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Leasing Retail Space – The True Costs of Leasing Space

Occupancy Cost

After obtaining information regarding the cost of tenant improvements, you should be able to estimate the cost of occupancy for your retail space. This will include rent, CAM charges, utilities and the amortized cost of tenant improvements.


CAM charges referred to comment area maintenance. Practice may vary from area to area, but in most areas this includes not only maintenance expenses but also the cost of taxes and insurance. Most leases for retail space include a partial or complete pass through for basic operating expenses, insurance, management, and property taxes. The landlord or leasing agent should be held to provide an estimate of these charges for your space.

Amortized TI

The amortized cost of your tenant improvements will be the cost over the term of your lease. To keep matters simple, if you are spending $60,000 to renovate your space, and your lease is for five years (60 months), include $1000 per month for the cost of tenant improvements.

Are You Paying Too Much?

Next research the occupancy cost compared to what others in your industry are spending. You may want to review occupancy cost on a dollar per square foot basis, percentage of sales basis and a dollars per month per location basis. If possible, determine what other similar businesses in your area are spending monthly for their total cost of occupancy.

Occupancy Cost Data Sources

Research the information available from industry associations and related publications for information on occupancy costs. It is sometimes referred to based upon dollars per square foot per year. It is more often referred to as a percentage of sales. If this is your first store, it will be difficult to estimate your sales. If you have other locations, you should be able to make an educated guess regarding the probable level of sales for this location.

Dollars per Month per Store?

In some cases, it may also make sense to review the cost of occupancy on a dollars per month basis. For example, if your existing stores tend to have a similar level of revenue, focus on locating retail spaces which meet minimal criteria and have the lowest monthly occupancy cost. Conversely, perhaps any store will have an excess amount of space for your real needs.

Rent per Month Example

Based on previous experience, there are no locations which will provide the minimal amount of space you truly need. Further, since you are only leasing a modest amount of retail space for 4 months per year, landlords have not been particularly accommodating. Hence, a location which meets minimal criteria and has the lowest cost for the tax season may be your best option.

Criminal Activity?

Finally, research criminal activity in the area for the retail space you are considering. In many cases, it is apparent whether an area is likely on the low crime rate or high crime rate end of the spectrum. However, considering the investment of time and capital necessary to open a store, it would be very disappointing to learn your retail space was near a hotbed for criminal or gang activity shortly after opening.


Consider the following example. A retail center in north Houston had been a prosperous shopping center on a major thoroughfare for 15 years. Shortly after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, many evacuees from New Orleans settled in Houston. For whatever reason, a large number of New Orleans residents who were criminals located in the adjacent apartment complex. During the next 12 months, there were three murders on the retail center property. Occupancy fell from 80% to 30% because of the problems.

Crime Data Sources

Options for researching criminal activity within an area include online crime reports, discussions with tenants at the property, and discussions with police officers who are active in the area.

Speak to Tenants

Tenants at the property where you’re considering leasing retail space can be a wonderful resource. They can provide information regarding crime in the area, tenants who have left the center, problems with traffic, problems with ingress and egress, problems with parking, and the trend in the center. Retailers within a retail center typically trade notes or visit with each other. Ask if business has been getting better, or is business declining for the businesses within the center?

Area and Property Criminal Reports

Area police officers are another excellent resource regarding criminal activity in the area. In most cities, you can obtain information regarding criminal records for any address. The records are public information. All you have to do is request the information and pay for the cost of copies.

Speak to the Source

In addition, in most cities the police are willing to visit with you if you are considering opening a business. Expect them to be very direct regarding criminal activity and trends in the area. It is possible they will discourage you from opening a store in a location you’re considering. However, is much better to not open a store in a poor location then to open the store and have to close the business.

Following The Rules With You Next Rental Can Save You Money

There are many people who simply do not like being told what to do and if you are a person of that nature, then you may not like it when the rental company gives you a list of rules you must follow when borrowing a vehicle. It is imperative, however, to abide by these rules if you want to make sure you do not end up overpaying for your next rental. There are many people who simply do not like being told what to do and if you are a person of that nature, then you may not like it when the rental company gives you a list of rules you must follow when borrowing a vehicle. It is imperative, however, to abide by these rules if you want to make sure you do not end up overpaying for your next rental.

