Five Questions With: Christina Rouse

Christina Rouse, director of marketing and operations for commercial real estate brokerage and appraisal firm Sweeney Real Estate & Appraisal, recently became the president-elect of the Rhode Island Commercial and Appraisal Board of Realtors. Rouse’s one-year term will start in the fall.

Established in 1995, with close to 200 members, Rhode Island Commercial and Appraisal Board of Realtors is the voice of commercial and appraisal practitioners in Rhode Island. Known as RICABOR for short, the organization runs events, educational programs and manages a listing database called East Coast Commercial Properties Network. 

PBN: What are some of the biggest concerns among commercial brokers and appraisal licensees working in Rhode Island, and how do you plan to help represent commercial brokers and appraisal licensees facing these concerns when you become president for RICABOR?

ROUSE: Keeping the momentum as interest rates rise and dealing with the lack of inventory are some of the bigger concerns for the brokers. Values continue to go up and appraisers are having concerns justifying the change of value over short periods of time.

RICABOR is diligently working on programs that educate our membership around these issues to best serve their clients. Our expert forum series has run programs on new market trends, regulation changes, government spending and lending.

PBN: We’ve all heard about how much of a seller’s market there is right now in the residential market in Rhode Island, but what’s the status of the commercial real estate market in the state right now?

ROUSE: Quality sites have been trading in record time and sites that were previously stagnant have been generating interest. Industrial is red hot, with much of the demand coming from logistical companies and residential conversion; retail is picking up steam; and office is starting to come back. Productivity has changed since the onset of COVID, and folks need space to match their new needs, be it a loading dock or drive-thru or a private parking lot.

PBN: What’s one of the commercial real estate deals that you’ve been involved in that you’ve been proud of and why?

ROUSE: We had a locally rooted family that engaged our firm to sell two multi-tenanted mill buildings in Pawtucket. The value they placed on their real estate was low, but they didn’t realize how low until they worked with our team, and we shared our market knowledge. We put together a package that brought a lot of interest, multiple offers and ended up selling the asset above asking to a local investor. It was a great result for the sellers, the buyer and the tenants, as the buyer has no immediate plans to displace any of the lessees.

PBN: What are Rhode Island restaurant operators in this post-pandemic world looking for in a property? What are some of the qualities for a restaurant property that are most in demand nowadays?

ROUSE: We had a lot of demand on parking and take-away functionality. Outdoor seating was, and continues to be, a driving factor in location choice. More recently, proximity to the workforce has been a need, as many establishments are still facing staffing issues.

PBN: What’s your advice to new commercial brokers who are trying to break through and develop a successful career in this industry?

ROUSE: Find a trusted and experienced mentor. There is so much to know and continuously learn in this industry. I am nearly 10 years in and still feel green. If you don’t have an experienced commercial agent in your brokerage, then I would highly recommend joining RICABOR. Attend our programming and find that mentor.