From Dumpy to Praise-Worthy in 7 Steps

I recently got a listing on a landfill located on Tyvola Road at I-77 in Charlotte. I’m in the midst of doing the due diligence and submitting a work plan to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. It got me thinking: How do you sell a landfill?

It’s not your typical asset. But it is a fun one to work with. As many of you are aware, I thrive on the packaging and selling complicated properties, and I thought I’d share the process in case you ever are in the position of selling a landfill or similarly unique asset.

  • First: Make sure you understand your client’s objectives. Ask questions. Lots of good questions so that you know what is the goal. And never forget what the client’s objectives are.
  • Second: Think about the best and worst scenarios that could come out of the transaction. Then come up with three success factors that quantify what would make the transaction a success. Use this when you are deciding on your vision for the landfill. You want to identify your ideal vision and identify the factors that oppose this vision. By identifying your ideal vision and the opposing factors you are building the raw materials that will form the base of your project’s success.
  • Third: Look at the obstacles, and formulate a plan for how you will transform those obstacles and write down the action items that will need to be done to accomplish this.
  • Now you are ready to pull out your due diligence checklist. Everyone should be working off a proven due diligence checklist (see mine here). So your fourth item is to start working through your due diligence items.
  • Next up is to create an awesome team. Step five is to pull together your most trusted engineers, attorneys, contractors and other professionals and contacts.
  • Sixth step is to distill everything you’ve learned into a one-sentence pitch, or value proposition, for the property.
  • Step No. 7 is to craft the supporting story to go along with your sentence. Look for characteristics that are unexpected or surprising because that is what people will remember.
  • Go for the stats. Many people need more than stories, they want concrete data. Do the appropriate research and find the data or experts who can support your value proposition or summary statement. Maybe an engineering firm can provide the support to buttress your statement.
  • Find supporting examples. In my case, I’m looking for innovative ways people who worked with other landfills. I’m considering whether the site would be good for an industrial property or a new multifamily project. What about a new water tower for the city of Charlotte or the next Top Golf location? Be creative.

As you can tell, these guiding principles can be applied to any type of real estate. Complex assets may just require some extra creative thinking or deeper analysis.

Real estate transactions can be fraught with frustration and pitfalls.

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be working with your broker, the person who is supposed to help you through the complexities. Veteran commercial real estate broker and client advisor John Culbertson discovered that brokers’ interests aren’t always aligned with those of their clients. He realized there was a better way to advocate for clients and get the deal done.


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