Pitfalls to Avoid in Buying a Building
By Steve Kikikis, Vice President, Commercial Real Estate Broker
Money Pit or Cash Cow?
On occasion when a doctor purchases a practice there is also an option to purchase the real estate. Historically, real estate has been a good investment over time, but owning a commercial building has its own nuances.
There are a lot of similarities between owning a commercial building and a residential house. As the building owner or homeowner, you are responsible for paying the insurance, maintenance, and property taxes. Be sure to understand what your out-of-pocket costs are before you take on the responsibility of purchasing a property. Investing in a building or home inspection conducted by a reputable building inspector is always worth it.
Before you purchase a commercial building, know your demographics, and do your research. If a building is a steal, make sure you do some research to find out why. A commercial real estate broker that specializes in your industry can assist you in looking at the demographic information to fully understand the value of the real estate.
After you’ve purchased the practice, you are now the king of your castle and if you are business savvy, you can make a profit from owning your building. Having some knowledge of what to expect and what the pitfalls are of owning a building can save a lot of headaches down the road. For this article, we will consider that you are the owner and sole tenant of your building.
Maintenance – You’re now responsible for everything from the leaky roof, sweeping the parking lot, HVAC systems, lighting, ADA compliance, security systems, plumbing, and possibly the water and sewer mains underneath the property. The best advice is to adhere to a schedule with regular and preventive maintenance. Don’t skimp on issues that may seem small but that can turn into a bigger safety issue (both expensive and potential lawsuit if hazardous) in the long run.
A lot of potential challenges are dependent on the age of the building and how the previous owner took care of the property. You can hire a property manager to be the point of contact so you’re not distracted and can concentrate on your work. Some owners like to be involved in every decision, while others don’t want the hassle of being contacted for leaky pipes, clogged toilets, etc.
Insurance – a commercial building policy will differ from a residential homeowner’s policy on your home. A commercial policy will also have coverage for the business operations, its products, and operations liability. Much like homeowner’s insurance, the age and construction type of the commercial property will determine the premiums. Commercial insurance is also based on the neighborhood where the building is located.
Although chances are slim, some policies cover loss of income in the event of a fire or other loss of the building. These are usually additional policies that can provide peace of mind.
City ordinances – Although you may own the building, ownership doesn’t necessarily mean you can do anything you want. An example is a new building owner who wanted to utilize a specific size of a sign for his business, but the city ordinances stated a sign can be no bigger than 30 square feet. Be sure to reach out to the city before you decide to change or update the signage on your building and also verify if there are any restrictions for the exterior of your building such as signage, color, material, etc.
Taxes – There are two points on the taxes. First, for the building taxes, make sure your ownership is properly transferred to you during the purchase, and make sure that you keep up-to-date on your taxes. Set up an account directly within the municipality you are located or make sure your loan program is paying it directly. For your business taxes, owning your own commercial real estate has many tax advantages. Connect with your CPA, make sure you’re paying your real estate entity as a business expense, and more.
Money Pit or Cash Cow? There will be costs to owning your own commercial real estate, but taking the proper steps and working with an experienced commercial real estate broker that specializes in medical/dental purchases will save you time and a lot of money. Just think, if you are leasing a space, after 10 years you will be signing up for paying the landlord another 5 years of income. If you own, after 10 years, you will be working towards paying that building off and have the equity in the building.