Guide to finding an affordable office: avoid these costly mistakes

Minute Read

Nearly three years into the pandemic, the office sector is still combating unprecedented vacancy rates, which presents a golden opportunity for prospective tenants to pounce on. The average office listing rate in the United States has fallen over 2.6% year over year, and is predicted to see slow growth as hybrid work models become the norm.

If you’re looking for the best way to find the best office space deals for you – beyond the good old Google search – we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll go through how to determine your budget, negotiate your lease, and utilize tools to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Estimate your budget

The very first step of the process is to clearly define your budget. To get a better understanding of ballpark numbers, research the average rental cost per square foot in your area. You can also budget for 100-150 square feet per person to allocate to each employee. Use a tool like this calculator to help estimate your office size

Average commercial rent price per square foot varies from city to city:

Source: Commercial Edge July 22 Report 

 Then, decide on the quality of the space you’re looking for. Each commercial property is categorized into three grades based on factors like quality, infrastructure, market perception, HVAC system, maintenance, accessibility, age of building, location, and amenities. While these grades vary from firm to firm, brokers typically,

  • Class A: Top of the line, state of the art technological capabilities, new or newly renovated, concierge services, security, daycare, dining options, gyms, private outdoor space, constructed in a prime area of a city, highest rent.
  • Class B: Less modern and may require minimal renovation, well maintained, decent location. 
  • Class C: Older, renovation required, less desirable location, no additional amenities, most affordable

If the office space meets your needs and budget outlined above, it's worth taking a tour even if it doesn't fall into the class you're seeking.

Work with a local broker

Leasing a commercial space is a lot more complicated than it may seem. An experienced broker can help you save time and money by looking over your contracts, identifying red flags, negotiating your lease, and evaluating market conditions. Oftentimes, they have access to proprietary data to help better understand the value of each location.

When looking for the right broker to work with, consider these factors:

  • How many commercial space deals have they leased?
  • Do they have location expertise?
  • Are they an effective communicator?
  • What level of education and certifications do they have?

Remember that tenant-representative aren’t legally required to act in your best interest, so be sure to take extra time to find a broker with the market expertise, access to tools, and a transparent compensation structure.

Finding buildings and using aggregator listing sites

If you have an ideal location in mind, the best way to get an accurate understanding of leasing rates is to look for office leasing signs. Most office buildings with vacancies will have contact information listed outside the building. Picking up the phone and calling directly may land you some good off-market deals that may not be listed online. 

If you choose to take the online route, there are plenty of online aggregators to help you with your search. Here are the most popular ones today:

Negotiate your lease

Commercial lease agreements are complicated, so we suggest working with a broker to navigate the nuances of negotiating your lease. An experienced broker can help negotiate how expenses are split, including property taxes, insurance, and utilities. The devil’s in the details. 

The four most common types of leases according to Forbes include:

  • Single Net Lease, Net Lease: tenant only pays utilities and property tax; landlord pays maintenance, repairs and insurance.
  • Net-Net, or Double Net Leases: tenant is responsible for only utilities, property taxes and insurance premiums for the building; landlord pays maintenance & repairs.
  • Triple Net Leases: tenant responsible for all costs of the building, except the landlord is generally responsible for structural repairs.
  • Full Service Gross, or Modified Gross Lease (also called modified net lease): split structural repairs and operating expenses (property taxes, property insurance, common area maintenance (CAM), and utilities) between the tenant and landlord called ‘base rent.

Factors to negotiate on your lease

Some leases are more complicated than others, but if you really want to save some money, consider negotiating factors such as base rent, lease length, credits, and escalations.

  • Base rent: the flat monthly rent you will pay to use, presented as cost per square foot per year. This may include shared common space and amenities.
  • Lease length: the average commercial lease ranges from three to ten years. If you have plans for expansions or are unable to plan too far ahead into the future, consider negotiating a shorter lease term.
  • Improvement credits: also known as commercial tenant improvements or commercial leasehold improvements, you may negotiate how improvements will be paid for. This can be in the form of rental discounts or a credit system.
  • Rent escalations: the average annual rent increase is 3%, so make sure you’re avoiding any steep increases.
  • Other red flags: use clauses, termination without cause, transfer limitations, increased property taxes, and as-is clauses are all red flags you should avoid.

Rent out your office space

Let’s say you land a great office space, but you’re not planning on fully utilizing the space. A great way to save money is to lease your extra business space to another company or rent out a few desks at a time.

Before you get started, here are a few factors to consider.

Evaluate your extra space

First and foremost, identify how much space you’re willing to rent out. Then, make sure that the space is easily accessible and will not interfere with your employees or clients. Consider the additional operating costs (like utilities), storage space, shared amenities, and furniture to accommodate.

Review your legal terms

Review your contract terms and ensure you are legally allowed to sublet your office space. If not, consider working with your landlord to renegotiate your terms. Be sure to adhere to local laws, tenant rights, and parking regulations. 

Find new tenants

Once you calculate the costs to operate your space, determine your cost per square footage or monthly rent for the space. Take account for additional taxes, shared amenities, and operational costs that you’ve outlined above. 

Then you can start listing your office space on sites like Liquidspace, Peerspace, or Pivot desk to find your next potential tenant!

Build now, pay later

Finding the best office deals might not be so straightforward. Now that you have all the tools you need to find the right office space for your budget, it’s time to go out there and secure your dream space. 

If you’re looking for a way to save your cash for your commercial space buildout, Aikito finances your move-in so that you can save your cash towards building your business, and not just your space.

We provide a buy-now-pay-later program for commercial spaces, helping bring the next generation of brands to life. 

Get in touch with us today.