Welcome to The Rants Group Blog. Please take a few minutes to see what’s new.
Zoning Versus Designated Use
Many people do not understand that there is a difference between zoning and the designated use of a property.
When looking at buying a commercial property, one thing you want to look at is the Property Type listed by the jurisdiction that issues permits for the property. The easiest place to find that is on geodata.org.
Why does the Use matter if the property is in a commercial zone? Because each “Use” has specific requirements for parking, building construction, exits, fire code requirements and accessibility features. Not paying attention to the designated use of the property can end up costing you a lot of money. For example:
- A group of counselors buy a lovely home in the Professional Office/Residential Multifamily zone to be used by their practice. This use is allowed in this zone. However, the property is designated residential. The city required that the group go through the Change of Use process, which included constructing on-site parking, and making interior and exterior handicap access upgrades. The improvements end up costing as much as the house.
- A restaurant wants to move a couple blocks away to a larger location. This is permitted because of the zoning but the new site has never been used as a restaurant before so the city is requiring that the new location be brought up to current code for restaurant use. The building permit also required the payment of impact fees because of the increased activity to the new location.
- An owner added a building to his light industrial land, which was designated Warehouse. He leased two-thirds of the building to a medical user. He was then notified by the permitting jurisdiction that he can’t use the rest of the building (except for storage) because he used all the occupancy and parking for this non-light industrial user. The site was not designed or approved for high occupancy use during the building permit process.
Working with a good commercial broker can help you understand zoning and Change of Use factors that will affect which property makes the most sense for your business or investment.
Submitted by Carolyn Graden
Winter is here!
Winter is here and so is the risk of frozen pipes. As soon as thermometers drop into the freezing zone, the following tips will help you avoid unpleasant surprises that may come from broken water pipes on your property. Winters can be harsh on household plumbing so don’t forget to protect the water meter and pipes from freezing temperatures. Those located on outside walls, in basements or in crawl spaces are particularly vulnerable to the cold. They can easily freeze and break during cold spells and lead to costly repairs. Please review the list of helpful tips to avoid costly freeze issues.
- Disconnect and drain the garden hose connection. This will help prevent outside faucets and pipes from freezing, leaking or breaking.
- Close outside vents, crawl spaces and doors so cold air doesn’t seep inside.
- Repair broken windows and seal cracks in the walls.
- Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
- Wrap water lines and meters in commercial insulation.
- Wrap pipes subject to cold or freezing in heat tape available from hardware stores. It must be kept plugged in all winter.
- Locate the shut-off valves.
- Place a tag on the main shut-off valve. Make sure everyone in the house knows where the main shut off for the home is located and how to operate it in an emergency.
- Check the heat. If you’re going away, keep a minimum amount of heat on in the house (PSE recommends 62 degrees). This will help protect the pipes in case the temperature drops.
- Do not turn the heat off.
- If a water pipe has frozen and burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house.
- Open a nearby faucet slightly so the pipe can drain as it thaws
- Thaw pipes and meters by applying hot air from a hair dryer, electric heater or by using a heating pad.
- Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water because you could be electrocuted
- Never use hot water or a blowtorch on a frozen pipe or water meter.
- Frozen underground pipes running into the house may require the application of electric current or other thawing devices. A licensed plumber must address this problem.
- If frozen underground lines outside the house are an annual problem, consider lowering them in the spring to a point below the frost line.
If you are a resident of The Rants Group and find frozen pipes, do not attempt to thaw them on your own; please contact the office immediately.
Submitted by Darrell McQuiston
Urban Living in Downtown Olympia
We see it in the larger cities, but we are just starting to see the rise in the desire to live downtown in a more urban environment, here in Olympia.
Downtown Olympia is positioning itself to be a prime spot for those eager to live a more urban lifestyle. The demand for housing in downtown is being met by new apartment developments such as Franklin Lofts, The 321 Lofts and 123 on 4th as well as the numerous pockets of existing units spread throughout the downtown core.
We are seeing an increase in rents as well as a change in the type of tenant who wants to live in Downtown Olympia! The tenant mix is changing. We are seeing not only college students, but an increase in young professionals, state worker’s, retirees, etc.
As a result of the demand for downtown housing, the tenant mix changing and a rise in rents, the expectations are that we will see an increase in the need for services aimed at those living in downtown.
