When considering a real estate acquisition, prospective buyers will face a host of issues that must be vetted to ensure the transaction is successfully executed. This blog post will focus on a few of the key considerations during this process.
1. Due Diligence Period
A key component of the purchase agreement is the period during which a prospective buyer will have the right to inspect the property while also having the right to a return of the earnest money pending its investigation. A buyer will need to ensure that there is adequate time to review all the relevant information related to the asset and to coordinate and review any third-party reports that are advisable or required to consummate the deal. For example, if there is a debt component to the purchase price (which is almost always the case), the lender will likely require a survey, lender title policy, property condition report, and environmental study. Though a buyer would be wise to obtain these reports, as applicable, in the absence of a loan, irrespective, the preparation of these various documents will take time. A seller will want to limit the time during which the earnest money is refundable, but ultimately the parties will need to agree to a reasonable period for due diligence to run its course.
2. Title & Survey
During the due diligence period, two key items for review will be the title commitment and survey of the property. These two reports work together and will give a buyer clarity regarding the status of the property. The title commitment (commitment by the title company to issue the insurance policy should the buyer meet all requirements) will include all instruments recorded in the public records against the property. Examples of these instruments include the plat, CC&Rs (restrictive covenants), easements, lease memoranda, etc. The surveyor will then plot any of these instruments that can be shown in the depiction, and a buyer can review how these recorded rights affect the property. An example of this is where a surveyor draws the area on the survey where a utility easement encumbers the property, and as a result, any incoming owner would have limited rights (or no rights at all) to the use of that portion of the property. This brings along questions related to access to the utility, and obligations to repair the surface of the land after any maintenance or replacement of the utility. Ideally, these third-party rights and obligations will be explained in the recorded instrument itself.
3. Tenant Estoppels
Typically, a commercial trade will implicate the current user or users of the real estate asset, and a prospective buyer will need to understand the status of the lease or leases in place at the property. Buyers use a tenant estoppel to ensure that any lease in place at the property meets certain criteria. A typical estoppel will be signed by the tenant and the seller and will reflect that the lease is in full force and effect, that there is no continuing default under the lease, the amount of the security deposit being held, the term and amount of rent, and any tenant rights of first refusal or extension rights. Though this is not an exhaustive list, a buyer will want to review any existing leases to properly request a tenant estoppel (as the lease will typically set forth the mechanism for obtaining an estoppel from the tenant) and to push for as much information from any tenant as possible.
There is much to navigate when acquiring commercial real property, and it is in the best interest of any prospective buyer to ensure that they have the right team to advise through the transaction