If you only take away one thing from this blog, we would want it to be this: Never negotiate your commercial lease by yourself.
The lone exception to that rule would be if you happen to be a real estate lawyer, or otherwise experienced in the finer details of commercial real estate.
We have covered this topic a few times in (what we biasedly feel is) the best commercial lease blog for tenants on the web today. Our message is that nearly everyone should enlist help in this venture.
If you can't afford to hire a real estate lawyer, here are two other people you should work with.
A Commercial Real Estate Lease Expert
If you're an entrepreneur who is signing their first commercial lease, chances are very good that getting a real estate lawyer to look over your lease may be overkill. There are more specialized and more affordable options out there.
Find a commercial lease expert to look over your lease and give you a thumbs-up or redline any potential issues for you.
Yes, they can make sure you're not paying too much for rent. However, the real money they save you is in making sure you don't get saddled with any unfair conditions or terms. These terms can be far, far more expensive than paying a little bit too much for rent.
A commercial real estate expert can make sure you're not personally on the hook for a guarantee, in the case of a default. They can also make sure you're not paying too much out of your own pocket for repairs and improvements.
A Commercial Real Estate Agent or Broker
Some would-be landlords will tell you that if you decide to work with a broker or agent, they will have to raise the price of rent slightly to compensate for the agent/broker's commission. This is total nonsense and it's a red flag that:
You absolutely should work with a professional when dealing with this person, or
You should most likely just walk away
Sometimes a desperate building manager will try to shield you from other listings and properties out on the market because they know they're not exactly offering the best deal in town.
If they get a sense that you really want their property, or have a bit of tunnel vision, they may try to add a few things into the lease.
This is why you need someone who is plugged into the local commercial real estate market. They need to have firsthand knowledge of local trends and comparables to ensure that:
You're not paying too much for rent
You're not paying even more for unfair lease terms
You're not missing out on a better deal elsewhere
It may not be in the building manager's best interest for you to work with a broker. A broker can tell you, "Yes, this is a pretty good space. But I can get you more square feet and a better view for the same price 5 blocks away from here." They can also look at your lease and keep an eye out for common red flags.
Your would-be landlord spends all day, every day, dealing with commercial leases. You do not. So, make sure you're not going into this process alone. Whatever relatively small fees you may pay, a professional can literally save you thousands of dollars or months of being trapped in a lease that you regret.