The Nasty World of CRE Grunge

There is a lot to be said for quality. There is a lot to be gained by a commitment to quality property management.

In the world where being grunge is often applauded and rewarded, I remain convinced that being tacky is a cultural statement about one’s point of reference.

Is it just me or have you also noticed some of the creeping influences of grunge within the world of CRE?

Of late, I’m becoming more acutely aware of the relationship between cracked stucco, peeling paint, potholed parking lots, leaking roofs and the level of an owner’s commitment to creating and maintain property value through capital improvements and dedication to property management.

I See Ugly Properties

My recent observations of properties in the metro Phoenix, Arizona commercial real estate market have led me to the conclusion that something grungy is happening. Once pristine properties are now left to the elements. The same grunge is becoming more and more apparent in the Prescott, Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona commercial real estate markets.

There appears to be a deliberate draw-down on capital commitments and property management. It’s obvious, it’s annoying and it most certainly can impact a commercial property’s actual and perceived value. Capital is tight and owners are hesitant to spend.

In a market with negligible, if any, appreciation, some owners are choosing to tighten their financial belts by commiting the unpardonable sin of withholding capital and maintenance improvements necessary to the value equation. Some of this is being forced on owners under the principle of too much property, too little capital.

More than ever, those scant investors who are looking to buy or exchange are digging deeply into the maintenance history of a targeted property and insisting that value adjustments be made for improvements during the initial 36-month their ownership window.

Tenant Perceptions & the Grunge Factor

Retention is now as important as leasing itself. The most clostly and devestating loss a property experiences is vacancy recovery. In fact, I’m finding that in some cases retention is the only path owners can take to sustain their already threatened values.

Grunge shrinks values and contributes to poor leasing and negative tenant retention rates.

  • Grunge = concerned, nervous and even angry tenant.
  • Grunge = lower lease price per square foot.
  • Grunge = a position of weakness in the renewal process.
  • Grunge = refinancing problems reflected in appraisals.
  • Grunge = diminished public percention of a property.
  • Grunge = all sorts of ugliness…that’s why it’s called “grunge.”

The tenant issues stemming from CRE Grunge are myriad and they create value objections on the front end of the leasing process as well as retention problems. When a property enters a cycle toward physical decline the market responds with like-kind perceptions.

Quality maintenance = perceived and actual value.

Retail tenants are more keenly aware of the relationship between quality properties, price per s.f., NNN charges and more importantly, in their minds, consumer traffic.

We can cheat on maintenance, but not for long. Tenants are shopping the market, constantly looking for an edge on cost, a better location, a cleaner look and an owner committed to upkeep.

Grunge may be a prevailing desease we have to live with during the overbuilt, under-capitalized commercial real estate market. But, rest assured, grunge eventually extracts its toll.


Donald Teel is a Senior Associate and Principal with Arizona Commercial, an Arizona commercial real estate brokerage and property management firm, headquartered in Prescott, Arizona. Need more information? Please call 1-877-777-9100 or, if you prefer, you may email Donald Teel

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