Viewers of the long-running TV show “Deal or No Deal” may recall the nail-biting moments when contestants prepare for a briefcase to open with an arbitrary amount of money tucked within. Unlucky participants could crumble when the lowest balance of $0.01 was revealed. Rare, but fortunate recipients, may be exhilarated by a literal fortune when the balance $1 million appears. On top of that, the show’s “banker” proposes additional deals along the way. Although women in commercial real estate may not have literal mystery briefcases to contend with, they, too, are familiar with the nail-biting ups, downs and go-arounds associated with commercial real estate dealmaking. In this story, AZCREW leaders will offer tips on closing a commercial real estate deal.

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Closing a commercial real estate deal

On “Deal or No Deal,” a deal consisted of the contestant, a briefcase model, a banker and Howie Mandel. In closing a commercial real estate deal there can be anywhere from three to five professionals involved throughout any given deal, according to Carol Schillne, senior vice president for ORION Investment Real Estate. 

Adds Roberta Thomas, principal for Evolution Design: “The typical commercial real estate deal/project consists of the tenant (client), owner (landlord), broker, project/construction manager (if applicable), architect/designer and general contractor.”

Unlike the one-hour TV show, real-life commercial real estate deal-or-no-deal transaction timelines can vary widely. “I’d say the shortest is 60-90 days,” says Schillne. “Anchor tenant deals can take 6-9 months. New construction can take 12 months or more. For sale transactions, it’s a short time frame of 90 days all the way out to 18 months.”

Thomas explains that the variance in timeframes for deal completion largely correlates to the “type, size and complexity of the project.” In the architect’s phase of the deal, she explains that to “finalize a best-fit plan that’s typically developed during lease negotiations and execute the design and construction documents, it can take a month and a half to two months. Next is city permitting, which is typically one to two months. And finally, construction, which varies but is anywhere from three to six months or longer, again depending on the complexity of the project.”

Because of the intricacies involved with each individual commercial real estate deal, Heather Skinner, director of real estate for The US Oncology Network at McKesson, finds it helpful to view deals less transactionally and more holistically. 

“I think less transactionally (when it comes to making deals) and instead take a more integrative approach,” she explains. “I believe that’s where a lot of success and value is created in commercial real estate in general. I’m not looking at something just as a deal or one-shot transaction. Instead, I’ll focus on looking at the something as a lifecycle of real estate and how it can strategically position a business for success.”

Those not privy to the inner workings of the transactional lifecycle might be intrigued about what they learn during the start-to-finish process. “A layman might be surprised at how complex and technical all of the components are that contribute to completing a deal/project, from the lease to the production of the final construction documents and how long that process takes,” Thomas says.

Adds Schillne: “Sometimes, there are inordinate delays because of missing information. For example, if a landlord does not have plans for a building or if there isn’t an inspection report for the HVAC. In addition, a deal may reach a bottleneck if input from a municipality is needed. An example would be a SUP (Special Use Permit), or a zoning variance.”

Stephanie Handley, vice president of economic development at Clayco. (Photo by Erin Thorburn)

Navigating the ‘no’

To be a commercial real estate dealmaker is to accept that a proposed deal will sometimes result in a “no.” And, it’s not uncommon for what began as a “yes” to flip to a “no” — for varying reasons, and at different intervals during a transaction.

“I once had an owner tell me our design-build team was selected for a project we put a lot of resources into, but we would have to switch our architect for one they preferred from an alternate team,” says Tammy Carr, director of business development for Brinkmann Constructors. “When I refused, they told me (the deal) was contingent on our selection. I thanked them for the opportunity of choice, but explained that my commitment to the architect that partnered with us — and reputation for holding to commitments — was more important than a one-project win.”

There are occasions, too, in closing a commercial real estate deal, when a “no” has to be delivered to a client, rather than received by one. 

“In the construction business, there are often times you have to say no to a client you’ve pursued for weeks, months or even years,” explains ​​Stephanie Handley, vice president of economic development for Clayco. “There have been times I have chased a client for an opportunity, only to have it come down to not having the right team who could deliver the right experience for an A-plus outcome. It’s in those times when my bosses have had to tell me, ‘No we aren’t able to commit,’ where I’ve mustered the grace to say, ‘No thank you,’ to a client who, in many cases, has become a friend.” 


Just as there are some deals that sizzle out before the proverbial briefcase even opens, there are plenty more that come to fruition. When these deals reach completion, they often remain memorable for the dealmakers.

“I thoroughly enjoy when deals are a win-win for both clients,” Schillne says. “I know that can sound trite, but it’s true. One especially memorable deal I did was for Wells Fargo Bank. When Wells Fargo bought First Interstate Bank, our team handled the disposition of 96 properties for Wells Fargo. One of the closed branches was in Brea, Calif. We got creative with the re-use and leased it to a well-known bridal shop in the area. The transaction was a win-win for both parties.”

For Thomas and her team, one of their favorite deals was the Matson Money at La Curvata development in Scottsdale. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime, unique, challenging and high-profile design project with a visionary client,” she says.

Perseverance pays off

Even if a deal doesn’t go the distance, or the experience is arduous getting to the finish line, part of what makes some of Arizona’s commercial real estate deal-makers so successful is their ability to persevere. 

“Rejection has taught me confidence, resilience, perseverance and growth,” Handley says. “I have learned how to handle rejection with grace and it inspires the fortitude to keep going. I want to be a life-long learner and part of that is learning what I can be better at, how I can handle a situation differently and how I can share my experiences with others to gain insight and mentorship to keep growing.”

Schillne closes by noting: “My experience has evolved throughout my career in that as my knowledge increases. I’m able to provide even better comprehensive service to our clients. With extensive transaction experience, I am often able to produce creative solutions to get deals done.”