Let me start out by saying that I recommend everyone work with a broker when procuring a site for your new business or having someone lease your retail property. One of the great things about the retail real estate industry is that most brokers(agents) are active on a full time basis. Working on a full time basis allows brokers to really be in touch with the industry and market. In addition, if they are very active, they should have a good amount of experience and contacts to draw from in procuring a site for your new business.

One thing that I really value is working with specialists or experts. When I want to find out about tax laws, I work with a tax attorney. When I want to get my teeth checked, I go to a dentist as opposed to going to a optometrist. And the point of this is to say, it is really important to work with a specialist. There are all types of commercial real estate brokers. People specialize in land, retail, industrial, office, and investment sales. The guy that works in the office sector is likely to have a surface knowledge of the retail sector, but is not the expert that you need if you are looking to open a store in a strip center. The office broker is about as much a retail specialist as the optometrist is a dental specialist – he knows the basics of biology and the human body, but not enough detail beyond that to really do his job moderately well.

Now, you might be saying, “That’s an extreme example, my sister is an office broker and she can help me open a store just like any other real estate agent.” Well, to a degree that is true, but you are not likely to get the expert service needed when opening your first store. I imagine it would be very hard for someone unfamiliar with the rental rates in the retail center around the mall to really know if the price you are being quoted is competitive or if the pricing is ridiculous. The other thing is that people tend to like working with those whom they like, trust, and know. The retail real estate community is very small and people in each market know each other and often do deals with the same people over and over again, so being represented by an outsider is not going to ease the process of getting that winning space.

There are some Jacks of All Trades out there that can do office deals, industrial deals, retail deals and land deals. One of my mentors has worked in all sectors of the real estate business and seems to have a grasp on many markets due to his resources, but in my experience these people are few and far between. You are much better off working with a specialist who knows retail real estate in your specific market.