Boxing in the Dark: Lease Negotiations

Written by Lynn Drake, guest blogger for the Business Relocation Resource Center.

Boxing GlovesNot all brokers are cut from the same cloth. Can you see through their list of impressive credentials to learn whom they really serve?

The best tenant representatives take time to get the low-down on area landlords, especially in prime rental markets. A traditional real estate broker may find it serves him or her to curry favors with certain landlords because they get referrals from these landlords and sometimes commissions for helping fill a building. This individual might steer clients to the buildings that help their pockets jingle, not necessarily the best space for clients.

Watch out for a broker who only shows you his firm’s listings. Indeed, the broker gets a higher cut on the commission for a house deal. Large firms are governed by large corporate policies which may or may not be revealed to you.

An independent firm representing tenants is in business to represent your interests. With experience, they know landlords who offer good buildings but remain rude to tenants; others who have a revolving door of tenants because they don’t insist on long leases. You want the kind of landlord who will fix problems like a leaking roof or broken elevator.

The unrelenting recession has hurt a lot of good landlords, those who had stellar reputations and now are faced with being unable to fix major repairs because they don’t bring in enough money off their leases to make needed changes. If you are looking at a building and the snow hasn’t been plowed, or things aren’t as clean as they should be, take note.

One example is a company that was in love with a particular building in Detroit. Research showed the landlord was under water. The company took a chance. A year later, the landlord drifted into bankruptcy and the 10-story elevators were out of order. Few employees were able to walk up the stairs, so work was done unsupervised in employee homes. Several weeks later the bank stepped in and fixed the elevators, but not before the company signed a lease on another, more suitable space.

Some truly great landlords are out there and their buildings sparkle. Some landlords will go far beyond the norm to make tenants happy. If the building functions well and security and maintenance needs are taken care of, employees will be happier and more productive.

In these turbulent times you can’t predict how a building might fare in coming months or years. What you can do is select a landlord with a proven track record for caring for tenants and being reasonable with rental rates. Paying a little more for peace of mind makes all the difference.


Lynn Drake

Lynn Drake is president of Compass Commercial, LLC – ITRA Global, a real estate firm representing tenants and buyers of commercial real estate globally.

Lynn became a commercial realtor in 2001 after 15 years in corporate real estate during which she initially managed and leased industrial real estate across North America for Central Transport, then directed real estate and facilities for 1,000 Kelly Services branches in the United States and Canada.


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