Commercial Real Estate LOI (letter of intent)

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate, Uncategorized

The process for leasing or purchasing commercial real estate space usually starts with the interviewing of adequate representation (commercial real estate brokers), followed by drafting a list of requirements for the new space, and finally a search of available spaces. Once one or two properties are selected as possibilities, negotiations begin on a “non-binding” level through the use of a Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI is a precursor to a lease or sales contract and is usually completed by the chosen commercial real estate broker.

The reasons for using a LOI are multiple, with the most important being that it serves as a guideline for the attorney to draft and finalize necessary leases or contracts. Unlike residential contracts for homes, commercial leases and contracts vary each transaction. There is no set template to follow. Therefore it is necessary for these documents to be orchestrated by a knowledgeable attorney, as it is out of the realm of a broker’s duty and is essentially illegal. However, a broker’s role is crucial in that they outline the negotiated points the attorney will draft the contract on. This action saves legal fees as the attorney has less to negotiate through the contract.
Items that brokers include in an LOI are:

1. Names of the parties in the transaction including the buyer/tenant and seller/landlord.
2. The address of the sought after space.
3. Size of the sought after space in both rentable and usable square feet (if necessary).
4. Offer terms.
5. Signature and date lines.

You may be thinking to yourself, what are the offer terms. Great question…as this is the most fluctuating part of LOIs and contracts alike. Our next blog will cover a variety of items that can be negotiated through an LOI.

Authored by O’Donnell Commercial Real Estate

Re-Published by Paul Martis-Commercial Broker/Realtor





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Glossary Of Commercial Real Estate Terms

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate, Uncategorized

Glossary of Commercial Real Estate Terms 

CAP RATE Capitalization Rate is simply the net operating income (NOI) of the investment property divided by the selling price. For example, a multi-family property has a NOI of $100,000 per year. If an investor wants to pay no more than 7.0% cap rate he would pay $1,428,571 ($100,000/.07).

If you are a stock market investor, you may be familiar with the P/E ratio of a stock. This is the price/earnings ratio or capitalization rate…the same principle. A stock selling for $20.00/share and it has earnings per share (EPS) of $2.00/share, then it has a P/E ratio of 10 or a capitalization rate of 10.0%.

CAM Common Area Maintenance is what a lessor will charge a lessee on a triple net lease.  Common area maintenance typically consists of  landscaping, snow removal, common area utilities, cleaning, scavenger. It may also include a maintenance & repair amount to fund such things as parking lot sealing/striping, roof repair/replacement, etc.  Usually, but not  always, property taxes, insurance and management fees are separate.


This is a term (just like CAP rate) that is widely used by real estate investors. This is the amount of cash (either pre-tax or after-tax) that is generated by an investment property divided by the amount of cash you have invested in the property. Most investors will ask you what the cash-on-cash return is or what the cap rate is.  For example, the net cash you have invested in a property is $80,000 ($100,000 down payment less $20,000 of seller credits at closing) and the cash generated by this property, after-tax, is $15,000. Your after-tax cash-on-cash return is 18.75% ($15,000/$80,000).


Cash Flow is the net operating income of an investment less depreciation, interest, mortgage principle and income taxes.  Cash flow is what most investors are interested in because this is what goes in their pocket.

Some sophisticated investors are only interested in cash flow…not earnings.

DEPRECIATION This is an expense that the IRS allows an investor to deduct over the useful life of an asset. It lowers your taxable income. For example, the IRS will allow you to depreciate a multi-family property over 27.5 years. A commercial property (i.e. a strip center) is depreciated over 39 years and is an important figure in determining the after-tax cash flow which is needed to calculate after-tax cash-on-cash return.

DSR This is the Debt Service Ratio. This is what the lenders (underwriters) will look closely at when determining if they want to lend on a particular property. This is the principle and interest (P&I) of all mortgages divided into the NOI. For example, the P&I is $325,000 and the NOI is $400,000.   The DSR would be $400,000/$325,000 or 1.23. Lenders generally want to see a 1.15 – 1.3 DSR.   Ask the lender, who will make the final decision as to what ratio is acceptable as it maybe over 1.3 DSR (130%).

