It is Thoroughbred racing season, one of my favorite times of the year. It was a great Kentucky Derby and Preakness with the favorite, American Pharaoh, prevailing down the stretch for both races. There are some real similarities between horse racing and commercial real estate investing. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll talk about horse racing, and share my views on how it parallels NNN investing.
1. Distance of the Track – Length of Lease Term
Commercial Real Estate Insight – The distances of the track for the three races is different: the Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles, the Preakness is 1 3/16 miles and the Belmont is 1 ½ miles. This correlates well to a NNN investment lease term. If you have a longer term lease, then location is not as big of a concern. If you are buying, for example, a cell phone or mattress store that will typically have 10 year initial terms, then there needs to be a high barrier to entry and a strong corner location with great visibility and access.
Horse Racing Insight – Given that American Pharaoh had drawn the first door on the race track (one in which it is easy to get bottled up and stuck in the back) and the Preakness is the shortest of the three races (a sprint), I was not surprised to see that Bob Baffert instructed his jockey, Victor Espinoza, to take American Pharaoh right to the front from the start of the race. Otherwise he may have ended up in the back in a “bad location” and lost the race (not get his lease renewed).
2. The Jockey Really Matters – Carefully Time Your Investment
Horse Racing Insight – A Thoroughbred race horse weighs over 1,200 pounds. It is very important that the jockey has a strategy about where to position the horse on the race track and to regulate the speed of the horse. The jockey will only get one chance to “ask” (or kick) the horse up to full speed. I will never forget the 2004 Belmont Stakes where Smarty Jones was going for the Triple Crown. Smarty Jones was clearly the best horse, but the Belmont is the longest race at 1.5 miles – a full ¼ of a mile (one time around a standard high school track) longer than the Kentucky Derby, so it is crucial to manage distance in this race. Smarty Jones was in the front and pulling away, but his jockey may have “asked” him to sprint too soon, and Birdstone came out of nowhere. Smarty Jones never saw him, and Birdstone passed Smarty Jones at the end to take the Belmont.
Commercial Real Estate Insight – You have to manage your lease term for a NNN investment. If you plan to sell, it is best to sell with ten years left or a minimum of five years. If you have less than five years remaining, you may need to hold until the renewal or be prepared to take a significant discount. It’s important to have a plan in place when you purchase a NNN investment as to how long you will hold and when to exit the investment. A real estate investment professional can help you evaluate the best time to dispose of an investment in light of the market conditions.
3. Horses Have Personalities – Know Your NNN Investment Assets
Horse Racing Insight – If Smarty Jones had been eye-to-eye with Birdstone as the jockeys “asked” their horses to sprint, there is no way Smarty Jones would have lost. Horses know if they are winning or losing, and if Smarty Jones had been head-to-head with Birdstone, his heart would have pushed him for the win.
Commercial Real Estate Insight – Tenants have personalities, and there are some store managers and district managers who have livelihood riding on your real estate. With today’s technology, they know day in and day out whether they are winning or losing. Make sure you know how the store is doing and get to know the manager. They will share a wealth of information that will help with your long-term planning.