How to Secure Your First Office Space

Dec 13, 2021

If you founded a startup and have never opened an office in the Bay Area before, you’re about to go down a journey that can be as taxing as the process to raise money.

Most startups today will start their operations in a co-working space, which works well when you’re trying to get your business up and running. But there will come a time when your business will grow and need a separate office. Co-working spaces get expensive over time and won’t allow you to develop your own brand and identity. Your employees are also mixed with other tech firms, who are also seeking new talent, so turn over can be high.

Here is a checklist of key things you should know in order to secure your first office space:

1.    You will likely need to sign at least a three-year lease. Although landlords with offices under 3,000 square feet are becoming much more flexible with the length of leases, those who don’t secure at least a three-year lease, will not be able to use income from that lease to support any bank loans they may have.

2.    Landlords also have to show good security attached to these leases, so your ability to show that you have the credit and can pay rent on time in full will be critical. If you can offer to prepay or provide a larger security deposit, that’s even better.

3.    The cost of buildout for a single office can be really add up. Today, a single office could cost $10,000 and a conference room can be around $20,000. These buildouts will require a permit and contractors are always busy, so timing for the simplest buildout could take 6 weeks or longer.

4.    First find a broker you like and stick with them. You will find that going out on your own to secure a space will be a waste of time, and more expensive. Experienced brokers will know how to negotiate and make sure you don’t get beat out by other offers.

5.    Have your business plan, bank statement, company background, and your bio ready to share (and your NDA if you require one).  With any offer, by sharing your financials and NDA up front, you will have a leg up. So many firms will end up delaying the process because they are still gathering all of their paperwork.

6.    Have a real estate attorney on deck before you start the process. Your business attorney may not be familiar with real estate laws, so it’s important to find an attorney that does commercial leases regularly. Make sure you ask how busy they are and how fast they can turn around a lease. Good attorneys understand that you are in a very competitive market and you need turnaround a lease quickly.  If you don’t know attorneys, ask your broker who should have some good recommendations.

7.    Order your furniture ahead of time. Know how many seats and desks you will need with a vision of what you want your office layout to be.  If you have pictures of office layouts you hope to achieve, share them with your broker so they can try and find a match.

8.    Sit down with your broker before of any tour to make sure he understands your product or service. They will need to relay that information to the landlord so they can put your business in the best light against competitors.

Written by: Hans Hansson

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Hans Hansson is President of Starboard Commercial Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email [email protected] or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,