Build a Strong Prospecting List With These 6 Simple Steps
The following is adapted from Commercial Real Estate Investing.
If you’ve done any investing in residential real estate, you know how important leads are to finding properties to make offers on. Well, the same thing is true for commercial real estate. Without leads, you don’t have a business.
The good news is that, even if you’re new to commercial real estate, it’s simple to build a strong prospecting list. In fact, by following six steps, you’ll be able to identify lists of property owners, business owners, and brokers that meet your criteria. Once you have your prospecting list, you can schedule tours for properties you are interested in making an offer on.
Trust me, knowing how to create a property prospecting list with the mailing addresses, phone numbers, and emails of property owners and brokers in your area is critical if you want to fast-track your results. A solid list is worth a million dollars—literally.
#1: Obtain the Parcel Data in Spreadsheet Format
It’s the age of technology. Most counties in the country have gone to digital land records—which means you can usually get a spreadsheet with the relevant data for every single parcel in that county for free.
Google, “___________ County parcel data.” You might find a downloadable version of the parcel data in .xls or .csv format right on the county website, though most counties make it a little more difficult than that. They normally have GIS data, so you would need to buy a GIS mapping software, pull the data in, and then export it to spreadsheet format.
If you pull half your head of hair out before getting results, then try this method: call the county information line and ask who handles the GIS open parcel data. Then send that person a gift card to Starbucks, and they will be your best friend. (Only slightly kidding.)
Get that person on the phone or email and ask them how you can get your hands on a spreadsheet version (.xls or .csv) of the public county parcel data. Not the GIS data. Most times this information is free, but if they charge you a small fee to help you get it, be glad to pay it. Have them send you the entire dataset, and do not pre-filter the data before you download it.
#2: Combine Your Lists Into One
Keep working with the county until you get your hands on a spreadsheet file. If your list for your primary target county doesn’t contain at least two thousand commercial properties, get another county and combine the lists using copy and paste.
Be sure to not screw up the data when you do this by getting the columns intermixed or by sorting the data without selecting all of the records first. If you only sort one column without having the whole dataset selected, all your data will get jumbled.
Sometimes the data doesn’t come through exactly the same for each county. One county might have city, state, and zip all in one column, and one might have separate columns. I recommend organizing the data into columns and eliminating any columns you don’t need, to make your file smaller and more manageable.
A spreadsheet program like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel will work to get you started, but a true database software is the best option. However, whether you use a spreadsheet, a true database application, or even a basic CRM doesn’t matter—what does matter is that you do the work.
#3: Filter Your Lists
Filter your spreadsheet by property type and tax assessed value. For most cities, the property zoning is set at the city level. Each city uses different naming conventions for zoning codes. Light Industrial I-1 zoning in one city may have a very different set of permitted and conditional uses for that same zoning in another city.
Learn what your city and county’s naming conventions are and then filter your list by them as best you can. For example, in my target county, they simply have C—Commercial, R5—Multifamily, and I—Industrial.
Since my primary asset class is Industrial, I filter by that property type in my spreadsheet to remove the single-family houses, apartments, and commercial properties. The C—Commercial classification includes office buildings and retail, so I can’t decipher between retail and office properties using my county data; I would need to target both or neither.
Next, what size of property are you going to go after? Most county data will not include the property square footage for commercial buildings. If they don’t, be sure to add that column so you can start tracking the size of these assets. What they will include is the assessed value, so you can sort by that instead.
#4: Append the Data With the Manager’s Information
At this point, you’ve done a lot of the work necessary to lay your foundation. Now, add columns for the following items in your spreadsheet or database:
- Manager First Name
- Manager Last Name
- Manager Phone
- Manager Email
- Manager Mailing Address
- Manager Facebook Page Link
- Manager LinkedIn Page Link
Most commercial properties are owned by an LLC. Even though the IRS views an LLC as a person, it can’t answer the phone or respond to your email. Therefore, you need to figure out who is really in charge. Sometimes the taxpayer name on the parcel spreadsheet is a real person. If it is, use that. If it isn’t, go to the Secretary of State website for the state your property is in.
Do a business search for the name of the LLC or corporation that owns the property. If the business was formed in your state, then there will be a record. Beware of spelling or grammar differences, and make sure you look at active and inactive records. Click through to the details and see if there is an individual named as the “registered agent” or “manager” or something like that. Copy their name and address to your spreadsheet.
#5: Skip Trace the Manager
If you can’t locate the LLC in your state records, it may have been formed in another state or spelled differently than it shows on the county data you have in your spreadsheet. If that happens, have your skip tracer look up the LLC and get the manager’s name for you.
Skip tracing is the process of locating an individual and obtaining their contact information. You can skip trace the registered agent for a home address, phone number, email, and social media links using a reputable skip tracing software or a virtual assistant.
I batch process them using a virtual assistant or a bot I had created to automate this process. We skip trace so that we can actually contact these people by phone, text, email, and social media. Without this step, you’ll be limited to contacting them by direct mail.
#6: Scrub Your List
Skip tracing will yield a lot of potential numbers and emails. It’s not an exact science. You should use a mailing address, phone, and email list scrubbing service to remove any duplicate owners, undeliverable addresses, disconnected numbers, and bounce-back emails. This part will reduce wasted money on mail sent to a bad address and increase your overall success when you start contacting people.
You can use a similar process to create a broker list. You can pull the data from your local commercial association of Realtors® or have a virtual assistant find a way to pull the list. Keep a list of every real estate agent/broker in your area with a mailing address, phone number, email, and social media links, especially LinkedIn.
Want to make this whole process easier? Download a screen recording app for your computer and do a narrated screen record of you completing this process where you explain what you are doing as you go. Then, send the video to your virtual assistant. It’s much easier to show them what to do through a narrated video than it is to tell them what to do in a written scope of work.
Take Massive Action With Little Effort
Creating this list is how you prepare for great commercial real estate deals. With a solid list, you will have the power to get property owners and brokers calling you directly versus having to call them. It will also allow you to take massive action with little effort. So, spend the time and money needed to make your list as good as possible.
Once you have a full list (which is about 2,000 properties) with owner contact information, and you have a list of every broker and agent in your market, then you are ready to start contacting them. Start making your list today, and before you know it, you’ll have 30, 40, or even 50 property owners calling you every month trying to sell you their property.
For more advice on how to build a solid prospecting list, you can find Commercial Real Estate Investing on Amazon.
Mike Sowers rehabbed, wholesaled, flipped, or rented over 1,000 properties in the residential sector before he sold his remodeling business and transitioned full time into commercial real estate investing. Today he operates Commercial Investors Group which is a commercial real estate investing franchise system that is expanding into most major markets in the US. He is also the host of the CREative Commercial Real Estate Podcast and has an online course and Mastermind Group that helps aspiring investors scale up from residential to commercial investing.