The leasing process can take differing amounts of time, depending on whether you’re opening your first or fifth franchise location. You can discover a lot during your first few lease deals that you can carry forward – potentially saving you both time and money with further leasing projects. The key is to give yourself ample time so you can recover from setbacks and delays without it costing you more capital or rent.
At The Lease Coach, we have heard from many franchisees who have explained how they felt pressured by real estate agents who keep pushing them to make a deal or sign a letter of intent. Many of those same franchisees have regretted caving in to that pressure and making hasty decisions. Often you will get a call from the agent saying that someone else is looking at the space you looked at last week, so you had better hurry and sign an offer to lease. Don’t let things like that sway you. Pace yourself. Go your own speed and get it done right.
Time is also money for many successful franchisees who can better spend their time doing what they do best or what only they can do for themselves and their businesses. Many commercial tenants hire professionals to save them time so why not use a professional lease consultant to handle your commercial leasing matters too? The entire lease process can take 20 to 40 hours stretched over many months – this is time that you may better delegate to someone who does this for a living.
Pay attention to timelines as well as these can be critically important. Most often, any condition stated in the offer to lease may be for a finite period of time (e.g. ten days). If you know up front that you need more time to get your financing in order or have your contractor look over the commercial space, then ask for more days in advance. It is better to have a 20-day condition period rather than your having to keep extending five-day condition periods.
Timing plays a key role with your lease renewal. Ideally, a franchise tenant will want to start the lease renewal process 12 – 15 months in advance of their lease expiration date. More precisely, look at your renewal-option clause. If this says your cutoff date for exercising your lease-renewal is six months before your lease expires, you would need to start the renewal process six months before that – or a total of 12 months in advance.
Note that your strength or leverage may lessen the closer you get to the cutoff deadline, so the farther in advance you can find out what the landlord wants to do with your tenancy and rental rate, the more time you have to react. If you’re going to get bad news, you will want that information sooner rather than later. Do keep in mind that most landlords appreciate franchise tenants as long-term tenants which can attract other tenants (and shoppers) to a commercial property and want (and plan) to have them renew, so you’re usually on the same page plan-wise anyway.
This also applies in cases where you don’t have a renewal option and want to remain in your same location. The closer you get to the end of your term the less relocation time you have, and it becomes clearer to the landlord that you can’t (or don’t) intend to consider relocating. Doing this all in advance also impacts your own peace-of-mind … when you can put the lease renewal to bed earlier, it reduces your own stress dramatically.
Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield – The Lease Coach are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013).