Look Before You Lease

How you search for a business location can spell success or failure. Here's the scoop on negotiating a deal that won't foil your firm

They are situated in prime locations, have excellent amenities such as indoor restaurants, concierge and messenger services and secured access to the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These buildings are also equipped with the latest technology, including integrated services digital network (ISDN) lines, which support advanced computer capabilities.

Class B buildings can range from $27 $35 per sq. ft. These buildings tend to be older and are often located on a side street. They also have fewer extras.

The rate for Class C buildings runs $18-$25 per sq. ft. This space is less convenient and tends to be a few miles away from the central business district. Class C buildings also have limited access and fewer technological advances.

Class D spaces, which range from about $10-$11 per square foot, are at the bottom of the list in terms of extras. These buildings are generally occupied by manufacturing companies.

After creating your budget, determine where you want to locate your business. Get a sense of where your competitors and suppliers are and decide if you want to be among them. Also think about your clients’ location and staff and whether you want to be in the city or suburbs. Rental rates are cheaper in some suburbs, but a drawback can be a longer commute for staff and customers who may live in the city.

Byron Stewart, owner of Modus Inc. Architects in New Orleans, operated his business from a residential community for seven years before moving to the city. In search of greater access to clients, he leased 1,500 sq. ft. of space in the central business district last July. “The problem with being remotely located in the suburbs is if you are a service- oriented business, you have a lot of traveling to do,” says Stewart, whose customers include public schools, casinos and airports. “So I looked for an area where I would be closer to my vendors and clients,” he says. Average cost per square foot in the central business district of New Orleans ranges from $8-$15.

In many ways, shopping for space is a lot like apartment hunting. You start with a budget, decide what type of space you want and then use a broker to help with your search.

Real estate brokers understand the nuances of the business and are able to get you a deal you can afford. “A tenant will come to me with a budget, saying they can spend no more than $30 or $35 a foot. I go through the process of selecting buildings that will meet their criteria and then put together a space showing,” says Martin, whose firm did $5 million in transactions last year (her commission was 3%- 5%).
When working with a broker, offer as much information as possible about the type of space you want. “Decide if you want an older building or a newer building or an art deco building versus the contemporary style because those are very different searches,” Martin explains. “If you

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