Hunting for Space

Having recently gone on a search for office space, I realized that I had not the faintest idea of what I should be looking for, or at. I knew what the space was going to be used for, but not what kind of space I would want, nor what types of terms and conditions would accompany the space.

Area

The first question I therefore had to answer was about the amount of space required. This question was actually fairly easy for me to answer, and then I got it wrong, and learned something in the process. The space was to be used by 3 people, so I add together the size of 3 standard cubicles (64 square feet each) plus a little extra, working it out to 225 square feet.

Ouch, that’s cramped.

I forgot that in an office which uses cubicles, there’s usually some larger space available for when you need to spread out. 225 square feet just wouldn’t cut it – the three of us would be driving each other nuts after a very short while.

In attempt 2, I just added a fourth space as the boundary space, and decided to look for a 300 square foot office. That would be a little more comfortable, and, if necessary, could allow us to bring in a fourth (or even a fifth if absolutely necessary) person for short periods of time.

Furniture

When shopping for space, you need to remember that you don’t have any furniture, so you need to consider that when looking at offices. Is the type of desk you want suited for a wall? A window? Center of the room? All this makes a big difference in terms of the shape of room that you need.

Facilities

Something to ask about is the location of a washroom relative to your space (is it inside your space, or down the hall?) and the location of a kitchen. You’ll want to be able to get fresh water, and ideally a small fridge. If you have to set aside some of your office for the fridge, then that will add to the amount of space needed.

Hydro, Internet

Make sure you find out if the rent includes the utility bill. When comparing spaces, you need to know what the included and excluded extras are, because there is no standard set of inclusions. As well, if you know that you’ll need something special (for example, you’ll require a dedicated high speed internet connection), then make sure that the terms of the lease allow for that. In the example given, since you’ll be arranging for your own internet connection, be sure that you aren’t paying for one that comes with the space.

Pricing

There are two pricing schemes used when it comes to office space – total fee, or per square foot fee. In any given neighborhood, you can see both systems used, so you need to be able to convert quickly between the two. Also, when looking at a price in square feet, make sure you find out what’s included – and measure the space yourself. If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself paying more than your share of some common areas of the building.

Second, look at the terms of the lease, if there is one. You may be required to stay for a minimum of a year. You may be able to transfer to another space in the same building during the term. Look at what the penalties are for leaving early – it may not be possible (that is, you may be charged the balance of the lease regardless of whether or not you use the space). Are you allowed to sublet parts of the office? This might be a good option if you find a place that’s larger than what you need at the moment.

My Story

What did I do? I went to a commercial real estate agent, who walked me through the process. He helped me find the type of space I was looking for, in an area that worked for me, at a price I was willing to pay. Most of all, though, he made me think about what I was using the space for to ensure that I ended up with what I needed. Too often, you will only realize after using the space for a little while that the place you have is not the place you need, and you’re now stuck there until the end of your 12 month lease.