EBT This is Earnings Before income Taxes. Earnings before taxes is NOI less interest expense and depreciation expense.

EAT This is Earnings After income Taxes.

EGI This is the Effective Gross Income of an investment property. This is a total of all the rents for a property less an appropriate vacancy factor.

LTV This is Loan To Value. This is the percentage of the purchase price that a lender will give a mortgage on. For example, most lenders will do a 80% LTV on multi-family properties. However, on strictly commercial (mixed- used, strip centers, etc.) they will only lend 75% LTV.

FIT This is Federal Income Taxes. When calculating an investor’s tax rate in a financial model you should use his/her’s incremental tax rate. ..not the average. For example, if the investor were to purchase a multi-family property that was going to add an additional $100,000/year to his/her income, the tax bracket that they may be at for new income could be 35% although their overall average taxes are at 25%.

SIT This is State Income Taxes.

NOI This is Net Operating Income. This is the  Effective Gross Income less all expenses required to operate the property, i.e. real estate taxes, janitor, property management company fee, utilities, waste disposal, pest control, insurance, maintenance & repairs, supplies, advertising, legal fees, etc.

ROI Return On Investment. This is the current, or future projected, equity of  your investment property divided by the amount of original equity (cash) that you invested to purchase this property. For example, you paid $100,000 cash to purchase a $1,000,000 property. Five years later, the  property has increased in value to $1,300,000 and your $900,000 mortgage has been paid down to $850,000. You now have $450,000 of equity in the property, less your original equity of $100,00 is $350,000 divided by your original investment of $100,000 equals 350.0% or 70.0%  per year ROI.

IRR This is the Internal Rate of Return, which is often used in capital budgeting. It is the interest rate that makes net present value of all cash flows equal zero.

NPV This is the Net Present Value.  It is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows. Net present value is also used in capital budgeting to analyze the profitabilities of an investment or project. Net present value is sensitive to the reliability of future cash inflows that an investment or project will yield.

VACANCY RATE This is the percentage that you will apply to the gross revenues of a multi-family property to allow for a certain number of units being vacant for partial periods during the year. A rule of thumb is: 10 – 12 units and less,  use a 10.0% vacancy factor…over 12 units use 6.0% – 7.0%.  Ask the lender what % vacancy factor they would use if the buyer is not paying cash.

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Commercial Real Estate Mentoring Testimonial

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate, Uncategorized

Commercial Mentoring Program in Wisconsin

In 2016 I was invited by my managing broker to be part of Paul Martis’ commercial real estate mentoring program.
Paul has an extensive background in commercial real estate and his class was thorough in every aspect.
There was a sizable amount of information to go through but Paul made it manageable and communicated it in real life examples.
It is invaluable to have someone with his experience and expertise at your fingertips.
Paul provided us with the necessary formulas and discussed every variable and how they can affect the bottom line.
I would not hesitate for a minute to recommend NewcastleCRE® 10 Point Commercial Mentoring Program in your training for commercial real estate.
Top notch!
Katie Hobbins-Broker
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Mequon, Wisconsin

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Leads and Referrals

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate

In real estate, Residential and Commercial Realtors look to build their business in different ways.

We will explore a few of the opportunities, Leads and Referrals.

One can buy potential leads, a list of names that meet your business criteria and then you attempt to qualify those names as a new opportunity.

Some real estate systems are setup to call or text an agent in response to an advertisement on a real estate sign.  Are you paying for each of those leads or is the system setup as a value added service?

Again, you need to qualify those potential buyer or tenant opportunities.

Are you calling for leads..check your Do Not Call list…Expired and Cancelled listings can be found on your local MLS?

A lead can come directly from a call to you our office from a customer that is searching the internet for properties in your area.

Are you promoting yourself and your services across all media as leads can come from random searches on Google and the emphasis is usually to those brokerages and agents who are displayed on the first page of Google.


