Maybe the landlord (or his broker) shouldn’t be considered an adversary when negotiating a lease. If you understand their needs and wants you may more likely be able to achieve a win-win for both parties. After all, you are both attempting to get the best deal for your respective side.
Tenants spend a lot of time, some more than others, on clearly defining their needs. They determine the location, size, build-out, cost, image and more. The key to a great deal is making sure what you want is what the particular landlord can deliver. Not all landlords have the same agenda or live by the same rules.
Have you ever been at a casual business lunch, maybe in the gym working hard to shed a few pounds or simply standing in line for that double mocha cappuccino when the guy next to you starts talking about his firm’s latest and greatest real estate deal? You can tell he’s proud of the results. Unfortunately, his knowledge of the deal may likely based on the abbreviated summary presented to him at the last manager or partner meeting. Unfortunately for you he just planted an annoying seed in your head. You stop thinking about anything but the deal your firm just signed and you can’t wait to get to the office to look at your new lease. The fact is, that guy may not have all the correct information and details about his deal but it sure set you off on an aimless journey. You now start to wonder if you really did you get as good a deal as you first thought.
The core of the problem is that no two deals are ever the same -- even in the same building. Although the monthly rents may be within pennies of each other, the deal points may vary across the spectrum. The differences often depend on specific issues known only to the Landlord. This can include idiosyncrasies of the particular suite, the building or maybe the landlord’s financing. It likely has nothing to do with you. So, don’t take it personally.
Several years ago we assisted a client in leasing a portion of an oddly built suite. The portion they intended to lease worked well for them if the landlord would just put up one wall, re-carpet and repaint the suite. Quick deal…done and done.
At the same time, I had another client looking for space about the size of the remaining portion. However, that section required a lot of improvements to meet most tenants’ needs. When I approached the landlord basically with two deals at the same time they were willing to do well over $45/SF in improvements, a high amount for a small space. From their perspective they were looking at what the cost would have been to do both suites while putting most of the cash into the odd shaped one. The win-win was that both clients got a space built out to their needs while the landlord signed two new tenants with minimal down time or lost rent.
In today’s market the concessions come in all sorts of shapes and forms. Some creative landlords offer reduced rent for the first year while others may offer abated rent. Others are more aggressive on their asking rates. The landlord was quite upfront in one recent renewal transaction we handled. He needed to keep his asking rate at a specific level based on the terms of his loan. With that in mind and knowing the market value as compared to other properties and other new deals recently completed in the same building we put a total dollar package together that would work for the landlord. We then used abated rent spread through the term so the total value of the transaction equaled fair market which worked for my client. The landlord got his rate and the client paid what was fair over the term.
The guy standing in the coffee line telling you about his deal may not even know the specific deal points of the lease and, in particular, how all the moving parts fit to make the deal work.
Every deal starts with a market value. That’s just the reality of real estate. Beyond the basics every deal has its uniqueness. If you can get answers to some issues it might help such as:
- Does the landlord own the building outright?
- If not, how flexible is his lender? Some lenders need to approve all deals, deals that impact loan to value while another may need approval of deals over a certain size which could impact the landlord’s flexibility.
- Does the owner tend to sell or keep their properties long term?
- How long has the particular suite been empty?
- Is the present build-out considered “standard” or would it require improvements for most any new tenant to occupy the space?
If you look at your business plan and carefully identify your real estate needs you can approach the landlord with the simple question, “Can you do this?” While the path to “yes” may not be a straight one, understand there are many issues facing the landlord which can allow them flexibility to make your deal or conversely become impediments forcing you to move on to another option. Be strong in your negotiations but also learn to be flexible.
Guest post by our Orange County, Ca Office Space Tenant Representative