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Your company needs more space, and you have no idea where to begin. Don’t feel too bad. Most people who start out in the search for office space are at a loss, because commercial real estate can be harder to navigate than residential. But getting started is simple, once you know the answers to a few basic questions.
How do I know what’s on the market?
Many desperate searchers—especially those without a connection to a reputable broker—end up calling numbers on signs or relying on a Google search. But there is a better place to start: aggregated online listings such as these, which will connect you to a tenant broker. These brokers have knowledge of what spaces are available and their only job is to work on behalf of tenants (as opposed to landlords).
Do all brokers have access to the same listings?
In theory, yes. So long as a broker knows that a space is available, he or she can show it to a client. So why is it possible for unaffiliated brokers to show the same client very different spaces? Either because each broker interpreted the clients’ needs differently—or because at least one of the brokers is also working on behalf of a landlord, and thus only showing certain listings (see the tenant-broker recommendation above).
Are all leases the same?
No. First you’ll want to determine whether you need a coworking space or private office. The former provides turnkey operations, networking opportunities, potentially lower costs, flexibility and various amenities; the latter offers privacy, potentially cheaper rent and more opportunities for branding. If you want your own office space, you can also sublease, which means your company rents space from another tenant. This often leads to savings on rent (15-40% versus typical vacant office market rates) and buildout. Finally, if you’re not sure about your growth path or you’re wary of making a five- or 10-year commitment, it’s worth exploring flexible lease options.
How long should I expect an office space search to take?
On average, the time frame for moving offices is two to eight months. Where your search fits into that range depends mainly on three factors: 1) the demand for office space in your desired neighborhood; 2) your space requirements; and 3) vacancy rates of the buildings that you are considering.
But keep in mind that the search for office space isn’t the only time investment to plan for. It can take many weeks (and sometimes months) for both parties to reach a lease agreement and you might also need to renovate your new space, which can add days, weeks or months to the timeline depending on your needs and ambitions.
Need more advice? A SquareFoot broker can answer specific questions and guide you through the process.