You’re licensed, you have regular massage clients and you’re ready to open your own practice.
Once you start hunting for office space, you will find a wide variety of sizes and layouts. If you lease too large a space, you’ll probably spend too much; lease too small a space, and you and your employees will quickly become unhappy—and what if your massage practice expands and you need more room?
The amount of square feet you lease directly impacts the amount of commercial rent you pay. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for you to thoroughly analyze your current or desired commercial space and question whether you will truly need or use all of the area for your massage office layout.
While the commercial space may be attractive or you have plans to do something with the extra room, if you do not use the entire space you will end up needlessly paying extra money to your landlord.
In our business, we see this dilemma often. These seven tips will help ensure that you choose a space that works for you—and that you don’t overpay in the process.
1. Know Who’s on Your Side
One of the main reasons tenants lease unnecessary commercial space is because they have been talked into doing so by the landlord’s leasing representative. Although this agent appears to be working for you by showing you available space and seems to have your best interests at heart, he, in fact, is working for the landlord.
As the landlord’s employee, a landlord’s agent can be further motivated by the promise of a commission check from the landlord. When the tenant is convinced to lease more commercial space than she actually requires, that payment amount increases.
2. Start Smaller
A larger-than-necessary commercial space can result in problems for a massage tenant, as can a smaller-than-necessary space. We worked with one tenant who told us that his space was too small; with more commercial space, his customer count would increase.
Our answer was to negotiate for this tenant to lease the adjacent space after the existing neighboring tenant was relocated. Landlords, typically, prefer to work with a tenant who wants to expand versus one who needs to downsize.
3. Think Beyond Rent
Consider that over and above the base rent you will pay to lease your space, you will be expected to pay a secondary rent in the form of operating costs and common area maintenance charges. This additional rent is also based on the area’s square footage, so with a large space you may likely be paying a lot more here.
As a tenant, you want to keep the profits from your business—not give them to your landlord.
4. Shop Around
Why do massage tenants often mistakenly lease the wrong amount of square footage? We have found that this often comes down to availability of space. Massage tenants will be motivated to get their business up and running and may jump too soon at the first commercial space they look at, without considering their future massage office layout.
Even if this specific space is the only space currently vacant, it is often in the tenant’s better interests to wait to compare other sites.
5. Pick the Best Location
Your chosen commercial space needs to be in the best possible location; consider close proximity to other medical tenants or complementary health services provided within a shopping center.
If you are faced with deciding between a slightly larger or smaller location, we recommend that you lease a smaller space in the better location. If you are looking at comparable commercial units, it is often wiser to lease the smaller location.
6. Evaluate the Shape
When it comes to site selection, another factor is the shape of your premises. Typically, a square, box-shaped unit with ample frontage is more welcoming than a narrow rectangle. Also ask yourself if all the space inside the premises is or will be usable. Long hallways or pillars inside the unit can result in wasted space.
7. Take Measurements
On a related note, massage tenants should be aware of what is known in the real estate industry as phantom space. Here, the stated number of square feet in the lease agreement does not match the actual amount of area the tenant leases.Even if this happens completely by accident, the massage tenant will often pay the price in the form of rent charged for the larger space. Protect yourself and your business and have your commercial space professionally measured to ensure that you are not overcharged.
In one case, we measured a client’s premise and discovered that, instead of the reported 4,400 square feet, the tenant’s space only contained 3,600 square feet. The landlord had purchased the building a few years ago and never questioned the previous landlord’s measurements. We got the tenant a refund for previous months she had overpaid, plus a $1,000-per-month rent reduction for the remainder of the term.
Much commercial space is measured incorrectly. In most instances, a substantial incorrect measurement can be defined as a discrepancy of 5 percent or more. In actuality, we’ve discovered that more often than not measurement discrepancies will favor the landlord. Having your commercial space professionally measured by an independent expert will provide peace of mind and is highly recommended.
By following these steps, you are poised to lease and launch a massage office that is as professional as you are—and that will be a component of your success as a massage therapist.
For a free leasing CD entitled Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Commercial Tenants, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield—The Lease Coach are commercial lease consultants who work exclusively for tenants. They are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call (800) 738-9202, email email@example.com or visit theleasecoach.com.