Leasing Retail Space - The True Costs of Leasing Space
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Houston Retail Space
Available for Lease - Comprehensive Inventory
After obtaining information regarding the cost of tenant improvements, you should be able to estimate the cost of occupancy for your retail space. This will include rent, CAM charges, utilities and the amortized cost of tenant improvements.CAM
CAM charges referred to comment area maintenance. Practice may vary from area to area, but in most areas this includes not only maintenance expenses but also the cost of taxes and insurance. Most leases for retail space include a partial or complete pass through for basic operating expenses, insurance, management, and property taxes. The landlord or leasing agent should be held to provide an estimate of these charges for your space.Amortized TI
The amortized cost of your tenant improvements will be the cost over the term of your lease. To keep matters simple, if you are spending $60,000 to renovate your space, and your lease is for five years (60 months), include $1000 per month for the cost of tenant improvements.Are You Paying Too Much?
Next research the occupancy cost compared to what others in your industry are spending. You may want to review occupancy cost on a dollars per square foot basis, percentage of sales basis and a dollars per month per location basis. If possible, determine what other similar businesses in your area are spending monthly for their total cost of occupancy.Occupancy Cost Data Sources
Research the information available from industry associations and related publications for information on occupancy costs. It is sometimes referred to based upon dollars per square foot per year. It is more often referred to as a percentage of sales. If this is your first store, it will be difficult to estimate your sales. If you have other locations, you should be able to make an educated guess regarding the probable level of sales for this location.Dollars per Month per Store?
In some cases, it may also make sense to review the cost of occupancy on a dollars per month basis. For example, if your existing stores tend to have a similar level of revenue, focus on locating retail spaces which meet minimal criteria and have the lowest monthly occupancy cost. Conversely, perhaps any store will have an excess amount of space for your real needs.Rent per Month Example
For example, perhaps you operate a seasonal income tax business. During the peak of the season, there'll only be two people in the store (you and your assistant). Based on previous experience, there are no locations which will provide the minimal amount of space you truly need. Further, since you are only leasing a modest amount of retail space for 4 months per year, landlords have not been particularly accommodating. Hence, a location which meets minimal criteria and has the lowest cost for the tax season may be your best option.Criminal Activity?
Finally, research criminal activity in the area for the retail space you are considering. In many cases, it is apparent whether an area is likely on the low crime rate or high crime rate end of the spectrum. However, considering the investment of time and capital necessary to open a store, it would be very disappointing to learn your retail space was near a hotbed for criminal or gang activity shortly after opening.Example
Consider the following example. A retail center in north Houston had been a prosperous shopping center on a major thoroughfare for 15 years. Shortly after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, many evacuees from New Orleans settled in Houston. For whatever reason, a large number of New Orleans residents who were criminals located in the adjacent apartment complex. During the next 12 months, there were three murders on the retail center property. Occupancy fell from 80% to 30% because of the problems.Crime Data Sources
Options for researching criminal activity within an area include online crime reports, discussions with tenants at the property, and discussions with police officers who are active in the area. Online
In most cases, the information from the services will adequately address the issue of criminal activity near the retail space you're considering. However, the most current and contextual data you'll be able to obtain is from tenants at the property and local police officers.Speak to Tenants
Tenants at the property where you're considering leasing retail space can be a wonderful resource. They can provide information regarding crime in the area, tenants who have left the center, problems with traffic, problems with ingress and egress, problems with parking, and the trend in the center. Retailers within a retail center typically trade notes or visit with each other. Ask if business has been getting better, or is business declining for the businesses within the center?Area and Property Criminal Reports
Area police officers are another excellent resource regarding criminal activity in the area. In most cities, you can obtain information regarding criminal records for any address. The records are public information. All you have to do is request the information and pay for the cost of copies. Speak to the Source
In addition, in most cities the police are willing to visit with you if you are considering opening a business. Expect them to be very direct regarding criminal activity and trends in the area. It is possible they will discourage you from opening a store in a location you're considering. However, is much better to not open a store in a poor location then to open the store and have to close the business.Letter of Intent (LOI)
Retail space negotiations are complicated and time-consuming. Once you have located the retail space which is ideal for your business, the next step is to negotiate an agreement which protects you and is acceptable to the landlord. Industry practice for retail space is to negotiate a letter of intent before negotiating the lease.Use an Attorney!
Engage an attorney to assist in the letter of intent negotiation. It probably seems that the letter of intent is informal and can easily be negotiated without an attorney. However, there are issues you should address in the letter of intent which may not be obvious if you have not previously negotiated letters of intent for retail.Wow! This is Complicated
Common factors for a retail space letter of intent include: defining the parties (leasor and leasee aka landlord and tenant), defining the space, defining the rent including any percentage rent, defining the basis for calculating sales or net income if they are involved in calculating rent, the initial term, any renewal options, rent for renewal options period, the day at which lease payments commence, the date of occupancy, the condition of the space when the landlord provides it to the tenant, tenant improvement allowances provided by the landlord, who performs the tenant improvements, is the tenant required to use union labor for tenant improvements, is the tenant required to use a general contractor for tenant improvements (TI), who pays for the cost of the ADA compliance, who maintains what (i.e roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc), who pays which expenses, calculating the payment for CAM (common area maintenance), free rent, and identification of the broker and payment of the brokerage fee if relevant.You Mean There is More!
Other issues which you may want to address in the letter of intent include expense escalations, co-tenancy issues, eminent domain, foreclosure, maintenance standards, definition of the amount of leaseable space, personal guarantees, purchase option, subleasing, required hours of operation, dedicated parking, who is responsible for obtaining variances related to signage and usage of the retail space, expansion options, first right of refusal, can the tenant keep the TI allowance not needed for construction, can the landlord relocate the tenant if the space is needed to accommodate another tenant, late payment fees, the mechanics of providing notice of default and any options for the tenant to cure the default, mechanics of dispute resolution between the landlord and tenant, and a right to terminate if your sales do not stabilize at a minimum level.Complete LOI First
Complete and obtain an executed copy of the letter of intent before beginning on the lease agreement. The primary objective of the letter of intent is to negotiate and agree upon the business issues. The lease documents these agreements. Discuss fees to negotiate the lease with your attorney. Agree upon an hourly rate and estimate of the total fees. Agree the attorney will call if it appears the cost is going to exceed the estimate.
The following sections of the leasing retail space article focuses upon issues which merit commentary.Percentage Rent
Percentage rent -- make sure the agreement regarding percentage rent is clear. If percentage rent is based on sales, define sales. For example, is sales-tax remitted to the city and state included in sales? It is even more difficult to define net profits, which is why most percentage rent leases are based upon sales instead of profits. Attempt to look at the definition of net profits from a detached perspective. If you gave the definition to a six grader, could they understand it?Renewal Options
Renewal options -- tenants love them and landlords prefer to avoid them. In general, a larger number of shorter renewal options are better for the tenant. In addition, shorter notice periods to announce the tenants intend to renew are desirable for the tenant. Landlords prefer as much notice as possible regarding whether or not the tenet plans to renew.Renewal Option Rental Rates
Renewal option rental rates -- tenants typically want fixed rental rates for renewal periods. Landlords typically want the rental rate based upon market rent. Agreeing upon market rents can be difficult and expensive. Reasonable people can disagree regarding the level for market rent for a retail space. For example, should the premium for an end-cap space be 10% or 100%? Retail space is not fungible. It recently signed lease for retail space within the same center provides insight into market rent. However, in most cases it will not clearly defined market rent.Next Chapter Leasing Retail Space - Preparing Your Space
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