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

told me you want a building that’s built after 1980, that limits our search, but helps me because I don’t waste your time showing you buildings that are inadequate for your needs,” she says.

Financial statements are an important piece of documentation, especially to landlords. Landlords use these documents to determine the strength of your company and whether it will be a good candidate for occupancy. A financial statement is also crucial to negotiating the amount of your security deposit.

Keep in mind, when searching for space, landlords do have restrictions on renting to certain types of businesses. “Some landlords won’t take personnel agencies, record companies or city agencies because there’s a constant flow of traffic and they don’t want the strain on their buildings,” says Martin. Real estate agents represent the interests of the tenant, but are paid a commission by the landlord. The percentage is based on the size of the deal and varies from state to state.

To find a commercial real estate agent, you can look in the Yellow Pages. “However, you’re probably better off using the referral system,” says Wiley Sturns, also a broker for Montgomery and Associates, a residential and commercial real estate firm in Los Angeles. “Speak to someone who has dealt with brokers in your area because they will probably refer you to the top two or three in the neighborhood.” When shopping for a broker, look for one who has been in the business for several years and has a good track record of successful placements. Avoid brokers working to get that quick sale.

To create the most effective search, work with only one broker at a time. Do not split loyalties. “If I know we’re working in partnership, then I’m going to do all I can to knock down every door to find the space you’re looking for,” says Dennis Perkins, senior analyst at Julien Studley, Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate consulting firm. “But if I take you out to show you space and you say you’ve already seen it, then as your broker, I lose interest and the focus is not there.”

Leasing space can be a big percentage of your budget, so take your time searching. Don’t expect to find a spot in a matter of days and don’t commit to a space just because it’s available. Also, don’t get hooked on one location. Narrow your choices down to three that you can actually live with. When you do find that special spot, act quickly. In tight markets, space goes fast, so you don’t want to be left out in the cold.

A lease is a written agreement between you (the lessee) and the landlord (the lessor). On average, a written agreement is a 50-100- page document that describes in detail all the terms that go along with occupying a space. Each landlord drafts his own document, but every lease has standard information that includes the occupant’s name, the lease premises and its condition

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