Invest in Commercial Properties


Richmond, Virginia has become an increasingly attractive market for commercial real estate investment in recent years. Located along the James River about 90 miles south of Washington D.C., Richmond serves as the capital of Virginia and the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area. With a population of over 230,000 residents, Richmond is the third largest city in Virginia after Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

The Richmond commercial real estate market has been thriving thanks to the area’s business-friendly policies, skilled workforce, and low cost of living compared to nearby major metro areas. Major industries in Richmond include finance, government, healthcare, education, manufacturing, and logistics. Top employers include the state government, Virginia Commonwealth University, Altria Group, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, and Amazon.

Richmond offers investors a range of opportunities in the commercial real estate sector across office, industrial, retail, multifamily, and special purpose properties. Overall vacancy rates have declined to pre-recession levels while rents have been increasing steadily across all sectors over the past several years. Investors can capitalize on Richmond’s diversified economy and relative affordability compared to other East Coast markets. To gain an advantage in Richmond, VA, check out the following posts: Low-Risk Ways to Invest in Richmond Real Estate, including Invest in Rental PropertiesInvest in Fix-and-Flip Properties, Invest in Vacation Rentals, and Invest in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

Advantages of Investing in Commercial Real Estate

Investing in commercial real estate can provide several benefits compared to other asset classes. Here are some of the key advantages:

Steady Cash Flow

Commercial properties typically have long-term leases with tenants, which provides a relatively steady and predictable monthly cash flow. This makes commercial real estate an appealing option for investors who want recurring income. Multi-tenant properties especially help hedge risk, since you’re not dependent on a single tenant for all the rental income.


While past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, commercial real estate values have historically trended upward over time. This means there is an opportunity for the property to appreciate in value over the long run. The land and location will maintain inherent value.

Tax Benefits

Commercial real estate investment provides tax advantages that help offset costs and increase ROI. Investors can deduct expenses like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and depreciation. Depreciation deductions provide a tax shelter. Another benefit is the 1031 exchange, which allows capital gains taxes to be deferred when selling a property and reinvesting proceeds.

The combination of cash flow, appreciation, and tax benefits can enable healthy returns for commercial real estate investors.

Popular Commercial Property Types

Commercial real estate can be divided into four main categories – office, retail, industrial, and multifamily. Each has its own advantages and considerations for investors.


Office properties include single tenant buildings occupied by the owner, small office buildings, and large skyscrapers. Tenants are businesses seeking office space for their employees. The advantage of office properties is long leases, often 3-5 years. Quality tenants like doctors and lawyers tend to renew leases consistently. The downside is if the economy declines, businesses may downsize their office space.


Retail properties include malls, shopping centers, restaurants, and convenience stores. Retail relies on consumer spending, so these properties are riskier in recessions when consumer spending declines. Upside comes from population growth and increased disposable income. Grocery anchored centers tend to be the most stable retail properties.


Industrial properties include warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, and flex space. Tenants are logistics, distribution, and manufacturing companies. Demand is driven by trade, transportation, and storage businesses. E-commerce growth has spurred demand for new warehouses and distribution centers. Industrial properties offer long leases but have more tenant turnover than office.


Multifamily properties are apartment complexes and rental housing. Demand comes from population growth, employment gains, and lifestyle preferences for renting. Multifamily offers stable demand but requires more hands-on management than other commercial properties. Investors can benefit from rent increases over time. New multifamily construction is constrained in many markets.

Neighborhoods to Consider

Richmond has several popular neighborhoods for commercial real estate investment. Here are three top areas to consider:


Downtown Richmond is the central business district and features many Class A office buildings, mixed-use developments, restaurants, and more. Major corporations and employers are located downtown. Rents and occupancy rates are high. However, purchase prices can also be higher than other areas.


Just south of downtown along the James River, Manchester has become a trendy, up-and-coming district. Old warehouses and industrial buildings have been converted into hip lofts, shops, cafes and restaurants. Manchester is walkable and attracts a young demographic. Rents and demand are increasing as more development occurs.

