By Steve Kikikis, Vice President, Broker
Money Pit or Cash Cow?
On occasion when a doctor purchases a practice there is also an option to purchase the real estate. Historically, real estate has been a good investment over time, but owning a commercial building has its own nuances.
There are a lot of similarities between owning a commercial building and a residential house. As the building owner or homeowner, you are responsible for paying the insurance, maintenance, and property taxes. Be sure to understand what your out-of-pocket costs are before you take on the responsibility of purchasing a property. Investing in a building or home inspection conducted by a reputable building inspector is always worth it.
Before you purchase a commercial building, know your demographics, and do your research. If a building is a steal, make sure you do some research to find out why. A commercial real estate broker that specializes in your industry can assist you in looking at the demographic information to fully understand the value of the real estate.
After you’ve purchased the practice, you are now the king of your castle and if you are business savvy, you can make a profit from owning your building. Having some knowledge of what to expect and what the pitfalls are of owning a building can save a lot of headaches down the road. For this article, we will consider that you are the owner and sole tenant of your building.
Maintenance – You’re now responsible for everything from the leaky roof, sweeping the parking lot, HVAC systems, lighting, ADA compliance, security systems, plumbing, and possibly the water and sewer mains underneath the property. The best advice is to adhere to a schedule with regular and preventive maintenance. Don’t skimp on issues that may seem small but that can turn into a bigger safety issue (both expensive and potential lawsuit if hazardous) in the long run.
A lot of potential challenges are dependent on the age of the building and how the previous owner took care of the property. You can hire a property manager to be the point of contact so you’re not distracted and can concentrate on your work. Some owners like to be involved in every decision, while others don’t want the hassle of being contacted for leaky pipes, clogged toilets, etc.
Insurance – a commercial building policy will differ from a residential homeowner’s policy on your home. A commercial policy will also have coverage for the business operations, its products, and operations liability. Much like homeowner’s insurance, the age and construction type of the commercial property will determine the premiums. Commercial insurance is also based on the neighborhood where the building is located.
Although chances are slim, some policies cover loss of income in the event of a fire or other loss of the building. These are usually additional policies that can provide peace of mind.
City ordinances – Although you may own the building, ownership doesn’t necessarily mean you can do anything you want. An example is a new building owner who wanted to utilize a specific size of a sign for his business, but the city ordinances stated a sign can be no bigger than 30 square feet. Be sure to reach out to the city before you decide to change or update the signage on your building and also verify if there are any restrictions for the exterior of your building such as signage, color, material, etc.
Taxes – There are two points on the taxes. First, for the building taxes, make sure your ownership is properly transferred to you during the purchase, and make sure that you keep up-to-date on your taxes. Set up an account directly within the municipality you are located or make sure your loan program is paying it directly. For your business taxes, owning your own commercial real estate has many tax advantages. Connect with your CPA, make sure you’re paying your real estate entity as a business expense, and more.
Money Pit or Cash Cow? There will be costs to owning your own commercial real estate, but taking the proper steps and working with an experienced commercial real estate broker that specializes in medical/dental purchases will save you time and a lot of money. Just think, if you are leasing a space, after 10 years you will be signing up for paying the landlord another 5 years of income. If you own, after 10 years, you will be working towards paying that building off and have the equity in the building.Read More
We speak with hundreds of practice buyers each year. Many are looking for that gem of a practice in their desired area; a practice with new or newer equipment, digital technology, great location, recently remodeled, etc. Oftentimes, that practice either doesn’t exist; or if it does exist, it’s not for sale. So what’s a buyer to do?
Omni is a rare breed in the practice broker world. We not only provide practice transition and valuation services for veterinarians – both buyers and sellers – we are also experts in helping veterinarians with their real estate needs. We are often asked in seminars, at conferences, or over the phone, “Should I buy an existing practice, or do a startup?” I often suggest that veterinarians spend some time looking for a practice in their desired location. If they can’t find one, they should consider starting a practice, especially if the doctor is 100% certain of the area in which they want to practice.
I recommend that veterinarians do a bit of demographic analysis on the locale. See how many vets are currently practicing in the area. A good ratio is 3,000 daytime population for each doctor in an urban population. In a rural population, the ratio is 10,000 daytime population for each doctor within a 20-mile radius. There is a difference between the daytime population and the regular (nighttime) population. The daytime population includes the workforce. For example, if you look at the population of South Lake Union during the day vs. the nighttime population, you would see a big difference. Another demographic to pay attention to is the age of the population. For a companion practice, a middle-aged to an older population is generally better. Homeownership is another good indicator of practice success. You want to have more homeowners than apartment renters. You can obtain detailed demographics either through a company that will charge a fee and provides data such as the average annual dollar amount spent on veterinary services per person within a zip code and other more granular items. Or, Omni has information that we can provide.
