Renting an Office

Joel Spolsky has an accidental in-depth article on renting office space in New York. As anyone who rents commercial space finds out, you either become an expert like him or you get dicked over. End of story. There's very very little intermediate space if you're renting in office buildings or from serious landlords in which you get a reasonable lease (not talking about rent but lease terms) unless you behave like an SOB and really cross out parts of the lease and write in new parts.I've negotiated three leases in the last several years in Seattle, each of which I've learned more than the last. My lawyer has educated me. We didn't, in fact, use a lawyer on the last lease because we were (we still think) so well educated from the last lease, on which we spent a small fortune to have it reviewed and negotiated, but we think it paid off in the end. Joel's article is good reading and good advice. In Seattle, the situation is similar but much simpler. There's not as much pressure, even during the dotcom period. Buildings tend to be newer. There's either good spaces, decent spaces, or crap, and there's not a lot of those old garment district and heavy industry buildings with lofts that Joel describes in New York. I've been in Class A space (the Tower Building, owned by the Vance Corporation), and the lease negotiation was straightforward, the final lease fair, the landlord fantastic -- treated us like kings despite only have .84% of the building's space -- and no hidden surprises. I've been in junk space, a building on Green Lake that, when we moved in, we were told would be torn down to build condos at some point. Fortunately the market collapsed. When our lease was near up, we made a very nice offer to the landlord to pay him about 20 percent above market instead of the nearly 60 or 70 percent above market that we were paying. He thought he'd find tenants, he said, at that rate. (Instead, he moved in with some subletters he found.) We moved to what's probably accurately called Class C space: no elevator, but only two floors. Full heating, air conditioning, ventilation (just rebuilt from scratch -- we lived through that, but we don't mind now that it's done). Renovated offices. All that included in the rent and no build-out costs because it was built just the way we needed it. And we're paying about what we would have been willing to pay in our junk office that needed a lot of work just to stay in one piece.