Make us your home page
Instagram

Commercial real estate broker forced to adjust with market variables

Paula Clair Smith says her job has become more complex since the recession, as businesses are asking for more information and are more cautious in making deals.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Paula Clair Smith says her job has become more complex since the recession, as businesses are asking for more information and are more cautious in making deals.

Paula Clair Smith knows if she doesn't succeed at her job, businesses could close. The broker-associate at Osprey Real Estate Services in St. Petersburg represents tenants, landlords, buyers and sellers. She works to keep businesses, from mom-and-pop shops to offices with dozens of employees, in desirable locations. In a troubled economy, small-business owners need lower overhead to survive. Sometimes that requires commercial real estate agents to negotiate new leases with landlords or find cheaper buildings for the businesses. Smith has been involved in the Tampa Bay commercial real estate market since 1998. Although she specializes in Pinellas County, she has assembled land packages for redevelopment throughout Tampa Bay. She is a director with the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors and has won several of the group's top producer and industrial deal of the year awards.

How do you lower rents without knowing what nearby businesses pay?

Leases aren't recorded. There are no public records. You have to talk to other brokers. You have to network with your peers to know what the rents are without jeopardizing the confidentially of a deal. You have to know what goes on under the surface. Concessions are not hard to get. Most leases run five years. Landlords are reducing those or are offering free rent to keep the businesses.

Is it difficult to put a retail or office business into a building that housed former industrial firms?

You have to ask: Is it an office or is it retail? There is a blending that's generated by who's your customer. It's a puzzle. You have to put it together to figure out how it's going to work, zoningwise and peoplewise.

You have to know the needs of the customer. Once they voice those, it might be the space they're already in. Sometimes they need something that doesn't exist. Its kind of an evolution. If they're open to ideas, its your job to exhaust all of them. The tenant mix is important. Traffic and parking are important. A great location sometimes may not be a great deal. Location is the key.

How do you find a landlord willing to rent to a new business in this economy?

You look at their (business) history, their tax returns. You want to see if they have been successful. What is the business plan, and is it thriving in the market now? There has to be some basics in place. Does it appear to be a good concept? Determine the cash on hand. It's easy if they put skin in the deal. But landlords also have to take calculated risks. There is so much bad credit out there. The (credit scores) aren't the only factor.

How has the Great Recession impacted your job?

I am busier now. Busy can be defined as activity. People want to know a lot more things. Businesses owners are a lot more cautious now and are slower to pull the trigger on deals. You have to provide greater information because the risk is higher.

Agents have also left the field, like in the residential side. You need the resources to stick it out. Some residential agents tried doing commercial deals when the market was hot, but it was a disaster. The perception is commercial (real estate) is where the big bucks are. People were looking for the pie in the sky.

What is the biggest trend in Tampa Bay?

People are moving into the urban areas, and that actually happened before the bust. Businesses are following to main streets. The Gen Y and Millennium generations all want to be in in-fill areas to make it walkable.

What does the future hold for commercial real estate ?

Tampa Bay is recovering, but we still need jobs. Credit is still tough, which is why there is more leasing instead of selling. We're in the business of business. People are looking at their business and evaluating every aspect of it. The business has gotten so much more complex.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.

Commercial real estate broker forced to adjust with market variables 03/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2011 8:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man pleads guilty to forging check for fake investment

    Personal Finance

    A Tampa resident was convicted Thursday for forging a check for a fake investment. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation said that Eric Franz Peer pleaded guilty. He served 11 months in jail and will have to pay $18,000.

  2. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses

    Business

    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  3. Terrier Tri brings unique triathlon training to South Tampa

    Business

    Over a decade ago, Robert Pennino traded late nights in the music studio for early mornings in the Terrier Tri cycle studio.

    Terrier Tri, a cycling studio in South Tampa celebrates a grand opening on June 27. Photo courtesy of Tess Hipp.
  4. New bistro hopes to serve as 'adult Chuck E. Cheese'

    Business

    YBOR CITY — Inside Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy, a new restaurant opening in Ybor City, customers will find a mix of family recipes, games and secrecy.

    Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy readies to open in Ybor City. Photo courtesy of Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy.
  5. Ramadan having an economic impact on local charities, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Dodging the rain, a few families and customers gathered inside Petra Restaurant on Busch Boulevard. Around 8:30 p.m., the adham (or call to prayer) music begins, signaling Iftar, the end of the daily fast. Customers grabbed a plate to dig into the feast.

    Baha Abdullah, 35, the owner of the Sultan Market makes kataif, a common dessert that is eaten during the month long celebration of Ramadan in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]