Under certain circumstances, it pays to assess a market’s real estate the old-fashioned way.

Eliza Solender of Solender/Hall Inc. 

I love the commercial databases for performing searches for properties my clients want to buy or lease. However, I have discovered they can be very limited in many of our submarkets like Garland, Oak Cliff, South Dallas, Pleasant Grove, and the Stemmons Corridor. Those markets have many owners who do not list their properties on the commercial real estate databases. That leaves finding properties the old-fashioned way…driving the areas.

There is a lot to be said for driving the areas where your clients want to locate. Clients expect us to understand the area and answer questions about new developments, infrastructure changes, zoning and other issues. However, driving and searching for potential locations are much more granular and time consuming than sitting at your desk looking at a database.

Here are some of the things I have learned with all that driving:

  • Research First – Search the databases first before driving. There may be a few properties listed in the target area and they can be a destination to check during your drive.
  • Have a Paper Map – Yep! I know this is a really old tool. However, having a large paper map gives you a better overview of the area, and you can make notes on it.
  • Grid the Area – We divide areas into grids and drive each one. That insures we don’t miss a property.
  • Locate DART – Many of our clients want to be on DART rail or bus lines because they serve a population that utilizes it. It is important to have a DART map with you or superimpose one on an area map.
  • Drive with a Buddy – It is best to have two people in the car—one person to drive and the other to navigate and to look for potential properties.
  • Drive During the “Magic Time” – During the week, we do most of our driving between 9:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. That is when traffic is the lightest. Weekend driving is OK, but you don’t get a sense of employment or business activity in the area.
  • Drive with Your Client – Once you have driven an area, it can be very helpful to redrive with your client. Frequently, our clients have spotted a property we might have rejected.

All this driving has really paid off for our clients in properties that were not listed. Here are a few examples:

  • We located a former DISD school in South Dallas that had been closed. The property had been donated many years earlier with the provision that it reverted to the heirs if it stopped being a school. We convinced the heirs into donating it to our client. The property had a Dallas Central Appraisal District value of more than $1 million! Today it is a successful charter school.
  • Our client needed a new location for a clinic in the Fair Park area. As we were driving the area with our client, we found a fairly new clinic facility that had been recently closed by a well-known Dallas health care provider. The great news is that the property had not yet been listed. Working with the health care provider, we negotiated a lease from the Inner City Development Corporation. The clinic will open in early fall this year.
  • Another time, we were driving with a client on our way to see a property we had selected for them to tour. We pointed out a location we had eliminated because the size did not fit their criteria. Our client asked us not to eliminate it. While the size did not meet their criteria, they liked the area and the basic design of the building. Our client ended up buying the property, and today it is a school.

With all these successful transactions, we have learned that sometimes the old-fashioned way is still the best way to help our clients.

Eliza Solender is president of Solender/Hall Inc. and serves on the board of directors of Origin Bancorp.

This article was originally posted in DMagazine Commercial Real Estate | CRE Opinion