If you are new to the world of buying a business, then you likely have some basic questions that need to be answered before you really get rolling. One very common question we get from the curious future entrepreneur when discussing businesses to buy is:
Do I have to buy the building too?
The answer to this question is almost always no, as commercial leases are the norm in the small business world.
What do I need to know about commercial leases when I’m looking to buy a business?
First and foremost, you can’t simply look at the amount of rent the current owner pays and the length of time left on the current owner’s lease to understand the nuances of the commercial lease market. It is also very important to understand that while you as a new owner will get a new lease, the rent amount itself is unlikely to change in a major way (and if it does change it will probably go up, not down) – especially if the current lease has quite a bit of time left. The property owner already has someone who is committed to paying that rate for the remainder of the lease term, so they have no motivation to change the terms of the lease for a new owner.
Commercial lease rates depend on a large number of factors, but in general it will depend on where the business is located. In some parts of town you may be able to get a commercial lease at $8 per square foot, while in another part of town not far away the typical lease rate will be more like $40 per square foot. A property on a main street or in a plaza with a strong anchor business will fetch higher rent than a business somewhere off the beaten path. A location on the water will also have a higher rent rate.
If you are in the initial phases of searching for a business and think a particular rent rate looks ridiculous, don’t make a judgment on the business or the lease until after you have spoken to your business broker. They will be able to tell you if a lease rate is truly ridiculous, or (more likely) if a lease rate is in line with the current location of the business. It is also far more important to look at the cash flow of a business than to get hung up on the lease.
In terms of renegotiating the lease rate, it will depend on a number of factors – like the length of time left on the current lease and other factors (like location) that we’ve already discussed. In some business transactions there will be a little wiggle room on price – but for the most part a property owner is not going to cut a lease rate significantly for a new business owner.
While you won’t be able to cut the lease rate in half, you will more than likely get a chance to renegotiate other parts of the lease, like the length. For instance, if the current owner only has six months left on their commercial lease, you certainly can’t be expected to pay $100,000 for a business with no guarantee on the current location for anything more than that short amount of time. Your lease will likely be renegotiated for a much longer term, sometimes 5 or 10 years. Each situation and each property is different – so you will need the expertise of your business broker for this part of the renegotiation.
If you are new to the process of buying a business, don’t get hung up on seemingly high lease rates or on short lease terms. Your business broker is there to help you understand any lease and also to renegotiate a lease to best suit your interests as the new owner of a business.
Are you searching for businesses and have questions about why certain lease rates are so high? Do you want to know which areas typically have lower lease rates? Ask us! Please leave any questions or comments here and we will be happy to help.
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