True Cost for Landlords

The term “net lease” (and terms like “double net” or “triple net”), in commercial real estate, gets tossed around a lot. For those unfamiliar, it essentially means a tenant agrees to pay  for some or all of the operating expenses of a property, in addition to their base rent. This might include property taxes, building insurance, and general maintenance.

You’d think this gives landlords an easy path to consistent profits. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Here’s a breakdown of some hidden costs even net leases don’t eliminate:

Attracting Tenants: The Need for Incentives  Every day a space sits empty is lost income. If the market has a lot of vacancies, landlords get pressured. Offering six months to a year of free rent isn’t uncommon to get that first tenant signature. Moreover, tenants, especially desirable national chains, often have significant bargaining power. They might demand that the landlord contributes to “tenant improvement allowances,” helping fund interior renovations to suit their brand. Offering incentives to attract tenants and preserving profitability requires a delicate balance. Landlords must carefully assess the long-term financial implications of these incentives, ensuring that they do not outweigh the benefits gained from net lease agreements.

The Illusion of Full Occupancy: When Appearances Deceive  A packed building doesn’t always equal a packed bank account for the landlord. Each tenant is likely on a different lease cycle. Many could be enjoying those incentives mentioned earlier. Additionally, with retail properties particularly, it’s crucial to look at percentages. Some tenants pay a base rent plus a percentage of their sales. If sales are weaker than projected, the landlord gets squeezed even with a “full” building. Conducting thorough financial analyses is needed to uncover the hidden costs of seemingly full occupancy. Landlords must assess the stability and sustainability of their rental income, accounting for potential fluctuations in tenant performance and market conditions.

Due Diligence is King: Don’t Be Fooled by Labels  “Net lease” sounds great, but deeper analysis is always the wise move. Before acquiring any commercial property, go over the rent rolls with a fine-tooth comb. How long are the current leases? What are the actual costs, not just the theoretical ones passed to the tenants? And critically analyze the local market. Is this area in a growth period, or could vacancies become your future problem? Understanding the broader market dynamics is paramount. Is the local market experiencing growth, or are vacancies on the rise? By conducting thorough due diligence, landlords can mitigate risks and make informed decisions that align with their investment objectives.

Being a commercial landlord has its ups and downs. Net leases are one of those things that definitely lean towards the “up” side. Net leases are a useful structure, but landlords need to enter with open eyes.  Potential marketing costs, tenant incentives, and careful market analysis must factor into your decisions.  Commercial real estate success comes from understanding the complete financial picture. With a net lease, you know what monthly rent check is coming in. Tenants take on the stuff that fluctuates – taxes, insurance, repairs. Can you say “peace of mind”?  This kind of stability is gold when it comes to planning your business. Another major plus is ditching a big chunk of the landlord’s to-do list. Net leases hand a lot of those day-to-day hassles off to the tenant.  This is a game-changer, especially if you don’t want to be on-call 24/7 or if you manage several properties. 

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