Getting Started Growing a Commercial Real Estate Portfolio

Mark Meskauskas
14 November 2023
Blog post featured image

Building a successful commercial real estate portfolio isn't as complicated as it may seem. With the right knowledge, a strategic approach, and a resilient mindset, you can create a commercial real estate (CRE) portfolio that delivers steady returns and a reliable income stream.

In this blog, our team here at Brian Properties aims to equip you with the fundamental understanding and necessary tools to kickstart your journey in the CRE market.

Whether you're starting with a single investment or planning a multi-property portfolio, keep reading and explore the ins and outs of becoming a successful commercial real estate investor.

Understanding the Chicago, IL Commercial Real Estate Market

The Chicago commercial real estate market is a dynamic landscape, reflective of the city's character. With a mix of retail, industrial, office, and multi-family properties spread across various neighborhoods, understanding this marketplace requires both knowledge and experience.

One key factor influencing this market is its strong economy. Home to numerous Fortune 500 companies like Boeing and United Airlines, these corporate giants create a steady demand for office spaces.

Chicago's strategic location also makes it an attractive hub for industrial real estate. As one of America’s primary freight hubs, there's always a need for more warehouses or distribution centers around the city.

Retail Property Opportunities

Retail property investments can be rewarding but require keen insights into consumer trends. For instance, areas like The Magnificent Mile are known for high-end shopping experiences, while neighborhood districts cater to more local needs.

A clever strategy might involve investing in mixed-use developments that combine retail with residential units—offering convenience to residents while ensuring consistent foot traffic for businesses.

Multifamily Properties: A Steady Investment Choice

In contrast to other sectors influenced by economic fluctuations, multifamily properties often provide stable returns because people always need places to live—especially true given Chicago's robust population growth.

However, like any investment, understanding the local rental market is crucial. Your property’s location, condition, and neighborhood amenities can significantly impact your returns.

Wooden signs that say buy, hold, sellChoosing an Investment Strategy: Buy and Hold vs. Property Flipping

Two popular strategies for commercial real estate are the buy-and-hold method and property flipping.

Let's explore the benefits and risks of each method.

What is the Buy-and-Hold Approach?

Buying and holding involves obtaining a real estate asset to maintain it for an extended period, typically over five years. The investor typically rents out the property during this time to generate steady income.

However, there's more than just rental income in play here. Buy-and-hold investors also benefit from long-term appreciation as property values rise over time.

This approach is less risky than flipping because it allows you more flexibility if market conditions change unfavorably since your goal isn't immediate resale. "Think marathon, not sprint," is a fitting analogy here.

What is Property Flipping?

Property flipping, on the other hand, is all about speed. Investors purchase properties under value, make necessary improvements quickly (typically within six months), and then sell them at a higher price for profit.

This strategy can yield high returns rapidly but carries greater risk due to its reliance on favorable short-term market trends.

Diversification in Commercial Real Estate Investment

When it comes to managing risk and potentially enhancing returns, diversification is a powerful tool.

What does diversifying a real estate portfolio look like? Think about your portfolio as an ecosystem—it thrives when there's variety.

Consider adding different types of properties into your mix. Retail, industrial, office spaces, and multi-family homes each offer unique benefits and risks. They respond differently to market conditions, which can give stability to your investment.

The Benefits of Diversifying Your Portfolio

A well-diversified portfolio has less exposure to individual property or market failures. When one investment falters, others may rise—balancing out potential losses.

In addition to mitigating risk, diversified portfolios have the potential for higher long-term returns because they tap into multiple revenue streams.

Variety Is Key: Types of Properties To Consider

Retail spaces have long been considered attractive investments due to their high visibility, which allows for increased brand exposure and customer engagement.

Their high foot traffic presents ample opportunities for businesses to maximize their sales potential and establish a strong customer base.