Now lets move on to Referrals.

Your sphere of influence is very important as one source of referrals, while testimonials, social media and reaching out to other agents within and outside your company can also add referral opportunities.

Do you have a unique approach to real estate, i.e., Commercial Services, legal or appraisal background, designer, staging or professional photography.

Develop a system and a approach which will grow new business as there is not one best practice which works for everyone.

Know your strengths and showcase your accomplishments!

Paul Martis-Commercial Realtor

Commercial Real Estate Mentor








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“Mentoring and the Protege…..Getting into a CRE state of mind”

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate, Uncategorized

“Getting into a CRE state of mind”

Starting a career in real estate creates many expectations and commitments for the agent as

they build best practices for success.

Developing their professional CORE early is a critical part of the education process while

maintaining relevance with their professional development goals.

The Elements of one’s real estate CORE are Competencies, Organization, Resources and

Evaluation and require an understanding on how to focus and maximize each.

When an agent gets into a CRE (Commercial Real Estate) state of mind, the differences

between residential activities and commercial should become evident, different forms,

property types, service professionals, terminologies and evaluation tools to name just a few.

Herein lies the confusion and pitfalls as some try on Commercial assignments without being

In Illinois, a real estate broker doesn’t need a separate license to conduct commercial real

estate transactions and many brokerages are not prepared to clarify or address these crossover

Many residential agents who are looking to ease into the commercial arena find the support for

learning this new discipline difficult without a seasoned Commercial Real Estate Practitioner.

We find that a limited opportunity exists as formal directories of Commercial Real Estate

Practitioners willing to help are in short supply or nonexistent.

This hopefully will lead an agent to explore the term Mentoring and Protégé and what this

professional relationship is all about.

Mentoring requires patience and commitment from the Mentor (Educator) and Protégé

(Student) and is normally a one to one or small group setting.

The Mentor should provide advice and direction while constantly reviewing all expectations.

These programs should be structured and have defined objectives with a schedule which meets

the needs of the Protégé and Mentor.

A formal Mentoring program could take 3-6 months to complete 30 hours of education in  1-2hr sessions.

The learning & support provided to the Protégé should not end with the completion of an

assignment or structured mentoring program as the process needs to remain dynamic, evolving

for both the student and the educator.

The reasons to choose a Mentor:

1. Focuses on Protégé’s abilities and interests

2. Qualifies resources available

3. Transaction support-deal making

4. Recognition by industry expert-Certificate or future Certification

5. Platform for Professional Development-Networking

7. Market Penetration-New Business Development, Co-List, Leads

We as real estate professionals need to move away from using or embracing such terms as

Resimmercial agent which suggests a realtor® agent doing a small percentage of their business

as commercial and instead, focus on enhancing the education process for all those who would

become Commercial Real Estate Practitioner’s.

Paul Martis-Commercial Realtor®/Educator/Mentor

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Why Use a CRE Mentor?

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate

Mentoring Testimonial


Real estate is a complex business and it becomes even more complex once you add the variables of a commercial income property.  The rules are similar but applied differently than residential. The motivations of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants are also different.

A tenant might ask for a location based on demographics, traffic counts, signage, foot traffic, required parking ratios and so on. For a retail center or an office building, a landlord will want to maximize their income with the right tenant mix and market rents. Multifamily residential landlords may want to maximize their income with tenants at market rates, reduce operating expenses that they pay to increase NOI and create a minimal vacancy loss factor. Multifamily landlords can’t choose where to put their tenants for the best mix per the requirements of fair housing. All these distinctions of the different product types in commercial real estate make it critical to have a mentor in your corner.

Find a mentor who can guide you in the product types you want wish to focus on.  They will help you grow in your focus from counting mailboxes on a multifamily building to get an idea of the number of units to understanding desirable parking ratios for a tenant going into a retail center. There is always something to learn in this business. Building your knowledge from an industry veteran’s experience is one of the fastest ways to get up to speed.

