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How to Negotiate a Lease

It's a buyer's market for commercial space, and landlords are offering huge concessions to new tenants--but you won't get a nickel unless you know what to ask for.

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This story appears in the May 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

This year may be the best time ever to rent space to start your own business: The nation's 102,000 shopping centers are dotted with vacancies that landlords are desperate to fill. "I've never seen better deals," says Paul G.W. Fetscher, president of Great American Brokerage in Long Beach, N.Y. "Everything is negotiable."

But knowing what to negotiate is surprisingly complicated. Landlords may be anxious to fill empty spaces, but they're also eager to make up for the money they've lost during the recession, and, unless you're careful, that bargain lease you sign today can be filled with hidden charges, escalating fees and clauses that kick in when you'd least expect it.

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