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Commercial Real Estate Square Footage: Avoiding The Pitfalls

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Accurate square footage numbers are tough to come by in the commercial real estate industry. As a tenant, you know you are going to pay for more space than you physically occupy, but how much and where does it come from is a mystery to most. As a broker, manager, or owner, you may know the loss factor of your building, but do you really know how accurate it is? Being a knowledgeable tenant, broker, manager, owner, seller, or buyer is an absolute must in this industry.
There are many questions I have encountered in my years measuring commercial office space; nothing more so than, How do I know these measurements are accurate?
While living in Southern California, I measured from San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco and everywhere in between totaling well over 3 million square feet following the Building Owners and Managers Association (B.O.M.A.) Standard Method for Measuring Floor Area in Office Buildings. Currently in New York City and so far having measured well over 1 million square feet using the Real Estate Board of New York, Inc.s (REBNY) Recommended Method of Floor Measurement for Office Buildings I can tell you that there is no way to know accuracy unless there has been a recent re-measurement of the building.
Buildings change hands, plans get lost, each management company or owner adds a little higher percentage to the building, a seller may misrepresent total square footages, etc. Whatever the case is, if a building is over 10 years old (which most are), than there are probably no accurate square footage numbers. Some buildings have never been re-measured since the first architectural drawings. In this case, it is very possible the building could grow by up to 5% of rentable square footage from a re-measurement.
As tenants looking for space, there is really nothing you can do to make your odds better in getting into a space with a low loss factor. There are only a few things that you can do to make the proper decisions for you and your company. First is having the knowledge of how space is calculated and what the owners and landlords are able to do under the law. The second is to work with a good enough broker to negotiate the best deal. If you really want a space but it has a high loss factor, it is best to try and negotiate as much as possible. The four most important things you would want to negotiate to offset costs are price per square foot, how much work they are willing to do to make the space fit you, how much free rent they will give you, and how much of a security deposit to put down.
In todays day and age, people should not have to guess or wonder if what they are getting is accurate nor should a tenant have to pace off the space to get a terribly inaccurate measurement. That usually does more harm than good. Also, an accurate as-built floor plan is a convenience often overlooked by management and may lead to being overlooked by a potential tenant.
If you are concerned about your space requirement, this site has a great square footage calculator, but you may not know really what type of space you need. An even simpler calculation which gives you just enough space without being overcrowded or too open is this: take the number of employees you have and multiply that by 100 (sq. ft/person), than multiply that by 1.35 (35% for circulation) and now you have a fairly accurate number for the amount of space you need. This is your useable number, or the amount of you physically need to occupy. Then you need to multiply that number by 25-35% in order to know what Rentable number you need to be looking for.
Example: If you have 7 employees x 100 square feet = 700 x 1.35 (35% for circulation) = 945 Square feet. This is what you will occupy, but you then need to find a rentable number: 945 sq. ft x 1.30 (30% loss factor) = 1,228 sq. ft rentable. You will find this is close to what the calculator on OfficeFinder yields, but it is much simpler way to figure it out.
For more information on building measurements in New York City, feel free to email me at For more information on anything from above, feel free to visit AD+D. And for an extremely in depth look at the REBNY Standard (for those in the NY tri-state area) visit AD+D/REBNY.

Guest Author:
David J. Aube
Aube Design + Development


Manhattan Office Space , New York Office Space , Office Space

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