How to Buy a Commercial Building

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When buying a commercial building, a potential buyer can benefit from working with a real estate professional. Yet, it is important to find a real estate professional that specializes in commercial properties, as there is a significant difference between residential and commercial real estate. If you decide to work with a real estate professional, choose one familiar with the area you are shopping, and who is experienced in commercial sales. If you are shopping on your own, or working with a commercial agent, there are steps to consider.

Define the type of commercial property you are seeking. There is a big difference between buying a restaurant building and gas station. You may be purchasing the commercial building as a location for your business, or purchasing the property for an investment. If you are purchasing for investment property, consult with a real estate professional to find out which types of buildings are in demand. If you plan to buy an office building in an area where there is a high vacancy rate for similar properties, then you may be making a poor investment.

Explore your financing options. Before you begin shopping, it's important to know how you are going to finance your purchase. If you intend to borrow money for the purchase, you will need a commercial loan, which typically requires a much higher down payment and interest rate.

Check the zoning and land use restrictions for the property in question. Zoning does not necessarily explain how property can be used. There can be restrictions on certain types of businesses, which is where land use laws become a factor. For example, two pieces of property may seem to be identically zoned, yet one is next door to a church. In most American cities, this means that you can't open a business or restaurant serving alcohol in this vicinity. The same rules usually apply to the land around schools. It's important to do your research ahead of time when considering a property for commercial purchase.

Investigate the property’s environmental history. For example, find out if it has underground gas storage, or if it was a manufacturing site where chemicals could have been illegally dumped on the premises. You might consider paying for an environmental inspection. Yes, this means more money out of pocket, but remember, once you own the property, you will be responsible for any environmental cleanup.

Ask about the parking situation. Some commercial buildings have their own parking lot and others share parking in common with other area businesses. Inadequate parking can limit building usage.

Hire a building inspector to check out the property. An inspector will look at areas like electricity, plumbing, carpentry and more. This is important because, depending on your use for the space, the last thing you want is to purchase a building in need of major, hidden repair. The inspector should also look for any possible asbestos, mold, lead paint or other internal environmental issues. After all, if you plan to lease out portions of the building to other businesses, you are responsible if something should go wrong.

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