With any luck this demand will result in sales growth for existing local businesses as well as new businesses opening to serve the needs of our increasing downtown residential population!
Submitted by Lisa Barker
Gold Green Rush
Gold Green Rush; Washington’s Pot Bubble
In 2012, the voters of Washington State voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana, and in so doing paved the way for one of the largest growth industries our state has seen in a very long time. In addition to legalizing possession of pot, Initiative 502 also paved the way for the rapid growth and development of a multi-billion dollar business centered around the growing, processing, and retail sales of pot to adults over 21 years of age. Though the effects have been felt throughout Washington State, the impact to us here in Thurston County has been very strong, particularly with respect to our commercial real estate market.
Large scale marijuana production
Let’s start where the pot does… with the plant itself. While marijuana has been grown outdoors for centuries, only recently has the trend been toward higher potency pot grown “hydroponically” indoors. A far cry from the old days of basement “grow ops” that we’ve all seen on the news, today’s modern and legal hydroponic production facilities are a marvel of modern science and engineering. As the growth moves indoors, it creates a new source of absorption for our industrial property – with some estimates putting that figure upwards of 250,000sf of warehouse in Thurston County over the last two years. This tremendous & rapid absorption of space has some obvious ramifications such as decreased availability and higher lease rates, which are both a boon and a bane depending on which side of the table you’re sitting at. Landlords are benefiting from the above market lease rates as they compensate for the additional risk (perceived or otherwise) of taking on marijuana businesses as tenants. Alternatively, the more conventional industrial property users suffer as the prices for the space they need to conduct their respective businesses have skyrocketed.
Marijuana ready for sale
Less dramatic but still significant have been the impact of the retail outlets for recreational pot sales. Despite stringent restrictions on the type and location of appropriate properties, more than a half dozen recreational marijuana shops have opened just in Thurston County alone. These stores have absorbed some of the most difficult-to-lease retail locations, providing a much needed boost to local property, sales, and B&O tax receipts.
Though Washington’s recreational marijuana industry is still relatively in its infancy, the impact to Thurston County’s commercial real estate markets has already proved to be very… “potent”. Where we go over the next few years as the market and the players in it mature is still yet to be decided. All we know at this point is that we really don’t know what to expect – just how big can this industry really get?
Submitted by Cameron Wilson
Give Downtown Olympia Another Look
I have had people comment that they won’t go downtown because of the people and parking. Well, parking can be a challenge at times but the make-up of folks in downtown Olympia is changing, and downtown businesses are responding.
The catalyst for the change is downtown housing. This is not low-income housing, but market rate apartments. There has been a conversion of office buildings to apartments and new construction. We have seen rents as high as $2,800 for a downtown apartment! The tenants are a mix of everyone – students, state workers, retired. These people want to be able to walk to restaurants, theaters, shops & tap rooms.
We recently signed a lease with Bittersweet Chocolate, who is finishing up improvements on a space across from the Washington Performing Arts Theater. This classy new shop will offer hand-made chocolates and custom sweets. The owner wanted to be in this area. We also leased a spot by the Capital Theater to Bamboo & You, a shop that offers clothing and other soft goods. The shop has been in operations for years, but felt ready to expand and likes being downtown.
As you drive around downtown, you will notice the new Kizuki Ramen Restaurant on 4th; the transformation of a former accounting office into 222 Market, an artesian food court; local breweries and craft spirits; amazing locally sourced food restaurants and a variety of food trucks; and of course, the Farmers Market is packed on sunny days!
If you haven’t been downtown lately, come explore and support local business! Walk the boardwalk or the capital campus. Take the kids to the Hands On Children’s Museum, Wet Science Center or South Sound Estuary Center. Park your car and ride the DASH for free. There’s lots to see!
Submitted by Carolyn Graden
Power Shifts in Lease Negotiations
Power Shifts in Lease Negotiations
You may have heard the words “buyers’ market” and “sellers’ market” when shopping for a house. These terms describe which side of the deal (buyer vs seller) is tending to have the upper hand in negotiations during a sale. The same thing goes for the commercial leasing market and it all has to do with supply and demand of space for lease.
When there is a lot of property on the market (high supply), but not as many tenants looking to lease the space (low demand), tenants are usually in a better position than the landlord to negotiate a better deal for themselves. This could mean asking for a lower rent price, getting free rent, and having the landlord pay for improvements to the space before they move in. Since the recession, tenants have had the upper hand in negotiating new leases for their businesses. We saw so many companies close up or downsize, that the supply of space available for lease grew significantly. If a landlord couldn’t offer a potential tenant the terms they desired, that tenant could easily walk down the street and find another space just as fitting.
