Finding and leasing office space presents challenges for any business, but it can be especially difficult for companies that lack the knowledge and expertise to make an informed decision about their real estate needs. While researching different buildings and neighborhoods is often a good place to start, working with an experienced broker who's already familiar with the options that exist in the market not only saves time and money, but also ensures businesses end up in a location that will work for them over the long term.
Just like attorneys and medical professionals, commercial brokers have specialized knowledge that can prove invaluable during an office search. By handling the majority of the legwork, brokers are able to streamline the search process while generating better results for their clients.
Here are the top 10 benefits of working with an experienced broker:
1) Their services are free: A common misconception is that the benefits of working with a commercial broker are offset by the cost. What some businesses don't realize is that tenants are not responsible for paying brokers for their services. Instead, these costs are covered by the landlord, with the tenant rep splitting the commission with the listing agent.
2) They can help businesses determine how much space they actually need: Cloud-based file storage and other technologies have enabled businesses of all sizes to cut costs by reducing their overall footprint. A broker can assess a company's needs to give them a more approximate idea of how much physical space they require to operate efficiently yet comfortably. They can also help clients plan for growth to ensure they aren't paying for space they won't use.
3) They're connected: By taking advantage of their relationships with fellow brokers, building owners and other real estate professionals, tenant reps can educate clients about the best options in the market, including recently vacated spaces that are not yet publicly listed. The improving economy, along with a lack of new office development, has caused demand for existing space to soar. Today, available spaces are filling up before some companies even have the chance to look at them, making it all the more important to work with brokers who have their finger on the pulse of the market and can make clients aware of new spaces as soon as they come online.
4) They save valuable time: Finding office space and negotiating a lease is a time-consuming process that can pull business owners and corporate decision makers away from the day-to-day operations of their business. For many tenants, time is money, especially in the case of small businesses that simply do not have the resources to conduct a thorough office search. In addition to money saved through the lease negotiation process, brokers also save their clients valuable time by handling much of the back-and-forth communications with the landlord leading up to the actual signing of the lease.
5) They know how to find the needle in the haystack: Experienced tenant reps are well-versed in the local real estate market and have the keen ability to match companies' needs to a specific location. If, for example, a startup is looking for a smaller space to expand their operations, they can benefit from working with a broker who specializes in spaces smaller than 10,000 square feet. An office search can be overwhelming, especially for businesses that are going through the process for the first time. By drawing on their familiarity with different buildings, as well as the people who own and manage them, tenant reps help clients identify the space that will best meet their current and future needs.
6) They think about auxiliary items: While the look and feel of an office is important, there are several other factors that tenants should consider before signing on the dotted line. Access to public transportation, parking and building amenities are just a few of the things that businesses should evaluate when leasing office space. A good broker will help clients identify certain wants and needs that they might not think about if they were leasing space on their own.
7) They give tenants more leasing power at the negotiating table: As with a job interview or presentation, it's important that tenants come to the negotiating table prepared. Brokers are the key to unlocking value during a negotiation, whether it be through lower rents, higher tenant improvement allowances or some other concession. Most landlords have been through the negotiation process countless times before, so tenants that go it alone are at a significant disadvantage.
8) They know the ins and outs of leasing: Leasing agreements are full of clauses and provisions that, together, dictate how much flexibility tenants have over the course of their lease. Everything from rent escalations to the ability to sublease is spelled out in this document. Because most tenants are eager to move into their new space, they may not stop to examine their lease as carefully as they should. A broker will ensure the leasing agreement reflects prior communications with the landlord and may even be able to recommend a real estate attorney who can review the lease before it's signed by the tenant.
9) They can act as your first line of defense if issues arise with your landlord: Even the most thorough of office searches can fail to identify problem landlords that can end up causing big headaches for tenants. By acting as the messenger, a tenant rep can help resolve landlord-tenant disputes and save clients from awkward exchanges with their landlord. If the problem cannot be resolved, brokers can help tenants evaluate their options and, in some cases, find a new home.
10) They can help clients renew or relocate when their initial term is up: Although brokers often help clients with their immediate needs, their relationship can last years or even decades. Tenants that maintain a relationship with their broker have a head start when it comes time to renew their lease or move to another location. Brokers spend a lot of time getting to know their clients, so their familiarity with a company's needs can help inform future leasing decisions.
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Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Solutions, Chicago's largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. For more information, visit www.amataoffices.com.