Our well-established business has been leasing our location for 20 years and we must move next year. Should we buy or lease somewhere else? – TORN
DEAR TORN: Real estate has proven to be one of most solid, consistent and reliable forms of investment, especially in our region, where the market is stable. All things considered, buying would seem ideal if you can afford it, though to purchase a commercial property you’ll usually need a minimum down payment of 30-35 percent (substantially more than the 5 percent down payment you need to buy a residential property). If you have the cash, your options include buying or possibly even building. Either way, your biggest challenge will likely be finding a location with appropriate zoning.
Moving a well-established business is always risky, especially if you rely on walk-in or destination-type traffic. Options may be more plentiful for “behind-the-scenes” type businesses. Either way, finding a new location in close proximity to your existing site is always ideal, so get started early and give yourself lots of time. It could take a year or two to find something suitable.
We are renting and have a 10 percent down payment saved. Our lease ends next month. We would like to be settled in within the next year, when should we start looking to buy? – PLANNING
DEAR PLANNING: I always advise folks to get into the market as soon as possible, but with your lease ending, we can reverse engineer your timeline.
A typical closing runs from 60-90 days, depending on the time of year and inventory available. Typically, the vast amount of listings hit the market between March and October, but there are new properties popping up at any time of year. Before going out to shop, I always sit down with buyers. We talk about the “top ten” priorities on your wish list, your budget and your family circumstances — if you have children or pets, for example. With a strategic search underway, it would likely take us less than a month to find something you’ll love, so I expect we could have you moved in the 4 to 6 month range.
We visited an open house this weekend. It looked very familiar, but the agent said it had only been on the market for two weeks. Something seems fishy! – DÉJA VU
DEAR DÉJA: Great detective work! When properties don’t sell, quite often they are removed from the market and re-listed. Homes may be taken off the market for any number of reasons: perhaps the seller’s circumstances have changed or they didn’t get house they wanted, so they took a break. Some properties (such as townhouses) can seem familiar because there are just so many similar units on the market. If you are correct in thinking that you’ve seen the house before, it may well have been removed from the market and relisted. If that’s the case, the agent should have let you know.