Scott’s Addition

Scott’s Addition is a former industrial area northwest of downtown that has transformed into a popular destination for breweries, cideries, distilleries, and unique restaurants. The warehouses and old factories have been adapted into creative office and retail spaces. Scott’s Addition is appealing to startups and businesses in the food and beverage industry. Rents have risen but remain affordable compared to downtown.

Average Prices and Cap Rates

Commercial real estate prices in Richmond vary significantly based on property type and neighborhood. Here are some averages to keep in mind:

  • Office – Average sales price per square foot is around $150-$250 downtown and $100-$200 in the suburbs. Cap rates typically range from 6% to 8%.
  • Retail – Average sales price per square foot is $100-$300, with higher prices for smaller inline spaces and lower for larger anchor spaces. Cap rates range from 6% to 8%.
  • Industrial – Prices per square foot tend to be $50-$100 for older warehouses and $80-$150 for newer industrial buildings. Cap rates are 7% to 9%.
  • Multifamily – Average sales price per unit is $80,000-$250,000 depending on age, amenities and location. Cap rates are 4% to 6% generally.
  • Medical office – Sales prices per square foot are $200-$400, with cap rates from 6% to 8%.
  • Hospitality – Hotel sales average $100,000 to $300,000 per room. Cap rates range from 7% to 10%.

Keep in mind that these averages can fluctuate based on factors like tenant mix, vacancies, condition, and neighborhood. Checking recent sales comps is important to gauge current pricing for any property type in a specific area. An experienced commercial broker can provide more granular sales data as well.

Financing Options

When investing in commercial real estate in Richmond, you have several financing options to consider.

Commercial Mortgages

Commercial mortgages are typically used to finance the purchase of commercial properties. You’ll work with a commercial lender like a bank, credit union, or private lender. The loan terms are negotiated between you and the lender. Commercial mortgages often have higher down payments, shorter loan terms, and variable interest rates compared to residential mortgages. You’ll need a good credit score, income, and existing assets to qualify.

Loan Programs

Government small business loan programs like SBA 7(a) and 504 loans can provide favorable financing for commercial real estate purchases under certain circumstances. For example, if you’re purchasing the property for your own small business use. These programs offer low down payments and below market interest rates.

The USDA also offers commercial real estate loans in certain rural areas. These loans have longer terms of up to 30 years and fixed low interest rates to encourage business growth in rural communities.

Equity Financing

Equity financing means raising capital from investors in exchange for a share of ownership in the property. This could include taking on joint venture partners who contribute capital and share in the returns. Or creating an investment fund that sells shares to pooled investors. Equity financing reduces your own capital requirements. But you give up some ownership and control compared to traditional financing.

Due Diligence

Conducting thorough due diligence is crucial when investing in commercial real estate. This involves inspecting the property, reviewing financials, evaluating tenants, and assessing risks.

Property Inspections

A property inspection by a qualified professional is essential to understand the condition of the building and identify any repairs needed. Inspect structural elements, roof, HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems, exterior, parking lot, landscaping, and interior finishes. Also check for ADA compliance, fire & safety issues, mold, and asbestos. Get cost estimates for repairs.

Financials Review

Analyze historical operating revenues and expenses, capital expenditures, cash flow, debt service coverage ratio. Review rent rolls, vacancy rates, lease agreements, tenant financials. Assess the property’s capacity to generate returns through net operating income. Verify figures through documentation.

Tenant Evaluation

Research current tenants, including financial health, operations, and reputation. Review lease terms like rental rates, security deposits, options to renew. Assess renewal risk upon expiration. Get estoppels from tenants confirming lease details. Evaluate opportunities to increase rental income.

Risk Assessment

Look for red flags like deferred maintenance, problematic tenants, environmental issues, outdated systems, zoning violations. Check crime rates, employment trends, development projects in the area that could impact value. Assess risks from economic factors like interest rates. The due diligence process helps uncover risks to address or build into the valuation.

