Modern old school

After a few years with a high transaction tempo in the real estate industry, many have noticed the growth of SANDS’ commercial real estate group, with its thorough approach to the subject and its local presence. “I believe many people appreciate that we combine a modern business sense with more old-school real estate law and a rather unique insight into local differences,” says lawyer Jens Aas.

Commercial real estate law has evolved rapidly in recent decades. Not least, the tax rules have meant that commercial real estate deals generally entail purchase and sale of entire real estate companies. 

“We try to be good at both the traditional legal review of the property, easements and rights of way, and the thorough due diligence under company law on everything in the company that is part of the package,” says Jens Aas, who leads the commercial real estate group at SANDS.

With the extensive use of standardised agreements that control the transactions, the most experienced lawyers from the large firms know where the advantage lies in negotiations. For example, some lawyers have a tendency to go to war at any cost, whereas the firms with a great deal of litigation experience are able to choose their battles in order to find the most appropriate solution.

“You notice whether you come across counterparties who know their standard and push where there is something significant to obtain. It’s a kind of commercial instinct for negotiating tricky situations,” says Aas.

He believes it is the professional depth that to the greatest degree distinguishes the legal practices:

“We try to combine the knowledge of the specialised transaction lawyers with rock-solid professional knowledge built on traditional real estate law, because we see that it benefits our clients.”

Local presence. The professional knowledge required of the commercial real estate lawyers recruited by SANDS is manifested for the client in great attentiveness from the partners:

“It is a major point for us that the client benefits well from the partner’s experience and good familiarity with the case,” states Aas. “In our experience, the fact that the partner might operate at a higher hourly rate is clearly compensated for by our finishing more quickly.”

At the head office in Oslo, twelve lawyers are dedicated to work on commercial real estate. With offices in all parts of Norway – Tønsberg, Ålesund, Trondheim, Tromsø, Bergen – SANDS also has local roots, which is entirely unique for national law firms.

“We have a local connection, but with the system and the expertise of a national firm. For example, if you are active locally in Trondheim, you get a very capable SANDS office that knows the local market and the players so well that they often can coax into place an agreement or facilitate a contact in a different way to an Oslo lawyer,” Aas points out.

The firm has a clear policy that each case will be handled by the lawyer who has the most appropriate expertise nationally. For example, if a fishing-related client appears in a real estate case in Tromsø, that client can be confident that SANDS can also provide the best real estate expertise available. The commercial real estate group works closely with SANDS’ highly skilled groups for M&A and contracting.

Tough market with major opportunities. SANDS is in many ways a challenger in an industry where the largest real estate firms are accustomed to long-term relationships with their law firms. In the future, Jens Aas expects a market where the prices for good commercial properties in key areas such as Oslo will continue to be high and somewhat increasing, supported by continued growth in rental prices. He believes the greatest potential lies in the suburbs, and particularly in commercial real estate in the regional cities and properties for logistics and residential projects.

“If you’re a pension fund or another institutional investor with a long horizon, you might buy and sit on expensive property for many years. But if you want to think more financially and try to do good deals, you have to try to think differently. We can help with that,” says Aas.

Aas’ ambition is to take a larger share of the transactions in the Oslo area and continue the strong development of the portfolio in other parts of Norway as well.

“With both established and new partners with backgrounds in large practices, we are in a very good position to continue our growth. It is a tough market, where you distinguish yourself by good pricing on a high level of expertise.”