GLOBEST.COM: Retail is a Relationship Business

By Carrie Rosenfeld | Orange County

As published on, September 2, 2015

Chris Hite
Hite: “You have to have a long-term perspective and understand that this is a relationship business.”

TUSTIN, CA—Relationships are king in any commercial real estate sector, but retail especially relies on a long-term approach that goes beyond individual deals,Coreland Cos.’ president Chris Hite tells As the firm celebrates its 25th anniversary as an independent retail brokerage and management company and prepares for the ICSC Western Conference & Deal Making event in San Diego, we sat down with Hite for an exclusive look at mergers and acquisitions and why his company has excelled as an independent. Mergers and acquisitions of real estate service firms have dominated the headlines this year. What is your perception of the current CRE landscape?

Hite: Over the past year we have seen a number of M&As among real estate service firms. Many of the national firms have taken advantage of opportunities to expand platforms and broaden their presence in key markets by merging with localized teams. At the same time, smaller firms have also taken advantage of good opportunities to exit the market or be a part of a national brand.

However, the Southern California marketplace is a unique environment. It is so large and so diverse that it is challenging for one or two firms to have dominant market share. Any healthy industry demands variety and competition, and commercial real estate is no different. No two retail properties are alike in this market so there will always be a demand for a variety of firms that bring different capabilities to the table. Where do you feel Coreland Cos. fits within the lineup of today’s brokerage and management companies?

Hite: We are proud to be one of the few independently owned and operated regionally-focused firms in Southern California. Not being tied to a corporate structure allows us the flexibility to focus on each of our clients and properties in a very personalized manner. As a result we actually enjoy a very collaborative process within the industry as well. We often receive referrals from our competitors because our leasing professionals work well with other management teams, and vice versa. To us, it’s about providing the best service to each client.

We believe that retail properties need to be addressed with a very focused level of service. This has been our strength for 25 years. We enjoy being that regional expert and plan to stay that way. That’s why we haven’t expanded outside of Southern California—we want to be very focused in our own backyard. What do you say to property owners that would argue that no one cares for a property like their own staff, so it makes sense to keep the fees in-house?

Hite: If someone is motivated to keep something in-house strictly because of the fees, then it’s not about who is best to service the property. If it’s really about who is best, then it’s difficult to compare an in-house team to the depth and breadth of experience of a team that manages or leases 10 million square feet just across Southern California. It gives us a depth of experience and a pool of established relationships that can really benefit an owner.

Our strength is in the details, whether it’s lease administration, CAM models or other aspects of day-today management. Frankly, many owners find it difficult to both grow their portfolios and stay focused on the details. Owners should be focused on re-tenanting, repositioning, rehabbing and leasing. It’s challenging to execute these asset management functions while also dealing with the details of day-to-day management. Coreland is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and over this time you have experienced three recessionary periods. What have those periods of change taught you?

Hite:  You have to have a long-term perspective and understand that this is a relationship business. It is the relationships we have fostered that have been the catalyst for our growth. We have never looked at taking a fee today to compromise a relationship tomorrow. For example, if an investment broker were to refer us management assignment, we make sure that broker is re-engaged when it comes time for the property to go back out to market. That’s the collaborative nature of our business.

We’ve always had an abundance mentality: there’s plenty for everyone, you just have to have integrity. Do the best you can for your client and admit when you’re wrong—quickly. Don’t just tell people about problems, offer recommendations and best practices. Bring clients into the conversation and always stay focused on the assets long-term objectives. Treat each property as if it where our own. This is what defines who we are.