The Importance of Hard and Soft Skills in the Commercial Real Estate Industry

To excel in their roles, CRE professionals need a balance of hard (technical-oriented) and soft (people-oriented) skills. Here’s an overview of the most important skills worth developing.

Hard Skills

Hard skills provide CRE professionals, including brokers and agents, with the necessary expertise to navigate a complex industry. For example, financial analysis is key for evaluating investment opportunities, property performance, cash flows, ROI, and profitability. Market research facilitates the accurate assessment of investment opportunities and provides valuable insights to clients. 

Whether you’re new to CRE or have worked in the industry for decades, sharpening your proficiency in the following areas will contribute to your success.

  • Develop knowledge of local and regional commercial real estate markets and an understanding of market trends, supply and demand dynamics, and property valuation methodologies.
  • Become comfortable with property valuation techniques such as comparable sales analysis, income capitalization, and discounted cash flow analysis.
  • Know how to draft, review, and negotiate contracts and lease agreements. Grow your understanding of legal terms, obligations, lease structures, and risk management.
  • Familiarize yourself with relevant real estate laws, regulations and compliance requirements to facilitate navigating legal complexities related to property transactions, zoning, permits, and environmental regulations.
  • Know the principles of property management and practices — especially if you’re directly involved in the leasing and operation of commercial properties.
  • Master or at least gain a solid understanding of marketing strategies, including digital marketing and advertising, to help attract clients, showcase properties effectively, and reach potential investors.
  • Stay updated on relevant real estate software, financial modeling software, data analytics tools, and industry-specific technology — essential for efficient property management, data analysis, sensitivity analyses, investment risk assessments, creation of comprehensive financial projections, and market research.
  • Hone your ability to create professional presentations, market reports, investment proposals, and financial statements to effectively communicate information to clients, investors, and stakeholders.

Hard skills enable you to conduct due diligence on properties and evaluate factors such as title history, environmental issues, and property condition — all critical for ensuring your clients are aware of potential risks or liabilities associated with a property. And a robust foundation of hard skills enhances your credibility and builds trust with current (and potential) clients, increasing the likelihood of fruitful transactions.

Soft Skills

But CRE isn’t just about hard skills, either. Your success as a CRE professional also relies on a bevy of soft skills, like effective communication — vital for building and maintaining relationships with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders. You must be able to convey complicated ideas and information clearly and concisely — while listening actively and responding thoughtfully. The following soft skills are also worth cultivating.

  • Permit yourself to think outside the box because the ability to identify and address challenges — and find creative solutions — is vital. And rare is the situation when you aren’t facing a complicated issue related to financing, legal matters, market conditions, or zoning, for example.
  • Cultivating responsiveness and empathy helps to attract and retain clients and provide exceptional customer service.
  • Developing strong negotiation skills — which involves understanding the needs of all parties, finding common ground, and reaching mutually-beneficial agreements — helps secure favorable deals for your clients.
  • Be adaptable because the CRE industry is dynamic and at the mercy of market fluctuations. Changing circumstances, trends, and client demands become easier to handle when you’re flexible. Being willing to learn and adapt to new technologies and trends and open to new ways of doing things will also help you stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in the industry.
  • Multi-tasking and the ability to effectively manage multiple tasks, competing priorities, and deadlines are crucial. Learn how to prioritize, allocate resources effectively, and maintain a high level of productivity.
  • Grow your analytical skills to better analyze market data, financial statements, and investment opportunities. Making informed decisions requires interpreting and drawing insights from various data sources.
  • Whether you usually work solo or belong to a team, sharpen your leadership skills. They’re beneficial for managing teams, coordinating projects, and guiding clients. Leading by example, inspiring others, and delegating tasks effectively are essential aspects of this skill.
  • We all know people we wouldn’t trust with anything — and we certainly wouldn’t do business with them. Always act with integrity, maintain confidentiality, and adhere to regulatory guidelines. Establish yourself as a CRE professional with impeccable, high ethical standards.

We can’t neglect the importance of effective verbal and written communication skills, which are essential for negotiating deals, maintaining client relationships, and collaborating with team members. From communication comes networking, which can lead to new business opportunities and partnerships. Cultivating these soft skills maximizes the benefits you’ll reap from attending industry events and conferences — and following up with contacts afterward.

Developing Hard and Soft Skills

You know your skill strengths — and where you’d benefit from a bit of guidance. But how can you polish those skills? Fortunately, many options exist.

You could attend real estate courses, workshops, and seminars focusing on specific aspects of commercial real estate, such as property valuation, financial analysis, or legal factors. Many professional organizations and universities offer specialized programs. Other courses focus on communication skills, including public speaking, negotiation, and interpersonal communication. 

Many real estate associations offer continuing education programs and ongoing professional development courses that provide valuable insights and knowledge and help participants keep updated on industry trends, regulations, and best practices. Embrace the spirit of continuous learning! Engage in reading industry publications, following thought leaders, and participating in online forums to expand your knowledge and refine your skills.

Obtain relevant certifications such as Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), or Certified Property Manager (CPM). These certifications validate your expertise and demonstrate your commitment to professional development.

If you’re newer to the industry, gain practical experience by working as an intern or apprentice at a CRE firm, where you’ll have hands-on exposure to various aspects of the industry, allowing you to develop skills under the guidance of experienced professionals. 

Seek opportunities to take on leadership roles within professional organizations or industry committees. Leadership positions allow you to develop and showcase your team management, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities.

The Value of Mentorships

Last month, we talked about the value of mentorships and how to find a mentor. Experienced CRE professionals can provide guidance, share their expertise, and offer practical insights into the industry. Mentors can help develop specific hard skills and provide valuable networking opportunities. 

Some may engage in role-playing exercises or simulations that simulate real-world scenarios encountered in commercial real estate. These activities allow you to practice and enhance your negotiation, conflict resolution, and client interaction skills. They can also help you enhance your interpersonal skills by developing self-awareness, empathy, and emotional regulation. You may ask your mentor (as well as colleagues and clients) for feedback to give you insight into your strengths and areas for improvement. 

Are you a commercial real estate investor or looking for a specific property to meet your company’s needs? We invite you to talk to the professionals at CREA United: an organization of CRE professionals from 92 firms representing all disciplines within the CRE industry, from brokers to subcontractors, financial services to security systems, interior designers to architects, movers to IT, and more.

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