Old School Commercial Real Estate, Still Kicking Your Ass

Think that all of your beeping gadgets and tethered toys are just the coolest things ever?  Do you know what the latest I- pop app or whatever they call them are and think it rules the world?  Well, great for you. I have some news for you son.  I’m kicking your ass and here’s how and why.

1.  I get my butt up and moving- First of all commercial real estate does not happen sitting at the desk.  It happens in the field.  A successful pro must be in the field every day, yes every day.

2.  I am mobile- As in get in your car and drive your market, yes every day.

3.  I am really mobile– They have these things call shoes.  Walking, knocking on doors, climbing stairs, you would be amazed what you see and hear.  On the ground.

4.  I meet people- Tenants, property managers, building owners, (remember them)

5. I listen and learn- I get info about their families, politics, hobbies and their business.  Guess what, they tell me stuff.  Like lease information, when they are moving and what they really need.  In great detail. They like me.

6. I feel the market- I keep up with what businesses are expanding and contracting.  I analyze why.

7. I know the ropes– Zoning, planning, permits, water, local, municipal. Yes, I went to school with the wonderful gals behind the desks at the city and county.  I don’t abuse the relationship.  I nurture it.

8.  I know where to go– I attend the events that matter for commercial real estate.  I attend the events that are not so good for it too.  I also stand in there and represent commercial real estate when we are getting hammered.

9. I’m a pro– The average broker spends 8 or 9 years in this business.  How many do you think are left from this last bloodletting?  Think they will jump back in when it looks like a little easy money can be made?  I’ll be here if they want to come back, but I doubt it.  They made the real pros look bad.  They probably went on to some Social Media “consulting” job.  It looked easy for a while didn’t it.  Good riddance.

10. Time- as in you are not willing to:

a. Stay away from the gadgets.  They are just distractions…..for the lazy.

b. Realize commercial real estate is NOT an online business.

c. Take time away from your “real” life.  This one may hurt but, you are not willing to be away from your family, friends and fun.  Friend of mine is a HUGE hitter.  His quote “17 hours a day for 25 years.  That’s my secret.”  Balls in all the way or not?

Take this as friendly or not so friendly advice.  Just telling it like it is and showing you the way it’s still done today.  Play with your toys all you want.  I’ll just keep cashing my checks…for the next 20 years.

Photo via Flickr Matt Hewitt http://www.flickr.com/photos/aduki/

Duke Long


  • So true. I spent the first twelve months of my career (1987) strip mapping my “area”. Hand drawn maps identifying every piece of real estate in the area I choose to become an expert in. Then I researched the ownership of every piece of property and the decision maker for every tenant. Then I went and visited them, and called the ones who were out of town. My contact management system was an index card file box. Don’t get me wrong, I was the first broker in my 30 broker office to have a computer. But the computer only replace the card box, it didn’t make the calls for me or go see the owners for me. The past two years have been a good “cleansing” that’s been long overdue in the CRE industry. It’s getting rid of the arrogant assholes who marketed properties at 5 caps by taking bids, and not offering commission splits. I wonder if they’ve got the balls to call any of the people they sold that crap to and ask them how it’s going? Oh I forgot, they are now Social Media consultants!

  • This one really had me smiling Duke. I actually was given a proposal from one of my competitors the other day (from a laughing new client of mine) that stated that 80% of sales come from online advertising. I think gadgets have a role but nothing takes the place of good old fashion networking, hand shaking, and “walking the beat.” Thanks for the post.

  • I always stumble upon your posts at the best times! Just came in from walking a 3 corner property I just listed and meeting all the tenants in the adjacent businesses. Turns out one of them ‘REALLY’ needs parking for their tow trucks. This is a belly to belly biz. I love it.

    Don’t tell anyone else, though. OK? 🙂

  • 90% of the deals I’ve done were a direct result of “Street” knowledge, the kind of knowledge that doesn’t show up in CoStar, Loopnet, the internet or on the computer, but from a mere stroll down both sides of the street. Sure the internet has helped me research my prospects and clients a bit, and kept my name in front of them, but it was being in the field that resulted in closing most of my transactions! Great post Duke!