If you perform the necessary research and find that opening a new practice in the area you like makes sense based on the numbers, we suggest that you go for it. We have helped many veterinarians over the years do demographic research, find a space, and negotiate a lease. Steve Kikikis is our go-to person for real estate leasing and sales. You can reach out to Steve anytime by sending him an email at email@example.com.Read More
Nothing resonates more with recent college graduates than the talk of possibly wiping away student debt. Even though this might be a talking point of our current administration, it does bring up a question that newly graduated veterinarians worry about if they want to own their own veterinary practice. Should I pay down my student debt first? Or should I purchase a practice and then have two debts?
Your own gut reflex will say, “Uh, no way…more debt is crazy when I’m already so far underwater.” However, it is usually advantageous in the long run. If the dream of owning your own business is on your vision board, then it makes financial sense to move ahead with securing a business loan early in your career, even with a large amount of student debt.
Each person’s financial position will be unique. However, here are some items to consider:
Will it be harder to get a bank loan with a lot of student debt? Although not necessarily harder, the amount you can borrow will be determined by the amount of your student debt and your history of making regular and timely payments. Consistent payments and not skipping any repayments on your student loan will show the bank that you are reliable in your financial commitments. Although it’s tempting to splurge on extravagant items, keep your finances in check during this time and keep making regular payments. Banks like to see that you have a stable financial history and are not high-risk.
Which has the higher interest rate, the student loan or business loan? Whichever loan has the higher interest rate, is the loan you will want to pay down first. This might seem obvious but check with your lender for your student loan because they often don’t have harsh penalties if you lower your payment. Go back and recalculate what the minimum student loan payment is and take the difference you had been paying and use that towards your new business loan, hence paying the more expensive loan sooner.
Buying a turn-key practice or one that needs some work. Look for a veterinary practice that is undervalued, has potential, and is located in a good area. Most buyers want a turn-key solution when purchasing a practice. But there are a few diamonds in the ruff. The advantage is you will secure a loan for less money on an underperforming practice and with some work, you can turn it into a polished gem which is a great investment.
Building equity. You will earn equity in your business if you purchase a practice, rather than remaining an associate. As an owner, your earning potential is far greater, often outpacing the associate salary from the day you purchase a veterinary practice. If you purchase a practice where you own the real estate, then you would also increase your bottom line when you are ready to retire and transition.
You haven’t missed the boat of owning your own veterinary practice when you have a large amount of student debt, but you will want to be business savvy on how you should proceed.Read More
Perhaps, you are a few years out of school with DVM credentials under your belt. Maybe you have been working as an Associate Vet and your confidence has grown to the point where you’re ready to take the next step with your career – owning your own practice. However, the mindset of this prospect can seem overwhelming and daunting. Most of your schooling has trained you for the practice of medicine, with the bare minimum of business course offerings. You spent more time focused on diagnosing parasites and animal dermatology than on economics classes and how to manage a business.
Perhaps you’ve heard through the grapevine that some of your fellow vets from school have taken the leap and purchased their own practices. Now you’re curious about purchasing your own practice and what your life would look like. But you’re not 100% sure that this is the right move for you. You are confident as a veterinarian, but not so much as a business owner.
Some of the questions that we field when working with potential buyers are the “what if” scenarios. What if the stock market crashes and I’m stuck owning a business that’s now underwater? How can I finance the purchase price of a practice while I still have student debt? What if I wait until I start a family and buy a house first before owning a business? On a good note, maybe the one positive part of living through the pandemic is that it has proven that being a veterinarian is not only an essential service but one that is resilient to major upheaval where other businesses have failed.
Undoubtedly, the financial aspect of owning a business is the biggest obstacle that every business owner faces. A good veterinary transition broker will help you understand the long-term potential of positioning yourself as an owner instead of staying in your current role as an Associate Veterinarian. Brokers are there to guide you through the complexity of purchasing your own practice. They can also act as a consultant on how to build your business and succeed. Our brokers at Omni Practice Group want you to be successful and that continues after the purchase of your practice with consulting services that we offer.
And yes, life will throw things your way that nobody is prepared to deal with. But having a plan in place gives you peace of mind to help you focus on building your business instead of worrying about what the future holds. Nobody wants to reminisce with classmates at a class reunion with regret about what your life could have been like. The should-have, would-have, could-have scenarios tease all of us with decisions that we wish we made earlier in our careers.
If you are ready to take the first step and start the learning process on how to begin your next journey, reach out to one of our experts and we can schedule a one-on-one meeting with you.Read More
Most veterinarians dream of eventually owning their own veterinary practice. But veterinarians tend to put off ownership for a variety of reasons. A couple of big reasons are that you have never done it before, you are not familiar with the process, or you’re just completely afraid of the unknown.