But now the tables are starting to turn. As the economy improves we are seeing those vacant offices fill up and empty storefronts open their doors. The more the supply of available commercial space decreases the more balanced the negotiation will be and the less likely the tenant is to negotiate a great deal in their favor.
Submitted by Danielle Rants
How much insurance do I need?
There’s insurance for fire, renters, pets, liability, earthquake, catastrophic, hurricane, flood, hail and umbrella coverage. WOW…where do I begin and how can I sift through all the terms and different types of insurance?
A good place to start would be a broker. Insurance brokers, like real estate brokers, specialize in different types of insurance whether it be home, fire or auto. They all have different companies they represent, some represent multi lines of insurance (different carriers) and some are specific to the brand they represent (ie: USAA, Allstate, etc.).
As an investor in rental property, whether it be multi family or a single family home, insurance is an absolute must to protect your investment.
When a home becomes a rental, you will need contact your Insurance agent and have a rental (fire policy) put into place. Fire policies are different from a typical homeowner’s policy; the fire policy insures just the structure based upon limits set by your insurance agent and possibly your mortgage company. Some policies also cover lost rent and cover debris removal after a fire or major incident.
When you live in a home you cover all of your personal items and the home from all forms of claims. You may also have added personal liability coverage; your insurance agent will make recommendations.
Policy limits (amount of insurance) can be determined and are based upon several different factors. Some are based on the value of the property you are insuring and may use other economic factors such as lost rent, replacement cost vs repair or rebuild.
The professional insurance agent is a good place to ask questions and make certain you are protected from the unexpected.
Submitted by Darrell McQuiston
Renters Insurance…Do I need it?
A consumer survey conducted last year for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, an Alexandria, Va.-based industry association, found that nearly two-thirds of the more than 81 million people living in rental properties do not have renters insurance.
Many people think that renters insurance is not in their budget or is an unnecessary expense. However, with a little bit of research, a policy which covers personal possessions and liability coverage can be purchased for a couple dollars a day.
Renters insurance is not legally required by any state currently. A landlord can only require a tenant to purchase renters insurance for liability purposes. Most people assume that the landlord carries a policy on the home that includes coverage for someone who is injured inside the dwelling or on the property. This isn’t the case in most circumstances. Even if a landlord has liability insurance, there’s still a risk to the tenant. A lawsuit for personal injury could be very costly.
Besides concerns about liability insurance, personal possessions are very important and hold sentimental value to individuals and families. Natural disasters and fires destroy millions of homes every year. In some cases, families lose everything they own. Renters insurance pays for these lost belongings, allowing families to start over after their possessions are destroyed.
The cost associated with renters insurance can be usually be reduced by bundling with your auto insurance policy and by adjusting the limits of the deductible.
Submitted by Darrell McQuiston
Lithium Ion Batteries
Warnings about Lithium Ion batteries
Recently The Rants group had the first catastrophic residential fire they’ve had in their history of over 40 years. After an extensive fire investigation it was determined that the fire was started from a rechargeable lithium ion battery that was being recharged improperly.
The battery was placed inside a deep plastic container which allowed the fumes to ignite the plastic and surrounding items. To make matters even worse the door to the garage was open because the tenant was using an electric barbecue smoker and it was rainy and breezy outside. This weather pattern exasperated the situation. The weather caused the fire to swirl through the garage igniting everything in its path.
This would have been avoided had the tenant adhered to the manufacturer’s warnings and placed the battery on a workbench in an open air environment. So please remember to read the manufactures warning and realize it is there for a reason.
The tenant, firemen and even I had originally thought the cause of the fire was an electric barbecue/smoker being used inside of the garage. The fire marshal spent an entire day investigating the cause of the fire and at the end of the day it was determined to be the lithium ion battery. While it is still not a good idea to use a barbecue smoker inside the garage, the loss for the owner/investor was fortunate enough to be covered by a fire policy that also included a rental loss coverage. The home was a total economic loss. Fortunately no injuries occurred.