In the Chicago market, I would recommend the mentoring of Paul Martis of Newcastle Team, Coldwell Banker Residential/Commercial in Oak Brook, IL. He can mentor for an office as well as individuals. Paul is a 20 year industry veteran who is experienced and respected as a commercial broker, an instructor, a mentor and as someone who gets involved in the real estate community at large. Many Realtor brokerages do a mix of residential and commercial but their resources for commercial are limited to what the association provides.  Paul Martis provides knowledge through his programs that helps brokers understand how to get deals done.

Best of luck to all who venture into this industry and I hope to see you at a closing table someday.

John Guill


Sperry Van Ness

25 N Third St.

Geneva, IL 60134

630-699-4914 Direct

630-938-4950 Office

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Commercial Multi-Family Financial Model

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate, Uncategorized

Looking to save time and headaches, here is a time saver which was created several years ago by myself and fellow commercial associates.

Our financial model has been used, tested and improved over the last 10 years to reduce the burden of listing and calculating key financial elements of a 5+multi-family investment property.

The financial model helps the commercial practitioner to enter, tab to calculate and organize an easy report for the buyer or seller client.

Cap Rate, DSR, Cash on Cash Return, Depreciation, Amortization schedule, etc…..much more professional than working this out on the back of a napkin, providing a three page report and the ability to create what if scenarios which affect the value and potential qualifications of a lender.

Take a look at the Resource section at the main page for


Paul Martis-Commercial Broker/Educator/Mentor




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Expand or Relocate?

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate, Uncategorized

Daily Herald Business Ledger

Expand or relocate? Some things to consider

By Paul Martis

Thursday, July 03, 2014 8:00 AM

Despite the continuing challenges of our local economy, many businesses in the Chicago area are hoping to expand in the near future, especially in burgeoning sectors such as health care and the tech industry.

One of the most important issues these businesses will face in planning for their growth is their physical location. They must decide whether they are best served by expanding their current footprint or relocating to new, larger facilities. Too often, however, business owners put off such decisions until the last minute and are forced to scramble to find new space or negotiate a deal.

It’s best to start the process early — at least nine to 12 months before your current lease expires — and give yourself time to weigh the options. There are many factors to consider when it comes to finding a new home for your business, including:

Local Market. Does your company have market penetration or an established customer base that might be lost if you move to a new location? Sometimes you don’t have to move far to lose connections with key customers or clients. On the other hand, your research may show it’s possible to relocate to an area that has a stronger market for your product or services. You might also be able to move nearer to assets like transportation hubs that can help you reach new markets and save time and money on logistics.

Physical Space. Have your facilities been improved or customized to fit the needs of your business? That could include special communication cabling, computer server rooms, restaurant equipment or other infrastructure that might not be available to you at another location. Be sure to factor in the cost of replicating these features should you decide to move. In the current market, few landlords are willing to foot the bill for major improvements unless they are part of a long-term lease for a major company.

Amenities. If you’re expanding your current footprint, you may be able to secure benefits such as larger signage and additional parking spaces from property owners at low or no cost. Parking is an issue that may seem minor but can affect your space planning. For instance, many villages require a set number of parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of use, and that number is often higher for facilities like medical offices than for retail spaces like restaurants or shops. If you expand, will your current location have enough parking to accommodate your growth?

Workforce. A company’s workers are among its most important assets. Be sure to consider how a move might affect your employees, especially if you have a strong team with valuable skills or training that would be difficult to replace. While you might be able to save money in a new location, would you risk losing longtime employees whose commute times have doubled? On the other hand, however, a new location might give you access to a new labor pool.

Lifestyle. How does your company’s location affect the lifestyle of you and your employees? Would you like to be closer to home or to amenities like restaurants or child care? While lifestyle issues may seem superfluous, they are often a big factor in determining where businesses decide to relocate. Chicago’s world-class cultural institutions, for instance, have long been a draw for major corporations that have decided to locate their headquarters in northeastern Illinois.