A great philosopher once said, “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball”. What does that have to do with buying a practice? A lot, actually. What the philosopher is referring to is that if you can dodge an object, a wrench, for example, you can dodge another object, such as a ball. Applying this theorem to the practice buying world, if you have ever completed a major purchase, or made a major decision, the process and steps are the same.
We know you have made major decisions in your life, otherwise, you wouldn’t have a DVM behind your name. You decided which veterinary school to go to. In doing so, you did research. You looked at the pros and cons of each veterinary school and weighed them. You may have talked with some friends or mentors who went to those schools. You analyzed other factors like the location, cost, and how good of veterinarians the schools have turned out. You also may look at socio-economic considerations. Then, you made the decision and lived with it. And here you are facing another major decision in your life. Purchasing a veterinary practice.
Buying a veterinary practice is similar. The first step is figuring out the variables of what type of practice you want. Where do you want to practice? How many rooms do you want to have? Do you want to own the real estate? Do you want a practice with high production or one that you can build? Once you’ve come up with your criteria, the next step is to locate potential practices that may be on the market. You may also consider doing a startup. You analyze the practices that are on the market. You may see one or two you like. You contact the broker to get information on the practice. This is typically called a practice prospectus or practice offering memorandum. Some brokers will send tax returns, profit, and loss statements, and practice management reports up-front. You get all this information, and it looks like it is written in Latin. You may not have any clue how to read the reports. The broker can go over the numbers with you, or you can also hire an independent broker, phone a friend who understands business, or possibly a CPA. After you have looked at the numbers and that passes your and your advisor’s scrutiny, the next step is to go see the practice.
You contact the broker and set up a showing of a couple of practices. Looking at a practice is like looking at a house for sale. You may see things you like and things you do not like. But know that things can be changed. We have had doctors decide they don’t want a practice because the carpet is outdated, or the paint is ugly. There are people who can paint and change out the carpet. They do it for a living. They’re called painters and carpet layers. So, don’t exclude a practice because it is ugly. Have a little vision and think about how you may make it your own style.
Another one that throws potential buyers off is equipment. The exam tables may be dated and worn, the x-ray machine may be old, etc. Prices of equipment have come down. Remember, you may be in this practice for 20+ years. Spreading out the cost of new equipment, even if it’s $50,000 or $100,000, can be as little as $2,000 per year.
After you have looked at the practice, you like the location, but there may be one or two things that do not fit your criteria. Remember that the cash flow of the practice is always the number one consideration. I have been selling practices for 15 years and I have seen some ugly, small, outdated practices collecting $1,000,000 and taking home $500,000. I have seen ugly practices collecting $400,000 and taking home $250,000 on 3 days of work per week. Don’t judge the book by its cover. It is what’s inside, or the cash flow inside that really counts.
After you have decided that this is a good practice and you would like to purchase the practice, you make an offer through a letter of intent. It is a non-binding agreement where the broker typically provides a template. You can either come up with your own offer or work with your advisor to come up with the offer. If it’s a good practice and the broker has reasonably priced the practice, make a good offer close to or at the asking price. DO NOT LOW BALL THE PURCHASE PRICE IF YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT PURCHASING THE PRACTICE! You will just upset the seller and they won’t even want to work with you after receiving a low-ball offer.
You will want to begin contacting bankers who specialize in veterinary practice financing. Brokers know almost all of them and which ones are lending at the moment. Ask the broker for a name or two. The banker will ask for your personal financials. They love to see you have some cash in the bank and not much credit card debt. Bankers will be more interested in how the practice is doing. They love to see a practice with great cash flow.
You next jump into due diligence on the practice after the offer has been accepted. You go into the practice on the weekend and go through the charts, x-rays, equipment, etc. There are checklists you can use to do the due diligence or bring along an advisor. However, be careful with advisors as some will just want to look for the bad things in the practice. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater if they point out vaccine appointments are not what they should be. Remember, almost everything can be fixed. Just note it and continue on.
If everything goes well on the due diligence, you let the broker know you are moving forward. The seller’s attorney will draft up agreements. You will then hire your own attorney. Ask your advisor or broker for a veterinary-specific attorney. Using a non-veterinary attorney will cost you additional money. We have seen non-veterinary attorneys charge double, triple, and more to put agreements together. After the agreements have been “agreed” upon, the next and final step is closing. At closing, you sign the agreements and take over the practice.
There are some additional steps in the process that your broker can help you with, but these are the basic steps in purchasing a practice. So, just like purchasing anything else or making any major decisions, you just need to go through the steps, rely on your advisors, and dodge those wrenches! As always, we are here for you for a free consultation, just give one of our experienced brokers a call.Read More