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Written by Josh Feinberg
on October 25, 2018

This is part of our ongoing blog series on why hiring the right professionals is essential to making an informed and successful lease decision as a business and potential tenant. To match with the best local, commercial-focused real estate professionals and vendors visit VoxLink, our trusted portal to real-time, highly qualified industry partners.

 

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Ted Rohan is a Senior Associate with Avison Young and focuses on representing tenants in locating and negotiating office space in Austin.

Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you get into commercial real estate?

I spent several years on the commercial furniture side of the real estate world helping companies optimize their spaces through workplace strategy and procuring furniture. We saw a dramatic shift in the use of the office as a tool to attract and retain talent, differentiate against competitors, and promote company culture, so we focused on educating clients about trends in the workplace and how to future-proof their spaces. These furniture discussions typically fell toward the end of the timeline of an office move, and after several years I realized I could create more value for clients by being involved earlier in the process – negotiating the actual office space and promoting workplace strategy from the beginning

After working with tenants for so long it was a natural transition to the tenant rep team of Avison Young. The company culture, trajectory of the local office, and team of brokers promoting such a high standard of service and client-first focus made it an easy choice. Paired with my office trends background and experience with construction, architecture, and design, I’m able to bring a unique perspective while advising clients which helps maximize the use of their real estate, manage growth, and reduce overall cost.

How do you bring value to a transaction for your Clients?

We tailor real estate solutions to a client’s business, not the other way around. Austin office tenants need flexibility to grow or adapt their spaces as things change, but the current real estate climate favors landlords and leverage can be hard to come by for tenants. We’ve found the most success by truly understanding our client’s business up front before approaching the market which keeps us aligned with their goals and allows us to understand which levers to pull while negotiating with landlords.

Our value comes from carving out leverage for clients and influencing the outcome of their deals to save them time, money and energy with peace of mind that we’re representing their best interests along the way. This comprehensive approach starts with us quarterbacking the process with architects, contractors, lawyers, and other vendors to clearly outline options side-by-side and extends from lease signing through move-in and beyond as things change throughout the life of the business.

How do you describe yourself to Tenants?

If the science is finding the space, then the art is influencing the deal. We’re not just space finders…that’s the easy part. We’re tenant advisors.

Our clients continue to experience the difference from our deep market knowledge, expertise, relationships, and data driven approach which carries a lot of weight in the Austin real estate world.

What do you tell Tenants before they hire a Tenant rep, or if they have not considered one?

It’s time well spent to explore your options by meeting with a few tenant rep teams to hear different perspectives and ideas. The most important thing is to determine the best fit on both sides to create a successful relationship. Connecting tenants with top CRE professionals to create a trusted partnership is what attracted us to the VoxLink platform.

One of the reasons our clients partner with us is because we handle the research and ground work behind the scenes which frees them up for more strategic decision making for their business. Some tenants get lost trying to find their own space and negotiate their own deal which can eat up a significant amount of time and energy.

Since our fee is paid by landlords and baked into the proforma of their building operations, tenant reps can be viewed as a free service to advocate for a company’s best interests throughout the leasing process.

What makes Avison Young different from other firms that represent Tenants?

On a global level Avison Young is unique since we’re principal owned, have eliminated silos between service lines, and created an incredibly collaborative culture among our 80+ offices across the world. Locally our team has represented Austin tenants for 35+ years with the same values we promote today. The result is a hyper focused tenant rep core with local roots and global reach that continues to support and grow with our clients for the long term.

We team up on every deal to put two sets of eyes and ears on every transaction and leverage the broader team to benefit our clients along the way. For example, our project managers are involved from the beginning to help evaluate options, uncover any red flags, and advise clients whether or not they’re ultimately hired to manage the construction process.

How is the Austin Market for Tenants right now? How does this impact the decision to work with a Tenant Representative?

The Austin office market is in high demand which is putting more pressure on tenants. The need for space and lack of inventory continues to push rates to record levels creating stress for some and opportunities for others who take advantage of market conditions. Savvy tenants are starting the process early and partnering with experienced tenant rep teams to identify unique opportunities and leverage points to give themselves a leg up.

With leasing velocity and competition for space at an all-time high, tenants need a brokerage team that will give their deal the attention it deserves. Since landlords and leasing brokers work solely on the buildings they manage 24/7 it’s important for tenants to have an advocate who spends the same amount of time working on deals market wide and has the experience to determine the best terms for a particular situation.

 

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How does this impact your approach to a lease?

Our advice is to start early. The process can take a couple months to a couple years depending on the space, but tenants who evaluate the market prior to their renewal notice period put themselves in the best position.

We typically kick off the process with a programming session to understand our client’s business along with a market discussion based on their needs. Some tenants dig into the detail once every few years before their office lease expires and things can change dramatically during that time, not only for the business but within the office landscape as well. Our job is to enlighten clients about their options and keep them in the best position possible in relation to their office lease as their business changes over time.

Give us an example of how you created some value for a client

We recently represented a creative office tenant through an off-market transaction in which we negotiated a high-end turnkey buildout paid for by the landlord and secured an ongoing termination option after 3-years for our client providing their ideal space with maximum flexibility and a win-win for all sides.

Since our client started the process 12+ months ahead of time we were able to overcome several obstacles along the way:

  • The executive team based in New York and San Francisco had preconceived notions that Austin rates would be inexpensive.
  • Our client had unique buildout requirements with a need to limit out of pocket expenses.
  • An initial survey of available space showed zero options that fit our client’s parameters.

To expedite the process, we started with an education and programming session to provide context on the intense rate hikes since their last lease was signed and a blueprint of their space needs based on growth over the next several years. Those early conversations uncovered details that allowed us to approach a landlord in a specific submarket to pitch an idea for a creative office space conversion that led to the off-market deal we successfully negotiated.

Our value came from identifying the key drivers for our client early in the process and pairing those requirements with the right opportunity based on our experience working with that landlord in the past. Having our project management team involved from the beginning allowed us to qualify options quickly and gave our client the confidence needed to jump on the right solution.

All parties received tremendous feedback on a job well done and now our client can enjoy a beautiful space to recruit the best talent with flexibility in their lease to pivot as the business evolves.

Who do you recommend outside of hiring a Tenant rep to your clients? What vendors of the industry are critical pieces to a successful lease?

Our tenant rep team acts as the QB among our team of vendors, and it’s important to identify which partners have the ideal bandwidth to handle certain projects. Even the best firms get busy and can get into trouble when stretched too thin. We put an emphasis on the best team of partners who can each give our client’s project the most attention possible – architects to provide programming, test-fits, and design services, contractors to provide preliminary construction pricing, furniture/IT/moving vendors to round out the budget, and CRE attorneys to consult with our clients throughout the lease negotiation.

We act as trusted advisors to our clients from initial conversation throughout the life of their business connecting highly recommended vendors along the way.

 

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Ted can be contacted at Avison Young Austin:

ted.rohan@avisonyoung.com

Avison Young
515 Congress Avenue
Suite 1500
Austin, TX 78701 USA
D 512.717.3095
www.avisonyoung.com

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