Pop Quiz Commercial Real Estate Investing

I read once that if you took all the real estate lawyers in Illinois and laid them end to end along the equator – it would be a good idea to leave them there. That’s what I read. What do you suppose that means?I have written before about the need to exercise due diligence when purchasing commercial real estate. The need to investigate, before Closing, every significant aspect of the property you are acquiring. The importance of evaluating each commercial real estate transaction with a mindset that once the Closing occurs, there is no going back. The Seller has your money and is gone. If post-Closing problems arise, Seller’s contract representations and warranties will, at best, mean expensive litigation. CAVEAT EMPTOR! “Let the buyer beware!”Paying extra attention at the beginning of a commercial real estate transaction to “get it right” can save tens of thousands of dollars when the deal goes bad. It’s like the old Fram┬« oil filter slogan during the 1970′s: “You can pay me now – or pay me later”. In commercial real estate, however, “later” may be too late.Buying commercial real estate is NOT like buying a home. It is not. It is not. It is NOT.In Illinois, and many other states, virtually every residential real estate closing requires a lawyer for the buyer and a lawyer for the seller. This is probably smart. It is good consumer protection.The “problem” this causes, however, is that every lawyer handling residential real estate transactions considers himself or herself a “real estate lawyer”, capable of handling any real estate transaction that may arise.We learned in law school that there are only two kinds of property: real estate and personal property. Therefore – we intuit – if we are competent to handle a residential real estate closing, we must be competent to handle a commercial real estate closing. They are each “real estate”, right?ANSWER: Yes, they are each real estate. No, they are not the same.The legal issues and risks in a commercial real estate transaction are remarkably different from the legal issues and risks in a residential real estate transaction. Most are not even remotely similar. Attorneys concentrating their practice handling residential real estate closings do not face the same issues as attorneys concentrating their practice in commercial real estate.It is a matter of experience. You either know the issues and risks inherent in commercial real estate transactions – and know how to deal with them – or you don’t.A key point to remember is that the myriad consumer protection laws that protect residential home buyers have no application to – and provide no protection for – buyers of commercial real estate.Competent commercial real estate practice requires focused and concentrated investigation of all issues material to the transaction by someone who knows what they are looking for. In short, it requires the exercise of “due diligence”.I admit – the exercise of due diligence is not cheap, but the failure to exercise due diligence can create a financial disaster for the commercial real estate investor. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish”.If you are buying a home, hire an attorney who regularly represents home buyers. If you are buying commercial real estate, hire an attorney who regularly represents commercial real estate buyers.Years ago I stopped handling residential real estate transactions. As an active commercial real estate attorney, even I hire residential real estate counsel for my own home purchases. I do that because residential real estate practice is fundamentally different from commercial real estate.Maybe I do “harp” on the need for competent counsel experienced in commercial real estate transactions. I genuinely believe it. I believe it is essential. I believe if you are going to invest in commercial real estate, you must apply your critical thinking skills and be smart.POP QUIZ: Here’s is a simple test of YOUR critical thinking skills:Please read the following Scenarios and answer the questions TRUE or FALSE:Scenario No. 1: It’s Valentine’s Day. You are in hot pursuit of the love of your life. A few weeks ago, she confided in you that all she ever dreamed of for Valentine’s Day was that her lover would show up at her door, dressed in a white tuxedo with tails and a top hat, and present her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. You’ve rented the tuxedo, but now you are concerned about how much money you are spending.TRUE OR FALSE: Since flowers are pretty much all the same, it is OK for you to skip the roses and show up with a bouquet of fresh yellow dandelions.Scenario No. 2: For several years you eyesight deteriorated to the point where you can barely see your alarm clock. You are now considering corrective eye surgery so you won’t need glasses. Your sister-in-law had corrective eye surgery and has had spectacular results. She recommends her eye surgeon, but mentions the cost is about $5,700 for both eyes and that the surgery is not covered by insurance. A few years ago, you had surgery to correct your hemorrhoids and it cost you only eight hundred bucks.TRUE OR FALSE: Since surgeons all went to medical school and are all medical doctors, you are being frugal and wise by asking the surgeon who performed your hemorrhoid surgery to perform your corrective eye surgery.Scenario No. 3: Several years ago, when you first got married, you asked a former classmate who is a lawyer to represent you in the purchase of your townhome. The cost was only $375. A year later, you started a family and decided you needed a Will. The same attorney prepared Wills for you and your wife for a total cost of $700. You started your own business and your attorney friend formed a corporation for you and charged you only $600 plus the cost of the corporate minute book. Years later, when your son was arrested for misdemeanor reckless driving, your attorney friend handled the criminal case and got your son off with supervision for only $1,500.Your business has been successful and you have built a pretty sizable nest egg, but you are tired of working for every dime and want to try investing in real estate. You have your eye on a strip shopping center. It includes a grocery store, bank, hardware store, dry cleaners (on a month to month tenancy), a couple of fast food restaurants, a gift shop, dental office, bowling alley (with a lease about to expire), and wraps behind a gas station/mini-mart on the corner. The purchase price is $8,000,000, but the net operating income looks pretty good. You figure if you turn the bowling alley into a full service restaurant/banquet facility, and convert the dry cleaners into a 24-hour coin laundry, the net operating income will increase and the shopping center will turn into a spectacular investment. You plan to pull together much of your life savings and put down $2,000,000 to buy this strip shopping center, borrowing the balance of $6,000,000. You remember that your lawyer friend handled the purchase of your home several years ago, so you know he handles real estate.TRUE OR FALSE: Commercial real estate is the same as residential real estate [Hey, its all dirt, isn't it (?)], so you are being a shrewd businessman by hiring your lawyer friend who will charge much less than a lawyer who handles shopping center purchases several time a year. [What is this "due diligence" stuff anyway?]ANSWERS:If you answered “TRUE” for any of the foregoing ScenariosSTOP!The Quiz is over.Please find a quite place to reflect upon your life and consider whether the decisions you make consistently give you the results you desire.If, on the other hand, you understand that the answer to each of the foregoing questions is FALSE, I am available to help you in Scenario No. 3.For Scenario No. 2, you should follow your sister-in-law’s suggestion and contact her eye surgeon, or some other eye surgeon with equal skill.For Scenario No. 1, you are on your own. [But, if you answered TRUE for Scenario No. 1, you may be FOREVER on you own.]Investing in commercial real estate can be profitable and rewarding – but it requires good critical thinking skills and competent counsel.You have a have a brain. It is strongly recommended that you use it.