Industrial properties, such as warehouses, are highly sought after for their ability to generate a consistent and reliable stream of income. With longer lease agreements in place, property owners can enjoy the financial stability and peace of mind that comes with having a steady source of rental revenue.

Office buildings provide businesses with sophisticated and professional environments conducive to productivity and success. These establishments offer amenities and services, including state-of-the-art facilities, comfortable workspaces, and convenient access to transportation and business resources.

Geographic Diversification

It's not just about what you invest in—it's also where. Spreading investments across various geographic locations helps to buffer against local market fluctuations. This approach provides stability amidst volatile markets because different regions may perform differently at any given time.

For a strategy that involves expanding into multiple markets, particularly in a city like Chicago, consider collaborating with an established real estate firm such as our team at Brian Properties. We have extensive experience in successfully managing diverse portfolios, making us the ideal partner for investors looking to capitalize on Chicago's thriving real estate market and achieve geographic diversification.

The Power of Reinvesting Profits in Growing Your Portfolio

Reinvestment is like a snowball rolling downhill. As it moves, it picks up more snow, growing larger and faster with each turn. Reinvesting gains from real estate investments can lead to larger profits and more lucrative returns as time goes on.

An advantage of reinvestment is that it allows investors to leverage compounding interest. When we speak about compounding in investment terms, we're talking about how your initial investment and the earnings on that investment can earn even more money for you.

The Magic of Compounding

In its simplest form: You invest $1,000 today at an annual return rate of 5%. By year's end, you'll have $1,050—a gain of $50.

Now, let’s say instead of taking out those gains as cash profit (and possibly spending them), you leave them invested. That original sum becomes $1,102.50 by the end of Year Two since you're now earning interest not just on your principal ($1,000) but also on your prior-year earnings ($50).

How Reinvestment Can Amplify Your Returns

Consider the scenario below to see this strategy at work in commercial real estate.

Suppose after purchasing an industrial property or office building, it starts generating income through rent payments from tenants.

You could take these rental proceeds and spend them on lifestyle enhancements. However, by reinvesting these earnings into additional properties or improving existing ones, you are effectively putting your money to work for you.

This strategy can result in a portfolio that generates even more income.

Tips for Selecting Your First Commercial Real Estate Property

Selecting the right property for investment is a significant decision. So, lets explore why location analysis for your initial commercial real estate investment is crucial.

Demographics and Demand

First, understanding local demographics can give you insights into potential demand. A thriving area with growing employment opportunities might indicate a strong demand for office spaces or multifamily properties.

U.S Census data, as dry as it may sound to some, can provide useful demographic information about an area like Chicago.

Economic Indicators

To make well-informed decisions, it is crucial to examine economic indicators such as job growth rate and median income and consider factors like industry resilience, regional economic disparities, and the impact of government policies.

These additional details can provide an understanding of the economic landscape and help guide effective strategies.

Amenities and Accessibility

When considering the location of your premises, consider factors such as proximity to amenities like restaurants or shops that employees would frequent during lunch breaks.

Additionally, prioritize accessibility, as good transport links are frequently a top priority for tenants.

Zoning Regulations

Lastly, don’t forget about the importance of zoning regulations. These regulations play a crucial role in shaping our communities, ensuring that different areas are designated for specific purposes, such as residential, commercial, or industrial use.

They help maintain order, protect the environment, and promote a balanced and sustainable development of both urban and rural areas.

Zoning regulations also contribute to the overall safety and well-being of residents by establishing standards for building heights, setback requirements, parking provisions, and more.

Evaluating Your First Property Purchase

When buying your first commercial property, the evaluation process can feel overwhelming, but don't be intimidated.

Let's take on this undertaking by breaking it down into smaller pieces.

Property Valuation

The price of a property doesn't always reflect its value. It’s essential to get an accurate property valuation.

Consider factors such as location, size, condition, and potential for rental income or appreciation. Hire a professional appraiser if necessary—their expert insight could save you from making a costly mistake.