  • Another good one Duke!
    Though I avail myself of the latest & greatest that tecnology has to offer our industry, deep down I really enjoy sticking to the basics when it comes to getting things done. More of a “Hanson Brother”. That’s Hanson Brother as in “Old Time Hockey” http://youtu.be/F0FE2RGDzAo
    I always enjoy your writings Duke.

  • To be quite honest, I have zero problem selling & buying for my clients over the Internet virtually.
    Yes I am socially networking with these clients along with video conferencing & use of all the other gadgets technology serves in communicating.
    Virtual deals are slick & reduces costs to me, the Seller & Buyer.
    When it is time for the official hand shake to close a deal, my local representative is on site, proud to share that reward.
    Sounds like there is a lot of winning going on. You guys are working too hard.

  • Hey Duke, I’m with you. I drove and walked my assigned markets nationwide for six years with solid results. Rarely walked away empty handed! Give me a cell phone,a laptop, a good pair of shoes and a reliable car and I’m set!!!

  • Interesting post since I am trying to crack the commercial code and make switch from being residential to all commercial. No one really strong player in my market yet when I ask how do you get started, one side says internet is key, other side says walk the streets introduce yourself. Problem is dont have luxury of time, feel there is an opportunity now while most all are crying the blues. So you any suggestions from you established CRVets. Thanks.

      • Excellent source of information. I am new to real estate but have already decided that CRE is what I would like to specialize in. Its unfortunate that it seems you dont always get the best advice regarding residential vs. commercial but find that sites like this are very helpful in pointing you in the right direction. Thank you and I look forward to learning the ins & outs of CRE…..and reading upcoming post…

  • Nice post Duke – I hate when younger co-workers of mine complain that so-and-so hasn’t emailed them back yet. SO CALL THEM! That’s what those buttons on your device are also for. There is a generational aversion to calling at some level.

    Good advice for many industries as well. Get out there and press flesh, slap backs and talk to people. Ironic that with all the technology, when you need a pro, if you know one personally, there’s a good chance you’ll start there than with anything online.

  • You know me Duke – I’m all about utilizing the electronic avenues that are availed to me but if I’m not shaking hands and having face time, I’ve got nothing. I can’t wait for them to magically and deliciously show up at our office doorstep begging to buy our properties. I feel that internet marketing in #CRE is more about branding and becoming “findable”. What’s the good in it if everyone in Twitterworld #FF’s you but your own market area doesn’t know you exist? It’s all about balance. Social Media is time consuming, and if you don’t ask yourself, “what is the ROI for my time?”, you’re not really managing your business. Bottom line is RESULTS – I want to do what works.

  • I have been doing this since 1984…before fax machines… and mobile phones weren’t mobile. I recently found my old rolladex and gave it to one of the twenty somethings in the office…told him it was my old computer! Nothing out paces a good street broker. I tell the young guys in my office to GET OUT AND TALK TO SOMEBODY…don’t email them!

  • Duke, the author of “The New Generation of Commercial Real Estate”, are we playing both sides of the blogging field or did I miss the point of the blog? I love the old school side of the argument, it is true.

  • At 27, I’m in the age where we sit at our computer all day and call it work. Until the light bulb went off and I realized I was getting schooled by the “old-timers” that still went out and canvassed and talked to people every day. Technology is great and it’s letting us do some amazing things, but I think alot of people use it almost as a crutch instead of going out and pounding the pavement. I’m certainly guilty of this. CRE is a people business, and personal relationships (I think) will always trump tweets, comments, links backs and the such. Great article.

  • Old post but forever relevant!
    I have one note to add. Working smarter is not all bad, and to add to that it depends on your level of work life balance. Screw that I’m not going to be slaving my life to make a killing. Find me more often visiting the caribbean drinking a glass of water instead of mahito’s.