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Team RE Mentor

Are Apartments Really Commercial Properties?

educational article real estate investing Article 2 min read

If you ask any banker, he’ll tell you that anything over 4 units is considered a commercial property. If you ask any municipality regarding their trash pick up, you’ll get the same answer, ditto with insurance companies but are apartments really commercial properties?

When you think of commercial property, do you think of tall skyscrapers, office buildings, and warehouses…and possible large apartment complexes?

Well, apartments over 4 units are commercial properties but there is one big difference between apartments and offices. One space is occupied by residents and the other spaces are occupied by businesses.

That’s a big difference! Did you know the 3 out of 4 businesses go out of business after the first year? Ninety percent are out of business by year five! If you're renting to businesses, chances are, your turnover rate is going to be higher than a residential property and you should know that tenant turnover is your biggest expense in any multi-unit property.

People always need a roof over their heads If they move out of your place, they are moving into someone else’s (if you treat them with respect, they will stay longer!) Businesses just disappear and when they break the lease, it’s hard to get money out of a bankrupt company!

A lot of commercial properties rely on 3 or 4 big tenants. If they lose a tenant, they’ve lost 25% of the income. If the property cost you $1,000,000 and you lose 25% of your occupancy, you could be at a breakeven point or worse…upside down.

Statistics show that it takes an average of six months to fill commercial space. The main reason is that the pool of potential renters is not that big. In contrast, with a residential property, there is a vast pool of potential renters and the turnaround is one or two months instead of six.

For the same million dollars, you could get a 20 – 60 unit property (depending on where you invest), if you had 20 units and lost one, you’ve only lost 1/20th of your rent, you still have plenty of cash flow and more importantly, plenty of spendable income.

There is one other thing you should consider, when you’re attracting a commercial tenant for your property, you usually agree to do a “build-out” which means you change the space to make it conform to the business. This could cost you thousands of dollars.

With an apartment unit, the “make ready” usually consist of paint and carpet. If more is needed, it’s usually paid for from the previous tenants security deposit.

Yes, apartments over four units are considered commercial properties but as you can see, they are in a class by themselves when you compare risk versus reward.

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