Industrial Investing Success Criteria and Potential Pitfalls


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Top lessons learned from a bad industrial investment. How to analyze an industrial property? What's the state of industrial investments today? Chad Griffiths has been an industrial real estate broker since 2005 and investor since 2014.

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What is your success criteria for selecting an industrial property for purchase?
I am a big believer in looking at downside risk first. Instead of trying to convince myself why I should do that deal, and to some extend you have to, but I do look at the downside risk first. How I look at it is, once the property is vacant, I do the exercise of finding out what that property is worth vacant. Even if you’re buying an industrial property and it has a five year tenant in it, that tenant might not renew when their term is up, they might go bankrupt, there are any number of reasons why the tenant could move out before their lease expires.

I go through the exercise of determining what that building is worth vacant, and compare that to the pool of available properties for lease, properties for sale, any comparable transaction data that can be offset against it is helpful. This helps us go through the exercise of identifying any things that might be wrong with the building – for example: low ceiling heights, limited power or a poor marshaling area for trucks to get into.

If a property has any of those characteristics, at some point it will be vacant and I want to know what my downside risk is by identifying that first, then I will start building out a pro forma on 5 or 10 years and making a number of assumptions. You can manipulate a pro forma in any way you want to have it spit out numbers that look appealing, but before I go through that exercise, I’m making sure that I don’t have exposure that I can’t afford.

Can we go over a deal that you have recently looked at and you either decided to write an LOI for, or not move forward with it?
I can share one that I bought, and subsequently sold and lost money on it which is what really helped shape my position on this on why I’m so diligent about this. In 2015, the second property that my partner and I bought, it was a condominium building, similar to residential, a lot of people don’t realize that industrial can also be condominiums. This was a 20,000 square foot building, and there were 10 individual condo warehouse bays, and the neighboring company owned their bay, they were a seafood distributor that wanted to expand, but couldn’t afford to buy the one next door. We ended up doing a lease with the owner at the time and then buying it back from him.

We thought we were geniuses, this company already owns the bay next door, they just invested $250,000 and a cooler, and when 5 years comes up, we’re either going to be able to renew them at a higher rate, or we can sell it to them at that point. When the time came, we caught word that they had moved to another building and they were preparing to vacate ours. They were either brilliant in their negotiation tactic, or we just panicked, but we ended up selling it to them for about a 15% loss, because they called our bluff on it.

The reason we sold it was because it only had a cooler in it. There was no washroom, no office space, so we would have been forced to pay to have that cooler removed. We tried finding other companies for it and we couldn’t, and we didn’t want to take on that risk, it was right at the beginning of COVID. Had we gone through the exercise of asking what is this space worth vacant before purchasing it, we wouldn’t have paid the price that we did.

Chad Griffiths

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