Sunday, March 14, 2004

Some tips on how to get moving

Business relocation

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

Moving stinks. But let me share some tips and terms I've learned in the arduous process of just finding new business space.

First, recognize that it's hard to get fast action from brokers or landlords. Sure, if you need 100,000 square feet, brokers have lots of time for you. But if you need 1,000 square feet? Or a few hundred? Don't expect your phone calls to be returned quickly. Finding a good location takes a long time, so plan accordingly.

Before you begin to search, prioritize your needs. Is a specific neighborhood, mall, or area critical? Do you need excellent foot traffic or street visibility? Parking or access to public transportation? A shipping dock? What's the minimum amount of space?

For instance, we needed to be on the ground floor or have elevator access because, as a publishing company, we deal with heavy boxes of books daily. We also need room for growth. That narrowed our search.

Typically, you'll be quoted rental prices on a "per square foot" or "sf" basis. If you're subletting or renting executive office space, you might be quoted a flat rate. In most of the United States, the price is given on an annualized basis; in parts of the West, it's on a monthly basis.

Important terms

Before you make your first call, familiarize yourself with terms brokers and landlords toss around. Definitions vary from landlord to landlord, so have them make clear what is included:

• Triple Net or NNN: The tenant is responsible for all costs of your portion of the building including property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance.

• Full service or Gross: The price includes all - or some - of those triple net costs. It's most likely to include taxes and insurance. Ideally, it includes utilities, janitorial and perhaps - if you're subletting - Internet access.

• Modified Full Service: The price includes some, but not all, of triple net costs. Typically, utilities and maintenance are excluded.

• CAM or Common Area Maintenance or Load Factor: An additional amount - usually a percentage of your base rent - you're charged for common areas you share with other tenants, such as halls, bathrooms, entryways.

• T.I. or Tenant Improvements: In some cases, the landlord will make improvements or changes to accommodate your needs. The larger the space, the longer the lease, and the softer the rental market, the more willing a landlord is to make tenant improvements. Make it very clear in the lease what improvements will be made -- and paid for -- by the landlord.

How long a lease?

That brings us to the question of how long a lease to ask for. This depends on the stability and stage of your business, the quality and price of the space, and your comfort level with taking on a long-term obligation. If you take a long-term lease, make certain you can sublet.

The good news? We found space that meets our needs at a good price. I took a long lease because I certainly don't want to go through this again soon.

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