Marketing is all about knowing and understanding the objectives of your audience. It includes conveying knowledge about a property in a positive light in order to attract qualified buyers that will pay the highest price. As an active investor in brownfields, we would like to share a few insights on the topic of successfully marketing brownfield properties to serious buyers based on our experience navigating countless listings, data rooms, and potential transactions.
A brownfield is not like a traditional commercial or industrial property, since there may be additional use restrictions, lingering contamination, public perception concerns, liability challenges, and demolition needs beyond what are entailed at a typical industrial site. While your potential buyer pool may include developers sophisticated enough to subcontract and oversee remediation, it will also include real estate investors and redevelopers whose focus is on getting the site “shovel-ready” for vertical developers. Knowing your audience will help with choosing the right way to position your brownfield, which extends far past the listing.
Brownfields that sell have fundamental real estate value in excess of the purchase price and the expected costs of site preparation for redevelopment, including remediation. The exception to this would be a scenario where the seller pays the buyer to take on the environmental liability as part of a liability transfer transaction or where buyers are willing to factor in promises of local incentives in their underwriting.
The first step to enticing potential buyers to invest time in further consideration is by pricing the site realistically and competitively. As with any property, including good pictures, highlighting the dynamics of the surrounding real estate market, and sharing information about Opportunity Zones and local incentives is important.
If you do not want to use the word “brownfield” because of potential negative connotations, here are some useful substitute keywords that catch our attention when we review these types of offerings. Others within your brokerage company may have recommendations as well.
- Redevelopment potential = potential demolition and potential asbestos issues
- Former manufacturing/refinery site = usually a brownfield
- Environmental study available = usually a brownfield
The Data Room
Now that your listing has made potential buyers want to dig deeper, they should sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement or Confidentiality Agreement in order to view a data room. It is incredibly helpful to have your sellers share as much knowledge as possible upfront about the property, especially as it pertains to potential environmental issues. The data room should include information on the history of the property use, historical and current environmental conditions, any remediation in process with time frames for completion, and any communication with regulatory agencies. A Phase I environmental study or similar information from the owner will suffice for this purpose. Documents should be clearly labeled and organized into folders by topic and listed chronologically. Please include any quotes that were obtained for work that needs to be done onsite, if available.
More information translates into less risk of unknowns for potential buyers which should result in better offers on the site.
Your outbound communication activities have a direct impact on how many are exposed to the listing. Listing the site in MLS, Costar, and on your brokerage website is a great start, but email marketing campaigns to promote the listing and directly reaching out to Brownfield investors and local developers will help ensure your listing doesn’t get overlooked.
The communication that goes into facilitating a transaction is significant as well. The importance of your role and engagement with buyers throughout the research, due diligence, and closing process is impossible to underestimate. Things you can do to help facilitate the speed of progress include being prepared to host a site tour, proactively checking in during the research phase, and hosting calls that include those knowledgeable about the site’s environmental issues.
We hope that our perspective as a real estate investor on what serious buyers want to see when they consider purchasing a brownfield will help you attract the right buyer and move your listings to a quick and successful closing!