Working with a Broker

Working with an experienced commercial real estate broker can be invaluable when investing in commercial properties in Richmond. Here are some key things to know about finding and working with a broker:

How Brokers Can Help

A knowledgeable broker serves many important functions for commercial real estate investors. They can:

  • Help investors find suitable investment properties that meet their criteria. Brokers have access to listings and off-market deals that investors may not be able to find on their own.
  • Provide critical information on properties under consideration, including rental rates, expenses, zoning, comparables, and market insights. Their expertise can help investors accurately evaluate potential deals.
  • Negotiate purchase agreements and facilitate communications between buyers and sellers. Brokers act as an intermediary and can often negotiate better terms.
  • Assist with due diligence, including coordinating property inspections and reviews.
  • Guide investors through the closing process. Commercial closings can be complex with many moving parts.

Finding a Broker

It’s important to find an experienced commercial real estate broker with in-depth knowledge of the Richmond market. Key tips:

  • Look for brokers that specialize in commercial rather than only residential real estate. Commercial transactions are very different.
  • Try to find a broker that focuses specifically on the type of commercial properties you are interested in such as multifamily, retail, office, etc.
  • Look for brokers with good local connections and relationships with property owners. This can yield access to off-market opportunities.
  • Ask about their track record with both buyers and sellers to understand their experience.
  • Consider smaller boutique firms. They may be more nimble and service-oriented than large national firms.


Commercial real estate commissions are negotiable and usually range from 3-6% of the sales price. They are often split between the buyer’s and seller’s brokers. Buyers don’t directly pay their broker’s commissions. The commission comes out of the purchase price.

Managing the Investment

Owning an investment property requires ongoing management and oversight. This responsibility typically falls on the property owner or a hired property manager. Some key aspects of managing a commercial real estate investment include:

Property Management

A property management company can oversee the day-to-day operations of a commercial building. This includes activities like collecting rent, enforcing lease terms, responding to tenant requests, overseeing repairs and maintenance, budgeting, accounting, and more. Hiring a property manager allows owners to take a more hands-off approach. However, it does come at a cost, typically 4-10% of collected rents.


One of the most important responsibilities is keeping the building leased to tenants. As leases expire, the owner must market vacant space and negotiate renewal or replacement leases. Maximizing occupancy ensures a predictable revenue stream. Owners should develop relationships with leasing brokers to assist with finding and vetting new tenants.


Commercial buildings require ongoing maintenance and repairs to keep the property in good working order. This includes tasks like landscaping, janitorial service, HVAC maintenance, plumbing repairs, electrical upgrades, etc. A capital expenditures budget helps plan for larger future repairs. Preventative maintenance keeps the building operating efficiently and extends its useful life.

Exit Strategies

When investing in commercial real estate in Richmond, VA, it’s important to consider your exit strategy upfront. Here are some of the main options for exiting a commercial real estate investment:

Selling the Property

The most straightforward exit strategy is to sell the property. This allows you to cash out your equity and capital gains. The pros are you get your money out quickly and can use it for new investments. The downside is you lose the ongoing cash flow and will owe capital gains taxes unless using a 1031 exchange.

Factors to consider when selling include:

  • Market conditions – is it a seller’s or buyer’s market?
  • Property appreciation – have values gone up since you purchased?
  • Broker fees/closing costs – usually ~6% of sale price.

Overall, selling is best if you need liquidity or the property no longer fits your investment goals.

1031 Exchange

A 1031 exchange allows you to sell a property and defer capital gains taxes by reinvesting in another property. To qualify, the new property must be “like-kind” and of equal or greater value. The exchange must be completed within 180 days.

The benefit of a 1031 is continuing to defer taxes while exchanging into a new property. The cons are the strict rules and timeline. 1031 exchanges make the most sense for investors wanting to stay invested in commercial real estate.

Keeping Long Term

Some investors plan to hold commercial properties very long term. The benefits are ongoing cash flow, appreciation, and avoiding capital gains. The downsides are lower liquidity and lack of diversification.

Keeping long term works for investors with a buy and hold strategy. It allows the property value to continue increasing over time. Exiting would likely involve selling or a 1031 exchange in the future.

Proper planning upfront makes exiting smoother when the time comes. Understanding all the options allows choosing the best strategy. Asking to “Sell My House Fast in Richmond, VA“.

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