David, I would say target the properties that look interesting to you and start by contacting the listing brokers on those properties. You might find a broker that you like and at the same time potentially find a property that you like. This is the approach I would use if it were a full-time thing for me-which it is. Keep in mind that if it is their listing their duty is to represent the seller first or also.
If you don't have the time to track deals full time then you would target the properties of interest and contact brokers that have them listed and discuss other opportunities and possible representation if you found one that was well connected with other brokers/firms and had a good transaction volume behind them. When there was a high volume of transactions the emphasis was on getting the listing from the seller and sell to whoever would buy as it was a more secure position to make a commission. With fewer transactions currently you will now see more attention paid to buyers that can close from a representation side.
One potential strategy in Office and Industrial would be to take a look at the signs for leasing those properties that might interest you as you drive around. Many of those leasing and management firms have an investment sales operation as well. Many leasing and management firms in these times are starting them up if they didn't have them already. If you are looking for distressed deals (who isn't?) it is a good place to start as those deals must have management too. These companies that manage/do takeovers for special servicers are also trying to get the sale listing as a result of the assignment and if you find an active one taking over properties it would be a potential way to source deals. On the other side, many former brokerage-only firms are getting into management and takeovers as a way to drive revenue in a down market and also to ultimately get the listing assignment from the seller/special servicer as well so they are also a potential source of opportunities.
I would expect that you would typically find different brokers for the two types of assets that you are interested in as many times they dictate focus by brokers and might not cross over very much between the two asset classes, even within firms that do both types of properties.
You have a geographic focus as many brokers also have. Drive the area and view current listings and as you do, find other properties that might be of interest and make contact with the leasing/management firm on the signs and inquire about whether the property is for sale or not. In your dealings over the course of looking at properties currently listed and managed you will probably find a broker for each asset class that you have a good fit with and end up with your buy side representative. If VA is a disclosure state you will be able to track historical sale prices pretty easily and a good broker will help with even the most recent sales comps that are going to be closer to the current market prices than 6-12-18-24 month old comparable sales.
One more method is to find local real estate briefings and speaker events, ect. discussing your target asset classes and go to them. You will always find brokers at those events keeping up with the latest and networking. Look for local commercial broker trade groups that might hold these events.
Hope that helps.
MB 35, LLC
Dec 3, 2009