Tenant Rep Brokers, like Project Managers/Owner’s Reps, position themselves as client advocates who only represent the tenant/end-user during the real estate acquisition process. They cast themselves as the champion of tenant interests when negotiating with the landlord.
However, when a broker questions the need for independent project management, or reject project management outright, are they looking out for the best interests of the client?
Project Management firms guide the often overwhelmed tenant through acquisition, construction, fit out and relocation. I term this cradle-to-cubicle project management. They ensure the project goes smoothly and nothing is overlooked for both landlord and tenant build outs.
A few years ago I presented my services in front of a large group of brokers at a local real estate firm in the hopes of forming a partnership/referral opportunity. We have the opportunity, in many cases, to refer in the broker. The discussion was smooth and everyone saw the benefits of positioning a value add to their sale. But the conversation took a nose dive when we discussed our role in due diligence and property evaluation.
An Owner’s Reps responsibility is to, among many other things, perform a needs analysis to ensure the property meets the needs of the client. Based on our in-depth knowledge from interviews with staff and management, we gain the full internal picture that brokers often don’t posses. If the property doesn’t work, it’s our responsibility to say so. I thought that was the responsibility of the broker too.
In the meeting one broker questioned, “Why would I defer to you, then have to do more work and potentially lose my commission if I can convince the client to take the space?” And there it was, commissions. This sentiment was quickly shared by the rest of the room. Needless to say, it didn’t end with an agreement.
More recently I attended a real estate banquet and spoke with a prominent NYC area broker who works for one of the largest national real estate firms that also offers competing project management services.
We spoke about project management, when he startled me with his comment, “Why should the tenant waste money on project management when the landlord is handling everything?” Now, I usually hear that objection from the tenant so I wasn’t sure if he was joking, serious or naive. But given his stature in the RE community, I knew he was serious.
The primary reason brokers don’t refer internally to their PMO is they believe if the PM screws up, it’s a poor reflection on the broker and may damage their client relationship. In those instances, they usually refer to an external project management company to set up a sense of separation. But to hear a broker, whose firm sells PM services, completely disregard project management was quite surprising.
Unsuspecting tenants mistakenly believe the landlord is looking out for their best interests. There are countless articles in this blog, my competitors and by real estate firms who provide project management services outlining the financial and practical benefits of the service. Landlord’s don’t want to know from us because we’re looking over their shoulders to ensure they stick to the work letter. PM’s catch poor craftsmanship, overlooked items and lack of coordination with tenant vendors that the tenant otherwise would not pick up on until it’s too late which translates into delays and change orders.
Are their projects where Owner’s Rep/Project Management is unnecessary? Absolutely. But if your broker rejects project management all together without consideration, I would find a new broker.