It has been said that to find better answers, you need to ask better questions.
Albert Einstein said,
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Anyone that has worked on an acquisitions team knows that there are always tons of questions.
Commercial real estate (CRE) due diligence (DD) is the very essence of asking questions to uncover what it is that you don’t know. Some of you may even refer to it as a search for asymmetric information.
Whatever you may call it, we put together a short list of questions that we hope can help you in your next acquisition.
While these may be simple in nature, you would be surprised how often they are NOT consistently asked.
- When does DD (due diligence) start?
- What is your target end date for DD?
- What are your main areas of focus for DD?
- What scares you the most about this deal?
- How do you feel about your underwriting (UW)?
- When do you anticipate having a signed LOI (letter of intent)?
- What date are you targeting to sign the PSA (purchase and sale agreement)?
- Do you have a copy of the access agreement?
- Do you have an Owner entity for the COI (certificate of insurance)?
- What is the Seller entity to be named as an additional insured on the COI?
- What third party proposals do we need?
- Do you have a preferred vendor list for Third Parties?
- Do site visits need to be scheduled for a specific day?
- Is there a main Point of Contact (POC) for site access?
- Is there a recent survey?
- Do we have any historic PCA or ESA reports?
- How long do you need to put together your proposal?
- Do you have a copy of your W9?
- What is a target date for a site visit after you are given a NTP (notice to proceed)?
- Do you have contract templates you would like to use?
- When you get a chance, would you mind sending over any seller information (disclosures, etc)?
- If there is a data room, can you please add these emails for access?
- Do we have copies of the service contracts?
- Do we have copies of the preferred vendors used by the building management team?
- How long have you worked at the property?
- What is on your wish list of improvements for the property?
- What do the tenants ask for in terms of building amenities or improvements?
- What is the timing for the updated title commitment?
- Has the legal team reviewed the zoning report?
- What are the title objections, if any?
- Are there any unused TI (tenant improvement) funds not yet disbursed?
- What TIs are currently under construction?
- Do you have copies of the contracts for capex from the last 5 years?
- Are there any roof warranties?
- Do we have enough in the budget for this scope of work?
- How do we know the restrooms are ADA compliant?
- What if the fire alarm devices are obsolete?
- What was the scope of the elevator modernizations?
- What major building systems are original to the building?
- What is the budget to replace the BAS (building automation system)?
- Why have the parking garage repairs not been completed yet?
- When was the last time the building sealants were replaced?
- Which building sealants were replaced?
- Who was the design architect or engineer for the facade restoration?
- How do we know the building area measurement is accurate?
- Is there any attic stock of [insert material name, such as glass, flooring, lighting] materials?
- Where is the irrigation controller?
- Is the transformer pad mounted, pole mounted, or in an underground vault?
- How old is the transformer?
- What are we missing?
- What questions are we not asking?
Again, a simple list to get you started. We get it, real estate acquisitions are tough, competitive and quick moving.
It might help you and your team if you had a sheet of standard questions you could refer to on each CRE deal. That way you can focus on the merits of the deal itself.