San Francisco’s competitive office market has produced real challenges for traditional businesses competing for space against tech companies. Firms nearing the end of traditional five-year lease terms might expect a similar process in moving as they did the last time. However, things have changed dramatically in the last five years.
Here are the most important challenges that tenants face today and helpful ways you can avoid them:
- Time is not on your side. Moving office spaces today takes double the amount of time to accomplish than it did five years ago. Buildouts that used to take 3 to 5 weeks now take 8- 12. Ordering and delivering furniture now takes between 6-8 weeks at minimum, if the furniture requested is in stock. Moving companies are also requiring 4 to 6 weeks advanced notice in order to be booked in their schedules. If you don’t have a scheduled move date already, you are going to be very limited in your choice of movers.
- Negotiating is non-negotiable. Today, there is VERY little room for negotiation on lease pricing. Often times, the price is what it is. If you don’t accept it, another tenant will. The days where you can negotiate the rent are over, particularly if you are looking to move by the end of this year.
- Find more than one option.If you start looking for new office space today, you should have three viable alternatives as backups. You will likely be facing fierce competition, so having options and being open to other spaces is key. Also, it’s just as important to get your financials in order so if you do like a space, you can move forward with the leasing process immediately. If the rent stays the same, landlords will want a secure business with good financials as tenants rather than a shaky startup that’s draining VC money.
- Read leases carefully, but quickly. Get in touch with your attorney now and determine how busy they are. Once you find a place, it’s important to sign the lease as soon as possible, but make sure your attorney goes through the lease with a fine tooth comb. Have your attorney focus on any deal-breakers in the lease. We have seen a lot of deals fall through because the building or tenant attorneys took too long to get leases out or respond to comments. Also, connect your attorney to your broker directly. Often times, attorneys only speak with the tenant, but if you allow your broker to work with your attorney one on one, they can add pressure to make sure things are moving in a timely manner.
- Find out if subleasing is an option.If you are considering a sublease, remember that even after leases are signed, the landlord usually has up to 30 days to give landlord’s consent to a sublease. If you are signing a lease for the first week of October, then expect you won’t be able to move in until November.
Once you have identified an address you are moving to, be sure to line up your fiber, telephone, copy/fax machines, etc. You will need to get in their schedules right away. We’ve seen tenants make the mistake of waiting until the lease is signed. Even if something goes wrong, you will owe a small cancellation fee, which is nothing compared to the cost of a delayed move.
Lastly if all else fails and a move by end of year is not possible—try moving the week after New Year’s day. During the second week of January, vendors tend to have freer schedules and will be able to offer you better pricing. It would also take away a lot of the pressure from your staff. For most businesses, the first week back is still slow so there’s less stress and allows you and your employees to enjoy the holiday week.