Hiring a broker is risky. Not hiring one is worse. Here’s how we find the right ones…fast.

Hiring a broker is risky. Not hiring one is worse. Here's how we find the right


These days, most leaders think of real estate decisions as murky territory filled with long-term financial and reputational risks. And getting the “ground truth” about an investment decision without a knowledgeable guide and advisor seems even riskier.

Acquiring and vetting trustworthy information can often overwhelm decision-makers, and the clarity provided by seasoned commercial real estate brokers can be invaluable.

“But it’s 2024,” you might say. “All these super-sized data aggregators, like CoStar, CoreLogic, and Moody’s, can put a crystal ball of granular, timely, local CRE information on anyone’s smartphone. How’s a broker any better?” 

Listen, we hear you.

When there’s a flood of public and private data on any property, anywhere in the country, available to anyone with internet access and some time and money to spare…why pay someone an obscene amount of money to do what you can readily do, especially when you’ll have to do the negotiating yourself, anyway?

Well, as those of us in the trade know, the accuracy of this information can be questionable. 

Like the wire services that preceded them, these invaluable resources are only a starting point for divining local market trends and strategies.

And the only way you know if they’re accurate and contextualized is if you work with someone who A) pays premium subscriptions to data aggregation and analytics services like Zonda, CoStar, LandGlide, Latapult, John Burns, The Linneman Letter, The Liar’s Report, etc., and B) has enough experience and skill to make sense of the data…and even read between the lines when necessary.

No matter how you feel about brokers, very few non-brokers are as well-equipped to act like them. 

As the old saying goes, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And when it comes to local CRE market knowledge, the king is probably a broker.

Good brokers can save their clients significant amounts of time and money. And the best can mean the difference between a merely successful closing and a business-transforming deal.

The fact of the matter is that the most successful real estate investors always hire brokers; why do you think that every one of the big buildings in your market has CBRE, JLL, Colliers, and (occasionally) Cardinal Partners signs out front?

Brokers are in the middle of nearly 90% of every significant CRE transaction and can provide unique insights.

Of course, if they don’t share your values or put your interests ahead of theirs, you’ll probably end up with the kind of buyer’s remorse that our industry, sadly, is known for. 

And this raises two big problems. It’s been our observation—and plenty of research backs this up—that most business people 1) distrust real estate brokers and 2) don’t know how to find good ones.

So, how do you go about hiring an excellent local broker?

As you might suspect, we have a process for that. And we’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out how to find them wherever we go. 

We have to. When our clients have needs beyond the Carolinas, where our local spidey-sense is a finely tuned instrument, we’ve experienced firsthand how selecting a superior local broker can make all the difference.  

We got a call last year from a regional Operations Executive with a large Japanese chemical conglomerate. “We’re thinking about selling a manufacturing facility in the Detroit market. You guys did a great job with our facility in Virginia, and the CEO said we should call you.”

Of course, while we were grateful for the call, we also knew that we really needed a local partner to answer such a significant question for a valued client. So, we pulled out our roadmap and got to work.

The first step is the DSQ. We always start our clients’ real estate journeys by asking the essential question of the DSQ: “Looking out 12 months from now, what would have happened for you to feel really good about your progress with this deal?”

After several meetings with the plant’s leadership team, we discovered what was most important to them in selling the plant—a relatively quick sale with privacy and discretion.

Only after the DSQ could we begin finding and selecting a broker to meet the client’s objectives. 

Any competent broker can list a property and close a sale. But if your values, motives, and objectives are not openly considered in advance, it’s very difficult to find a broker who can give you what you really want. 

The second step is broker selection. Our next challenge was to find and evaluate a reasonable sample of possible brokers for “goodness of fit” with the results of the DSQ. 

We started with an “easy button” option of looking up some colleagues from SIOR, the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. I also checked CCIM, Charter Commercial Investment Managers, and CRE, The Counselors of Real Estate. 

Like any professional association with robust accreditation and membership criteria, these affiliations provide a ready list of well-qualified professionals who’ve earned the respect of their peers and clients. Local members are often the best place to start a search.

We selected four from the list and sent them a brief questionnaire to probe the scope and extent of their experience in recent manufacturing site sales. 

After sharing a confidentiality agreement, we also asked them to provide us with a standard list of what they thought would be comparable sales in the market to the subject property. Using some of those paid data sources we mentioned, we also completed our own comparables for comparison to the brokers’.

Once the list was narrowed down to two finalists, we had a Zoom meeting to discuss their recommendations and gauge their receptivity to our Client’s needs and concerns.

You’d be surprised how those deeply informed conversations revealed the right fit candidate. With the DSQ checklist in front of us, we could quickly ascertain which of these two highly skilled, accomplished professionals would suit our needs. 

One was an aggressive local broker who’d been at the helm of several high-profile deals, both on the buyer and seller side of the table, with a wealth of local “street” knowledge. The other was also an aggressive local broker who’d been at the helm of high-profile buy-side and sell-side deals, also with a wealth of local knowledge.

One emphasized the strength of the market and encouraged us to consider an aggressive pricing strategy to maximize the possible return. The other really listened to our points about the client’s values and priorities and began crafting a strategy around a quick, discrete deal that incorporated a lower listing price and a constrained due diligence period.

We obviously went with the second broker.

He did a masterful job. Almost immediately, we had several offers in hand, and within six months, we had a very quiet sale, an uneventful closing, and a very happy client.

That’s how we find a broker. We’ve repeated that process to acquire residential land across the Carolinas and Virginia and to procure an opinion of value on a large hunting tract in South Carolina. 

This process-oriented approach sets us apart in helping our clients meet their objectives, whether as brokers or trusted advisors selecting brokers. 

So, if you’re unfamiliar with the Carolinas and have a deal you’d like to discuss, we’re happy to talk, learn more about you and your values, and see if we can help. And if you’re a local and thinking about fishing in new waters, we’d be happy to dig deeper into our broker selection process to help you find success wherever it may be.

P.S. We just updated our classic whitepaper on the commercial real estate brokerage industry, A Better Way to Broker™. It got the goat of a lot in the industry when we published it ten years ago, but it is as true now as it was then, so we felt it needed to be refreshed and re-released. If you decide to go alone, we highly recommend reading it. You’ll save yourself time, money, migraines, and buyer’s remorse. Promise. Just click the link to book a call with us and we’ll send you a copy!

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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