Collect Six Key Pieces of Information Before Negotiating Lease
When you find an attractive shopping center space that you're interested in renting, the center's owner or manager will probably give you a leasing package. Unfortunately, the leasing packages that owners give to prospective tenants don't always contain all of the key information needed to make an informed leasing decision. Whenever you receive or request a leasing package, make sure that it contains the following:
A good set of aerial photos of the center and its surroundings is extremely important. Some owners will try to give you a site plan in lieu of aerial photos, but you shouldn't accept it. The photos are your best option because they show you, for example, businesses, schools, access roads, and housing subdivisions—that is, they show you exactly what's around the center in which you plan to lease space. Make sure that the photos are clear and contain precise architectural details that cover at least a seven-mile radius around the center. Also, for maximum effectiveness, ask the owner to key the photos by placing markings or numbers by the areas that could have an impact on your business.
Recent Detailed Demographics
Knowing who lives and works around your business is essential when deciding whether to sign a lease in a particular center. Ask the owner for recent detailed demographics and a color-coded ZIP code income distribution map for its trade area. For example, if you want a specific breakdown of the income of the households that are five miles or less from the center, the owner should be able to provide you with demographics that show you exactly where the money is. In addition, the owner's demographics should give you more than just residential information. You'll also need the local employee demographics so you can accurately gauge the potential foot traffic from the office complexes in the vicinity.
List of Tenants
Leasing space in a center that has tenants that will compete for your business may not be the best plan of action. You should get a list of all current tenants in the center, and their exact location. And if the information is available, you should also try to get a list of future tenants, as the last thing you want is to lease space in a center only to find out that your biggest competitor will be moving in a few doors down from you in the next few months.
Interior and Storefront Photos
Before you make any leasing decisions, you have to know whether the space fits your needs. One of the best ways to assess this is by having interior photos of the space that you are considering. The photos enable you to visualize your business in the space, and can give you an idea of what type of work, if any, will need to be done.
The storefront photos serve the same purpose: They allow you to visualize the front of the store to see whether it will fit your needs. For example, storefront photos would be helpful if you needed extensive patio space for outdoor displays or space to hold oversized signage.
Floor Plan and Architectural Restrictions
Be sure to get a floor plan that shows the exact square footage, as well as floor-to-ceiling dimensions, for the space. Also, get a detailed list of all architectural restrictions associated with the center. If you don't, you could end up signing a lease in a center that bans you from using the detailed characteristics that made your business successful. For example, your prototype store colors might be black and gold, but the owner of the center wants all storefronts to stay white with red lettering. Or your storefront may be known for its decorative stonework, but the center requires all storefronts to be constructed of plain stucco.
The quickest way to kill a business is to have inadequate parking. Before you sign your lease, be sure to get as much information as you can about parking at the center. The owner should provide you with information such as the center's parking ratios and a detailed map showing all access points from major roadways. And you may want to check whether you would be allowed to post exterior signage in the parking areas. Also, if there are any off-site parking facilities affiliated with the center, ask the owner to provide you with information on those, as well.
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