to do so.
You might also make mention of a previous, similar listing you’ve won in their market to build credibility.
Compare your listing as specifically as possible to their property. For example, let’s say Stuart’s asset is a 32-unit apartment building.
You could say, “Recently, I sold a 35-unit apartment building just six blocks away from 123 Foxwood Rd for $1.43 million, and think I could get you a similar return.”
This can be the beginning of a relationship that, if nurtured, could result in a new CRE listing and, given the nature of pre-foreclosure, a quick sale.
How to Get Expired Listings
There’s nothing more frustrating for a property owner than listing their real estate with a broker and then having it sit on the market, month after month, with no offers coming in.
Especially when you know you could be easily closing a deal on that property.
More frustrating is that the broker had actually showed the property on multiple occasions – so people were at least tangentially interested.
Capitalizing on expired CRE listings is a great strategy for brokers looking to find new customers.
Let’s say a property is listed as off-market.
You can look at the MLS history for the property and see if it has been previously listed within the past 6 or 12 months.
The listing will be identified as “removed” from MLS if it did not sell and is no longer actively being marketed.
Once you find expired listings, you can then use Reonomy to track down the owner’s information, just as we described above.
The call script you use to contact this owner will look a little different, though. Here’s an example call script for reaching out to the owner of an expired listing.
Expired Listings Script
“Hi, Amanda? [Yes]
This is Bryan Walsh with ABC Properties. I’m calling you about 9 Jaques Street. Do you have a few minutes to chat? [Yes]
I noticed that you recently listed 9 Jaques for sale, but it looks as though the property is no longer on the market. Is the property under agreement, or has it sold? [No]
Are you still interested in selling the property? [Yes]
I’d love to hear a bit more. It looks like you were previously working with Joe Carrol from XYZ Homes. Are you still working with Joe? [No]
Mind me asking why not?”
….The property owner will then tell you a bit more about their experience working with the other agent.
This is a good time for you to listen, ask questions, and probe a bit further:
“That must have been a frustrating experience.
Did Joe give you any feedback as to why your property didn’t sell? The property is located in a great area, and we’ve seen a lot of investors looking for multifamily homes like this.
It seems to me like this property should be able to sell quickly with the right team in place.”
This could open a door for you to set up a meeting:
“Would you be open to showing me the property? I’d love to meet you personally and tour the property in person.
After I see it, I could give you a more detailed breakdown of different marketing techniques, pricing strategies, etc. that you might want to consider when relisting – regardless of whether it’s with me or someone else.”
Remain flexible in offering your help as well. You want them to feel as though you’re simply looking to lend a hand:
“And just so we’re clear, this is an absolutely no-obligation conversation. You’ve already had a crummy experience with another broker. At the end of the day, you want to work with whomever you feel most comfortable. I get that, 100%.
I have a pretty flexible schedule next Monday and Tuesday – would either day work for you? I’m happy to work around your schedule, day or night.
Just let me know what works best on your end.”
This introductory call is to lay the foundation. The in-person meeting is when you’ll really want to sell yourself in order to get this expired CRE listing.
And remember, getting more expired listings doesn’t have to happen only by phone. It’s important to expand your network and have informal, in-person meetings (coffee, lunch or drinks after work is common).
It is through these informal conversations that you’ll uncover some of the best CRE leads.
A Real World Expired Listing Example
Consider this: a commercial real estate debt broker meets with a friendly connection. They grab dinner together in an informal setting.
There was no specific deal to talk about that day. However, through the course of the evening, the property owner mentioned that he’d been trying to sell a parcel in suburban Massachusetts for more than four months.
The parcel is permitted for 38 apartment units and 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail.
Through this conversation, the broker learns that the owner had marketed the property through “XYZ Company.”
XYZ company brought six or seven investors through to see the site, but after several months, there were still no bites.
The broker offered up some valuable information about XYZ company and how they operate, and provided incredible insight as to how the owner might consider relisting with another company that’s more specialized in that suburban market.
The following day, the broker introduced the owner to the alternative company, which then picked up the expired listing.
How does this benefit the debt broker, you may wonder?
Well, although the debt broker wasn’t getting the sale of the property, he will hopefully have facilitated the sale.
Once the property sells, the owner might be looking to reinvest the proceeds into another deal.
When that next deal comes to fruition, he will lean on the debt broker for any additional financing he needs to close.
Similarly, the agent who picks up the expired listing will hopefully procure a buyer in need of a mortgage.
There’s an unspoken rule in the CRE industry that in cases like this, the new agent will refer the buyer to the debt broker who helped pull the deal together.
How to Get FSBO Listings
Property owners often feel that they can sell their real estate without the aid of a real estate broker.
Sometimes that’s true, particularly when the market is hot.
However, unless the property owner is an active CRE professional, they might not understand the nuances of their market and might be pricing or marketing the property wrong.
This happens all the time, and it leads to frustrated owners. Oftentimes, the CRE owner has overpriced the property and as a result, it sits on the market for too long.
A property that sits for some time sends a negative message to prospective investors.
It sends a message to prospective buyers that one (or all) of the following are true:
- The property is overpriced
- There’s a problem with the property
- The owner is difficult to deal with
These are the top three reasons a property lingers on the market. This creates an opportunity for brokers looking to swoop in and get FBSO listings.
Another way to find commercial real estate listings FSBO is to look for “entry only” listings on platforms like LoopNet, Showcase, Digsy and 42Floors.
Entry-only listings are those that are listed through a broker on MLS but where the owner is not actively working with a broker to sell the property.
Instead, the owner has simply paid the broker a flat fee to list the property on MLS for them as a way of getting broader exposure.
