Whether you’re preparing to lease your first commercial location or your 10th, it’s critical to ask lots of questions before you sign on the dotted line. Asking key questions at each stage of finding your space will prevent unpleasant surprises such as getting locked into a lease and finding out the building lacks something essential (like air conditioning!).
Before you ever talk to a commercial realtor, ask yourself some questions to determine your needs.
- How much square footage do you need?
- Do you want a turnkey space or are you willing to build out the space yourself?
- Do you need lots of walk-in traffic or proximity to major highways?
- How much access will you need? Will you be working 9 to 5, or will you and your staff need to get into the building at odd times or on weekends?
- How much parking will you need for customers and employees?
- What types of businesses do you want to be near? (If you’re a retailer or restaurant, for instance, complementary businesses can drive traffic.)
- What amenities do you need? These might include windowed offices, conference rooms, air conditioning/heating, private restrooms, a kitchen/break room or a lobby with security.
When you share these specifics with a realtor, he or she will have a much better chance of finding that perfect location.
You should also do your due diligence when choosing the commercial realtor you want to work with. Before you hire a commercial realtor, ask him or her these questions:
- How much experience do you have with small businesses? With my industry?
- Do you specialize in a certain geographic area or a specific type of commercial space?
- How many clients do you work with at one time?
- What resources do you use to research the market?
You’ve got your realtor and found what you think is the perfect space. Not so fast! Before you commit, get answers to these questions:
- What are the traffic numbers? Your real estate agent should be able to share community demographics and car counts for the location.
- Is the building’s infrastructure (heating and cooling system, electrical, Wi-Fi) adequate for your needs?
- What is included in the lease payment? Most do not include utilities. You may also have to pay a portion of Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges, building insurance, trash collection and property taxes. Be sure to know exactly what you’ll be responsible for.
- What is the minimum lease term? Most commercial landlords require a one-year lease, but some require two or three years.
- Can you expand into adjacent space if needed, or move to a bigger space in the same building or center if one opens up?
- Can you get a non-compete clause to ensure no direct competitors can open in the same building or center?
- Will the landlord pay for improvements? These include things like changing the layout, painting or putting down new flooring, or special electrical needs. Most landlords will not pay for this, but some will amortize the costs over the lease term.
Never be shy about asking too many questions. Getting the answers now will save you some big headaches later.
If you’ve signed your lease and you’re ready to start a business, call CorpNet anytime for a free business consultation at 888.449.2638. We would love to help you incorporate a business, form an LLC, file a DBA and more across all 50 United States!
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.
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