The most frequent question we get from new advertisers is "How much is my space worth?".
To answer that question we have to balance a number of factors, the first being what are other similar spaces asking, and what are they actually getting when rented.
You have to compare spaces on a "like, kind" basis. Start with the building.
- Is it a Class-A building
- Is it an older building? - Has it been upgraded?
- Is the lobby attended? - How is security handled? - 7 X 24 X 365 access?
- Are there amenities on site? (Dining, News stand, Conference rooms, Gym, Parking)
Next, look at the space in terms of general characteristics:
- Is the entrance directly off the elvators or a walk down the hall?
- Is there good signage and visibility from the elevator vestibule
- Is the reception area welcoming?
- Is there a professional receptionist?
- Is there a conference room proximate to reception?
- Is the common area modern and updated? Is it decorated appropriately?
- Is the office neat? Housekeeping standards are very important, especially in a legal office when there is the possibility of boxes and piles of documents that can collect if there is no clear policy on how document storage is handled, particularly in common areas of the office.
- Does the space have a good feeling of volume or is it cramped? (Ceiling height and ambient light levels are important to observe.)
Then, look at the available office itself:
- What are the dimensions?
- What is the exposure? (Are there views - and what is the natural light level?)
- Is the office furnished? If so, what is the quality of the furniture system?
- Is there a telephone system in place
- Can you port your numbers over to their system?
- Does the receptionist answer your phones in your company name? If extra, what is the cost?
- Is high speed internet included or extra. If extra, what is the cost.
Next, look at the amenities being offered in conjunction with the office
- Is there a conference room available for your use? (Is there more than one conference room? What is the maximum number of persons you can comfortably seat at a meeting?)
- Is there a kitchen and lunch room, or just a pantry area? (Coffee machine - is coffee included? / microwave? / refrigerator? / snacks? / filtered water included ?
- Is there a high speed copier available? (Cost per copy? / Scan? / Fax? / Color ? / Is the system coded ?
- Is there part time secretarial or paralegal help available on an hourly basis?
- Are there any shared legal subscription services available that "guest" tenants can use?
And now, the most important factor to evaluate is the overall tone of the environment and the quantity and quality of your potential future suite mates. You should spend some time in the space and actually meet the people you will be "rooming" with in the future to make sure you've got a good personality (work habit) match - because this is actually more important than anything else you're evaluating on that first inspection. In the long run you'll spend more time with your office "mates" than you will with your family at home, so it is really important to evaluate this closely and make sure you'll be entering an environment that you're comfortable in.
While you're evaluating the "host" and their current "guests" for personality traits, you might as well evaluate them professionally as well, because the added benefit of being in a suite with a variety of other attorneys is that sometimes there is the potential to share work or get new work from a co-tenant's overflow or new work on a referral basis according to your specialty.
Last, don't make any assumptions. Always inquire up front about the "host's" history in the building and try to confirm that they have a healthy relationship with the Landlord. As part of your negotiation for space you should get a representation that the "host" is in good standing with the Landlord, and you should understand how much term is remaining on the host's lease (because if the host has to leave, you have to leave).
I'll cover negotiating strategy in a future entry, but for now I just wanted to illustrate the individual items that should be evaluated when considering "How much is that office worth". Remember, a lot has to do with scarcity as well. If there are 10 similar offices in the immediate neighborhood, you're going to have a much easier time negotiating a tighter rent...but that will be the subject of a future entry.
Feel free to call us at 212.986.9100 if you need any "Tips" on what to look for when searching for shared law office space.