To find entry-only listings, use the keyword search function on any of these websites to search for “entry only” to find properties in your area.
Once you know the property addresses of these entry-only listings, you can then use Reonomy to search for the property owner’s information.
You’ll want to have a call script handy when calling on the owners of FBSO properties.
Here’s an example call script to use as reference.
“Hi, is this Sean Baxter? Hey Sean, how ya doing?
My name is Jerry Philbin with Colliers International. I’m a commercial real estate broker based out of Pittsburgh and I specialize in industrial real estate. I’ve been keeping an eye on your property at 123 Commercial Way.
This seems like a great site for a last-mile warehouse facility. Are you still trying to sell it? [Yes]
I see you’ve listed it as for sale by owner. Have you considered working with a broker? [Yes, but I’m not interested in paying a broker’s commission].
I get that.
We actually see that a lot, believe it or not. And frankly, I don’t blame you. It looks like you’ve been a CRE investor for years, you probably know this market as well as anyone.
But I was looking at your listing, and I think there could be a few ways to reposition the property to make it more attractive to buyers. In fact, I think there are a few ways to market this property differently that would actually result in a purchase price higher than what you have it listed for today – which would more than cover any broker’s commission.”
This is a good point to provide an example of work you’ve done, to build some trust and credibility with the owner:
“I recently sold a property at 789 Industrial Way that’s very similar to yours – I learned a lot through that process and have some great ideas that I’d love to share with you.
Any interest in getting together next week? I’d love to see the property and discuss in greater detail.”
In this case, the CRE broker is highlighting their hyper-local experience with selling similar assets. Drawing on your local expertise is a great way to attract an owner’s attention when trying to get FBSO listings.
How to Get Million Dollar Listings
The most expensive the property, the bigger the commission a broker stands to earn upon facilitating the transaction.
So, it comes as no surprise that brokers are eager to get million dollar listings.
You can actually use the same techniques as above, but with a focus on more expensive assets—and a heightened focus on building trust with the owner. Higher property sale prices will usually come with longer-term relationships between buyers and their brokerage teams.
Another way to get million dollar listings is to think creatively about how to reposition or combine deals to create million-dollar listings.
For example, with Reonomy, you can see if a specific property owner has multiple holdings. Let’s say an investor owns four multifamily properties in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Maybe the owner hasn’t considered selling these properties individually – perhaps it’s too much work or seems daunting. This could be an opportunity to pitch the owner on a portfolio sale. A call might go something like this:
Million Dollar Listings Script
Jane: “Hi Richard, this is Jane Kendall calling from Charlotte Realty Advisors. Do you have a few minutes to chat?”
So the reason I’m calling today is because I’ve noticed you own a handful of multifamily properties in town. We’ve seen incredible demand for properties like these as of late – have you considered selling?”
Rich: “No, I’m not interested in selling. These are great investments for me.”
Jane: “Totally get that. Based on market rents, I imagine you’re generating somewhere around a 5% or 6% cap rate.
Is that about right? [Yes]
With that sort of cap rate, I don’t blame you for not wanting to sell. But I was running some initial numbers and wanted to float an idea by you.
Based on what I think you could get for each of these properties, I think there’s an opportunity for you to roll the proceeds into a larger investment that requires less time and maintenance.
There are a few deals that recently hit the market, including an 80-unit apartment building near one of your current properties.”
Rich: “Yes, I saw that.”
Jane: “Great! So you know which I’m talking about. So here’s the deal – I think you’d be a highly-qualified buyer for that building.
If you were interested, we could see about rolling up your smaller properties into a single portfolio sale. This would allow us to attract high-quality investors, people who are well-capitalized and could move quickly.
Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?”
In this case, the broker is positioning herself for two potential $1m+ deals—the sale of the owner’s current portfolio and the purchase of a new property.
How to Get Rental Listings
It’s not just CRE sales and debt brokers who are on the hunt for listings all the time. CRE leasing brokers (or investment brokers that also handle leasing) need to ID ways to get rental listings on an ongoing basis.
Reonomy can help with that.
Leasing brokers generally fall into one of two camps:
- Landlord reps: Those who represent owners
- Tenant reps: Those who represent tenants.
Here are a few ways to use Reonomy depending on who you represent.
Owner/landlord reps can use Reonomy to search for properties that have recently sold.
Look for properties that sold in the last three months as a starting point. And then, look to see who is listed on record as the tenants (Reonomy provides this information, as shown below).
If it’s a large commercial property and there are few tenants occupying the space, this may be an indication that the property has vacancy that needs to be filled.
Contact the owner to inquire as to whether they’d like some assistance getting the property leased-up and fully stabilized.
A tenant rep would approach things differently.
Instead, a tenant rep could use Reonomy to look at specific commercial properties and to ID which tenants are occupying those properties.
Then, the leasing broker can reach out to those tenants to inquire about how much time they have left on their leases, whether the company has any expansion plans, and whether they’d be interested in looking for new or additional space in the marketplace.
Tenant Rep Deal Example
Here’s a real-world example:
A clean technology company recently got a major influx of cash through a Series B fundraising effort.
They have to quickly staff up, hiring approximately 200 new people. But they’re currently working out of a clean tech incubator and don’t have room to expand.
This is a great prospect for a tenant rep to call upon.
Figuring out how to get more CRE listings can seem daunting at times, particularly for those new to the industry.
But locking down CRE listings is critically important for any broker who wants to be successful.
Some may take a “draw” at their company, essentially a small salary that is repaid through commissions – but to be successful, you’ve got to find ways to get those commission checks rolling in.
Getting new listings is the key to making that happen, and Reonomy is a great resource in that process.