Cost. Will a new lease help you save money? Or, alternatively, will a more expensive new location be worth the investment in the long run? Be sure to review your goals for your company’s move or expansion and don’t forget to factor in all the costs. After additional expenses such as moving and building out a new space, you may only realize marginal savings on a new lease.

No matter your objectives, however, there’s no doubt that planning for the future of your business is an important decision, so don’t put it off and don’t go it alone. Take the time now to set goals, compute the possible costs and benefits, and work with someone to evaluate your options and your current lease well before it expires.

By giving yourself time to work through the all options ahead of time, you can position your business for future success and avoid the growing pains that can often accompany expansion.

• Paul Martis is a broker at Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT in Oak Brook and Current Chair of the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® Commercial Investment Committee.

Tim  Frisbie Senior Account Executive Kathy Schaeffer & Associates, Inc. | 17 N. State St., Ste. 1690 | Chicago, IL 60602


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Confidence in Commercial Real Estate Market

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate

REALTORS See Confidence in Commercial Real Estate Market

Page Content
May 28, 2014
By Amy Robey, MORe Now Contributor
The commercial real estate market is well on its way to recovery according to an panel of economists and research experts at the REALTOR® Party Convention and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., recently.
“Commercial real estate closely follows the economy, usually with an 18 to 24 month lag time,” said Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. “REALTORS® from across the country are reporting increases in sales transaction volumes and income, which tells us that things are turning around. We have not reached pre-recession levels, but the recovery is happening, we are almost getting back to normal.”
John Sikaitis, managing director for Local Markets and Office Research for JLL, discussed the changing dynamics for office space in the U.S.
“Companies are moving away from the traditional office park,” he said, “In the next five to seven years, the large office buildings off the highway will be obsolete. If a property does not have the urban amenities preferred by young Millennials, including access to transit, shopping, restaurants, etc., then it is not going to survive without substantially reducing its rent.”
In line with the growing demand for urban amenities, companies are beginning to focus on the quality of space over size.
“Since the great recession, large and small offices alike have changed the way they use real estate,” said Sikaitis. “Businesses are averaging less space per worker and beginning to focus on how their office space can contribute to the health and well-being of their employees.”
Features such as air sanitation, circadian rhythm lighting and layouts that promote movement and fitness are becoming common place in many office spaces, he said. Read REALTORS® Declare Confidence in Commercial Market for more information.
Chicago Suburban Commercial Market Insight
Paul Martis, Chairman of the Commercial Committee for the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, sees continued growth in the retail sector in the Chicagoland suburban market.
“In the future I think some retailers may opt for downsizing overall typical retail space. They are looking at how e-retail is affecting their brick and mortar,” said Martis. “Many more are closing their doors or adjusting their market expansion to have smaller footprints to offer the same day or next day delivery. It could be a place to stop in and place your order and receive it the same day or next day.”
He indicates retail vacancies average 11-12% while he sees office occupancy rates lagging behind at 20-25%.
“Office and retail development is based upon movement in the workforce and we are not seeing a lot of new construction but more reoccupation of infill sites that may have been sitting empty for years and builders are taking over those sites and putting up new product,” said Martis, broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Oak Brook.
The multi-family market continues to be the hot sector of the commercial market with absorption at around 4% in vacancy rates for Chicagoland area, according to Martis.
“Multi-family is a rich opportunity in any market right now,” says Martis. “I don’t think we can go much lower in terms of vacancy rates from where we are in the 4% range.
Martis also anticipates a redesign of typical office space.
“Many spaces are becoming what we were seeing back in the 70s, an open space environment where you can get two or three people around a common area and they are able to work and be linked to a network and you don’t need a large desk and private office,” he said.
He also sees expansion of the boutique hotels in the suburban area.
“We are seeing opportunities for smaller footprints in hotel design where people don’t need to stay in a large facility,” he said.”The food type businesses are also really drawing attention to old retail centers.”
Kristian Lee, commercial broker with Schulz Properties, Ltd. in Downers Grove, sees further expansion in the industrial market. A commercial broker for the past 12 years, Lee, who is the incoming chairman of the MORe Commercial Committee, is starting to see less availability of Class A industrial property space which will lead to new development.
“The industrial market is starting to get healthier. it is a lot better than it was. Leased rates are going up as compared to last year as occupancy rates are going up,” said Lee. “The first quarter vacancy rate is 8.1% for the entire Chicago area for the industrial market area. Transactions are still slow though. People aren’t making decisions quickly. They are examining the economy and where their company is growing.”
Lee indicates this is the 15th consecutive quarter of positive net absorption for industrial growth in the Chicagoland market. Nationally annual industrial rents should rise 2.4% this year and 2.6% in 2015.
Past chairman of the MORe Commercial Committee, Theresa Schulz with Schulz Properties, Ltd. of Downers Grove, has an identified niche in the smaller retail and office range (1,000 to 1,800 square feet).
“I’m seeing a lot of retailers expanding and adding more units,” said Schulz. “The rents have finally stabilized if not increased. Retail in the right “Type A” product has dramatically gone up.
“The grocery concept is in high expansion mode right now in the city and suburbs. With the expansion of Mariano’s grocery stores, they are creating a destination area and, as a result, have a much bigger retail footprint for their area of location. More developers are wanting to be part of that development going on.”
Schulz says three years ago she was busy repositioning clients into lower cost buildings as they didn’t need premium locations because they were more focused on their budget and economic terms of the deal.
“Now that those leases are rolling due, they are questioning whether they are in the right location and do they want to rebuild their brand and get back into that higher priced retail space,” said Schulz.
Schulz also foresees continued growth for the casual restaurant concept.
“The fast casual is still going to be active for the next couple of years,” she said. “I see continued growth for these niche markets.”
Also from a retail point of view, the gaming groups are starting to take a huge lead in absorbing available retail space throughout the suburbs, Schulz says.
Schulz sees the office vacancy market slowly recovering.
“Rents are stabilizing, but I’m not seeing an increase in office rents as I have the retail side,” she said. “Office is a slow recovering area in the Chicago suburban market.”
According to the National Association of REALTORS® commercial members completed a median of eight transactions in 2013, equal to the previous year according to the 2014 NAR Commercial Member Profile.