Submitted by Darrell McQuiston
Selling and Leasing
The Rants Group has a long history of selling and leasing commercial properties here in Thurston County. We also are well known as an owner and developer of some of Olympia’s most eye catching buildings. But there is so much more to The Rants Group than just servicing our properties. For example, did you know that more than 85% of the leases and sales we closed in 2015 were for properties that we do not own? The overwhelming majority of the transactions in which we are involved are for buildings in which we have no ownership interest!
Over the last 42 years, we have represented thousands of happy owners and tenants, large and small. Chances are, when you see our sign, it is in front of a property that is owned by one of our clients and represented by one of The Rants Group’s experienced brokers. Whether you’re a tenant or a Landlord, let us show you the difference a dedicated and hard-working broker can have on the success of your business.
Submitted by Patrick Rants
Location, Location, Location!
We’ve all heard it before regarding our homes, but what does that actually mean from a commercial real estate perspective?
It can mean different things depending on your type of business. So, let’s start with the basics…
Do you sell goods or services?
If the answer is services, do you go to your customers or do your customers come to you?
If you travel to your customers, then the best location is going to be central to your service area, and in close proximity to a freeway or other major thoroughfare. However, because your customers will rarely travel to your place of business visibility can be low and “frontage” is of low importance.
On the other hand, if your customers come to you, then being central probably matters less than your proximity to a freeway/major road. But at the same time visibility or the ease with which your customers can find you is extremely important.
So what about sellers of goods or so called “retailers”?
Choosing the right space can be the difference between life and death for a retail business. The best question you can ask yourself is who is most likely to buy your goods? Are more of your customers in the higher or lower income bracket? Is age a factor? The more you know about your potential customers, the better I can use local demographics and market knowledge to get you as close as possible to as many of your customers as possible.
Let’s go even deeper!
Some retailers, like a certain well known global coffee chain, have spent millions of dollars analyzing their customer base and setting the stage for their own success. In fact, they know their customers behaviors so well, that they figured out sales are significantly stronger in their locations that are on the “driving-to-work” side of the street. What difference does that make? The easier they can make it for their customers to get in, get out, and get back on their way to work, the more likely they will be to stop in each morning. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? That particular company knows their customers and their behaviors so well that they can apply that knowledge to something as seemingly unrelated as the location of their stores.
Companies like that one, and thousands more retailers around the world think critically about their customers before signing a Lease. You owe it to yourself and the success of your small business to do the same, and once you do, we can help you apply that information to your local market and help you choose the best possible…Location Location Location!
Submitted by Cameron Wilson
Renewed Life in the Thurston County Commercial Sales Market
There is life in this market! The commercial sales market was hit hard in the recession and values have fallen. Sales have been few in number and primarily in the lower price ranges. With the exception of just a few properties, almost all sales were to owner/users who improved the properties for their own businesses.
Late 2014 and continuing in 2015 has been a turning point in the market. We are selling more property this year for higher prices. There are many reasons why the market is coming back:
• Confidence is Improving. Money that has been sitting; waiting for better times has decided that,
better times are here.
• Confidence is Improving II. Business owners are more confident in the future of their business,
allowing investment in expansion and more locations.
• Investors have returned. Commercial investors aren’t waiting any longer to see if prices will
fall further. They are convinced that the bottom has been hit.
• Interest rates will rise. No longer just talk, the promised rise in rates is really here,
spurring more buyers into action now.
• The stock market is scary. With a better business environment and relatively high stock prices,
commercial real estate looks better today as an alternative.
This is not to say that we have healed all our market’s wounds from the recession. No, we have a way to go until we can say the market is in balance and in good shape. However, it is definitely going in the right direction, and it is sustainable.
Submitted by Patrick Rants
The Rants Group has entered the “BLOGOSPHERE”!!!
As one of Olympia’s oldest and most well-known commercial real estate firms, The Rants Group and our team of experienced agents are flush with info on everything from market conditions & cycles, to property management tips & tricks, to the newest businesses opening in Thurston County.
We’ve decided to put that info to good use, and are proud to announce our brand-new blog…
Tune in for up to date news and information on a host of topics surrounding Thurston County commercial real estate.
You’ll see articles from our principals, brokers, managers, (hey, maybe even our maintenance team!) as we explore the intricacies of Selling, Buying, Leasing, and Managing commercial properties in Thurston County and beyond.
So tell your friends, tell your clients, and join us on this new adventure!
We are The Rants Group. For Sale. For Lease. For You.