DRIVERS – For most of the person who rents the vehicle is what should be the driver at all times. If you want to add an additional driver to the lease so make sure you leave the rental company know in advance. While most rental companies will cover the spouse, on the agreement at no additional cost, each company is different so it is important to ask if someone else can drive the vehicle, because if they are not covered then you could be liable for any damage caused by this additional drivers.

READ – Ignorance is truly bliss and if you travel around your rental vehicle in a different region of the world you are still responsible to drive according to their laws. If you are unfamiliar with the area, then it is important to obtain a manual driving or doing some research online to discover the laws where you are driving. Most leases say that you follow the rules of the road and expects to drive the speed limit, wear your seat belt, and have children properly restrained. If you choose not to follow the laws, or simply ignore them and something happens you can be held responsible and not knowing the law is no excuse.

Little Things Mean a Lot – There are other rules you can follow that can help you save money off your next rental. Little things like not filling the gas tank, not staying within the required number of miles, or return your vehicle after the end of the holidays are all things that you will be charged.

Make sure that you follow all the rules as they are outlined in your rental agreement and you will find that you are able to not only have a wonderful holiday, but a less costly one. When the rules are followed everyone comes out a winner.

Rental Property Secrets

That being said, one of the biggest mistakes that I see other landlords and rental property owners make is that they are reluctant to or just flat out won’t put any money into their properties because they don’t think they will see a return for that investment. When I tell some of my counterparts that I put new kitchens and bathrooms into all of my rental units they think I am nuts. To quote one of my friends who has some properties, “Why would you spend $4,000 on an apartment that is just going to get destroyed by the next people that rent it?”. To answer his question, I thought I would write this article.

First, let’s think about the mathematics behind it. Granted each market or city is going to have a different result, but for where I live in the Philadelphia area this holds true. By doing a little research and finding comparable apartments in your market, you can find out what the magic number is. What are the three features that are going to stick out about any apartment? The condition of the rugs, the bathrooms, and the kitchens. If any of these items look worn or beat up, it is going to be harder to rent and you won’t be able to get as much for it… that is just a fact of life. So let’s say you spend $3,000 to upgrade the kitchen and bathroom(s). Yes, it is possible to spend that little on upgrades and I will show you how later on. Assuming the rest of your unit/building is in good condition, that $3,000 investment can produce an extra $200 a month in rent for me per unit. At $200 a month, you made your investment back in just over a year and you are now making more money per unit. Think about it. If a prospective renter is looking at two apartments or offices for lease: one with a dated kitchen and one with a modern kitchen and bathroom, which one is he/she going to choose? Not only that, but a nicer apartment is going to command a higher rent which in turn brings in a higher income renter who is less likely to abuse and destroy the apartment.

For some of you, I am sure that $3,000 to renovate a kitchen and bathroom(s) probably made you chuckle. If you are still shopping at the big box stores for your supplies, then you have a reason to laugh. To update both the kitchen and the bathroom in an apartment using their cabinets could easily cost you double if not triple. After doing a lot of research, I found a source for cabinets that saves me at least 30-40% per apartment. I started buying my cabinets on-line. If you do a search for RTA Kitchen Cabinets, you will find my secret. Not only are they cheaper, but they are also made of stronger materials and easier to assemble and install. By buying cabinets on-line, direct from the importer/manufacturer you can get them much cheaper because they don’t have the high overhead cost of a retail store. I have been using them for years now in my apartment, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if you put them side-by-side with store bought or store ordered cabinets. The biggest benefit is that you don’t have to wait 6-7 weeks for cabinets like you do if you go to Home Depot or Lowes. These are delivered straight to your office or property in around 2 weeks.

So the next time you are trying to figure out why you empty units, or the guy across the street is renting his units for hundreds more, take a look at your kitchens and bathrooms. I simple upgrade will not only get you a quick return on your investment, but it will also continue to generate more revenue for years to come.