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Top 7 Tips To Keep In Mind When Considering Online Payday Loan Lenders

Upon getting information about an upcoming school science fair and the need to consider a topic of interest, many students will typically have no idea where to get started. While the science fair is typically a common occurrence in any school at any grade level, there are different types of topics that should be taken a look at depending on the age of the student. After first taking a look at the many different categories of science projects, you will be able to locate a suitable choice of topic to take to the next level.There is a wide variety of categories that fall under the types of science projects that can be chosen for a school science fair. These include biology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, biochemistry, medicine, environmental, mathematics, engineering, and earth science. While you may not have yet learned very much in any of these categories, don’t be afraid to see what each one entails. Taking a good look at your interests will allow you to focus on the right direction to take.Many resources are also available for those who are unsure as to the topic they are wanting to use to create their science projects. If you take a look at the topics that fall under the biology category, you will likely notice that there are topics that deal with plants, animals, and humans. For those who are in 2nd grade or 3rd grade, an interesting topic may be to determine if ants are picky over what type of food they eat. While this topic might not be of interest to an 8th grader, it is certainly something in the biology category that an elementary school student would enjoy.Along with the biology category, a high school student may want to take a look at diffusion and osmosis in animal cells as this would be a more appropriate topic for the grade level. A student in 6th grade would be more advanced than an elementary school student, but not as advanced as a high school student. At this middle school grade level, a topic of how pH levels effect the lifespan of a tadpole may be of interest.Whichever resource is used to locate a topic for science projects, it is always a good idea to consider the grade level of the student prior to making a selection. It is always assumed to be best to have a project at an appropriate level in order to keep the attention of the student and provide a fun and enjoyable learning experience.

´╗┐