5 Lease-Term Questions Facing Every Entrepreneur

Selecting offices is a tricky balance of cost, location, function and the intangible message your space sends to customers and employees.

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By Susie Algard • Aug 4, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Now that you have chosen a space that meets your company's needs, the next step is negotiating your office lease. One of the most important decisions for a company to make during this process is deciding how long they want to stay in that space.

Prior to starting your space search, and definitely prior to making any commitments on a lease term, ask yourself these 5 questions.

1. Do I anticipate changes that might affect my future space needs? A space that works for your company today doesn't mean it will work for you a year or two down the road. It's also important to consider whether the space will be effective in attracting the right kind of talent as your company grows.

Related: What to Look for When Renting Office Space

As a new company, you might simply be relieved that someone let you lease some space, but recruiting a team is easier in some spaces than others.

2. Will I need to invest in improving the space or is it move-in ready? If you need flexibility in the term of your lease, and the space requires a lot of build out, don't expect the landlord to pay for that.

Landlords expect to make their money back on any tenant improvement allowance by including these costs in your lease rate or term. Hence, a substantial investment in improvements may force you into a longer-term lease by amortizing the improvements over a longer period of time.

Be prepared to pay for tenant improvements out of pocket for shorter-term leases or expect a longer-term request from the landlord. Tenant improvements are never free.

3. Is the rent likely to increase in the future? Keep an eye on the local office market to get a general idea of rental rate trends. If using a broker, take advantage of their market expertise. Market comps are valuable data that a good broker can get for you.

Related: When Your Startup Is Ready to Rent an Office of Its Own

Ask them to provide comps for the same building and comparable buildings to help you determine the trends. If considerable rental spikes are expected in the future, consider locking in a longer-term lease at the current rate.

4. Exactly how important is location for my business? Although primarily applicable to retail businesses, it's always worth considering the potential impact of a space's location. Your location may be important for attracting talent, situating yourself strategically among complementary and competing companies, establishing your brand and so forth.

If the success of your company depends heavily on location, or your company becomes more valuable because customers can find you easily, consider securing that space for a longer period of time. On the other hand, if your business isn't particularly driven by location, you can be more flexible with the lease term. Finding a comparable space likely won't be an issue, should the landlord decide not to renew your lease.

5. Will my rent be lower if I sign for a longer term? This is the trick question! Most entrepreneurs think that they must sign a longer lease to get the best deal. While landlords (and brokers) are happy to work with longer term leases, and will reward this with better incentives, that does not mean that this is a better deal for your company overall.

Lease term is one of the most important parts of your lease. Many brokers will admit their clients do not negotiate carefully enough. Ask yourself the right questions early to help you negotiate a term that works for your company's current and future plans.

Related: The Best and Worst U.S. Cities for Renting Office Space

Susie Algard

CEO, OfficeSpace.com

Susie Algard is CEO of OfficeSpace.com, a platform that helps tenants find office space and connect with local brokers in their area. She drives the company’s vision, strategy and growth. Prior to OfficeSpace.com, Algard was a senior executive and founding team member at WhitePages.com. Find her on Google+.

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