REALTORS See Confidence in Commercial Real Estate Market

– See more at:

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Blog Testimonial



Recently I decided to enhance my opportunities in Real Estate by considering Commercial Real Estate specifically.  Though I have been in Residential Sales since 2008, times have been challenging so I decided to consider all my money making alternatives.  My business and sales background made it an easy choice for me to focus on Commercial Real Estate.

The first step was where do I go for some answers?  This appeared to be anything but routine when searching on the internet for easy short cuts to books, seminars or “how to” websites.  I really found nothing useful.  The more I searched, the more things got fuzzy and frustrating. Perhaps this was by design to limit competition or perhaps I wasn’t doing it right? Maybe I needed to start first with my Real Estate Professional Services Group to see if they could offer the right direction.

After contacting my help desk at Mainstreet- Succeed with MORe Commercial, I was directed to the Newcastle Team where I learned about a 30 hour Commercial Mentoring Program.  Turns out I could review on-line useful commercial websites and later learned I can connect with free seminars and social networking events. This mentoring program was designed specifically for those who would like to pursue a serious career in Commercial Real Estate.  The Newcastle Team was ideal because it had topics such as: The A B C’s of getting started, how to find clients, leads & referrals, goals, objectives, important forms, search tools, educational tips, training topics and even new business trends in Illinois.   It turns out there are Commercial Professionals who are willing to share their ideas, enthusiasm and provide real examples of success stories.

Commercial Real Estate Sales may not be for everyone but as I discovered it clearly required a very different approach with a specific skill set. If this is something you are serious about and want to master, the Newcastle Team can help provide a focused path to success.  I highly recommend you check out for a thorough, practical step by step simulation experience.  Paul Martis and his team of professionals can help you determine if Commercial Real Estate is the challenge you are ready to experience.


Hope to see you on Mainstreet – for MORe Success !


Karen Gould

Commercial Broker




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