You also have to consider ongoing costs like taxes, insurance, and maintenance when calculating the total cost of ownership.

Due Diligence

Before finalizing any deal, make sure you carry out comprehensive due diligence, which involves scrutinizing every aspect of the property — physical condition, legal status, and financial viability are all part of this process.

Due diligence helps uncover hidden issues that might affect profitability or create liabilities in the future. 

Negotiation Skills

Bargaining might seem intimidating, but everything in real estate is negotiable. Learn how to negotiate effectively by researching comparable properties’ prices and understanding seller motivations.

Being prepared to walk away from a deal if the terms aren’t favorable is another crucial aspect of negotiation.

Evaluating your first property purchase doesn't have to be an ordeal—break it down, stay thorough, and keep your eyes open for potential red flags.

Scaling Your Commercial Real Estate Portfolio

Gaining a real estate portfolio can be an extended process, yet with the right approaches in place it may turn out to be rewarding.

Here are some effective methods to help you scale your investments.

Leveraging Equity

One strategy to start growing your portfolio is leveraging equity from existing properties. As property values increase over time due to market appreciation or improvements made on the asset, this built-up equity can be borrowed to acquire more properties.

This approach allows for expansion without having to dig deep into personal funds.

However, while borrowing increases purchasing power and potential returns, it raises financial risk should there be fluctuations in property value or rental income.

Refinancing Existing Properties

Another method involves refinancing existing assets. When interest rates drop or significant equity has been accumulated on a property, investors often refinance their loans at lower rates or longer terms. This step saves money by reducing monthly payments and freeing up cash flow which can then be reinvested back into the portfolio.

However, always consider costs such as prepayment penalties and loan origination fees before deciding if refinancing makes sense for you.

Building a Strong Real Estate Team

A solid team is key to effectively scaling any business including real estate investment.

  • A good broker will help find profitable deals.

  • An experienced attorney ensures legal compliance.

  • A reliable contractor takes care of property maintenance and upgrades.

  • A savvy accountant handles financial aspects.

While growing your commercial real estate portfolio can be challenging, applying these strategies can help. Always remember that each investment is unique, so what works for one may not work for another.

Two people shaking hands in an office space, partnering with a commercial properties management companyBegin Building Your Real Estate Portfolio With Our Commercial Properties Management

Building a successful commercial real estate portfolio is a complex process but one that can offer substantial financial rewards.

Diversification, diligent research, and a keen understanding of real estate fundamentals are just a few of the strategies that can help investors navigate the market effectively. However, while challenges certainly exist, the potential ROI—when done right—makes commercial real estate investment an intriguing proposition for those seeking to build long-term wealth.

As a commercial property management company, our Brian Properties experts understand the challenges of commercial real estate investment and portfolio management. Our team of experienced professionals is equipped to assist you at every step of your investing journey.

From identifying promising properties that align with your investment objectives, and conducting thorough due diligence, to managing day-to-day operations, we streamline the process for you.

With Brian Properties, you're not just investing in commercial real estate-you're investing in a partnership dedicated to your success. Reach out to our team to learn how we can help you start and grow your CRE portfolio!

Previous Article Next Article

Similar Posts

3 Types of Commercial Real Estate Acquisition Investments
3 Types of Commercial Real Estate Acquisition Investments

As established landlords aim to grow their commercial portfolios, understanding the different types of real estate acquisition investments becomes...

View Full Post
Real Estate Crowdfunding: A Modern Approach to Investing in Commercial Real Estate
Real Estate Crowdfunding: A Modern Approach to Investing in Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate has traditionally been seen as an investment avenue reserved for those with substantial capital. However, the advent of...

View Full Post
Property Management Chicago: How We Help Investors Find Properties
Property Management Chicago: How We Help Investors Find Properties

So you've decided to invest in commercial real estate.


Commercial real estate is a highly lucrative venture and can offer benefits that don't...

View Full Post

Subscribe Newsletter

Trending Tags