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Real Estate Law

Protecting Your Vacant Commercial Property

Owners of vacant commercial real estate have two major issues on their hands. First, they are often interested in selling their property, if it is economically feasible. The second issue is maintaining a vacant property. Large vacant commercial premises can be a target for vandals and thieves and the damage that they can do will surely diminish the value of the property.
Metal thefts are one of the most persistent problems plaguing vacant buildings. All sorts of metal is attractive to thieves: piping, metal from the air conditioners, along with any visible copper wiring. In addition, fixtures are also frequently stolen: plumbing, heating and air conditioning units and lighting.

Vacant commercial properties are in many ways more vulnerable than vacant residential properties. Vacant residential properties typically have neighbors who will at least notice, if not monitor, suspicious activity. In addition, commercial properties are larger and often have multiple entrances and can be far away from other “neighbors”. Finally, more residential properties that are vacant have been repossessed and often have bank representatives whose job is to look in on or maintain the property in order to resell it.

As the owner of a vacant building, it is imperative to be vigilant about the state of your building. Potential purchasers will see a “stripped” property and assume that the neighborhood is crime-ridden. They will also try to figure out how much it will cost to repair stolen materials (often without an idea of how much it really costs). These two fears, the fear of the building’s general safety and the fear of huge cost overruns, can easily make the deal go south quickly.

The good news is that commercial real estate appears to be moving in a healthy direction. More owners now believe that they can sell their vacant property and have the headache of owning these behemoths off their hands.

In the meantime, what can commercial property owners do to safeguard their vacant buildings so that they will be in the best shape to get a fair price and to ensure a successful closing?

Retain security measures. It may feel like a waste of money to keep paying for alarm systems or security guards for a vacant building. But, it will seem like a pittance compared to theft recovery or, worse, an inability to sell a building. Contact your security provider and find the most affordable way to monitor your building. Consider supplementing with occasional drive-bys by off-duty law enforcement.

Maintain relationships with neighboring property owners and their employees. Be honest that you are looking for a buyer (they may be interested or know somebody who is). Tell them you are doing everything you can to maintain the security of the building. Be sure they know how to contact you if there is something suspicious. You may want to even pay them a small amount to do occasional walk-throughs on your behalf.

Don’t advertise the vacancy. If you are in the process of removing the contents of your commercial building, hire security all the time. If you have a dumpster on site, remove it from your location as soon as you have done the cleanout (even if you still have extra days on the rental, it’s not worth it). Consider not placing a “for sale” or “for lease” sign on the property.

Maintaining an empty space may not always be easy, but if you are considering selling, you need to continue to be responsible for the appearance and integrity of your building. Doing your part will smooth the way for an easier sale transaction down the road.