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Calling All Landlords: What Tenants Really Want in Their Office Space

10 Tips to Make Your Commercial Space Stand Out

By Star Hughes-Gorup

I love office space. I love how a space can be transformed from a cold shell to a company’s hub and place to innovate. A key part of my role as a commercial real estate broker who exclusively represents tenants and buyers – the true consumers of office space – is touring our clients through different office spaces and helping them determine which has the most potential to be their firm’s new home should they move. Spending time with our clients as they evaluate the pros and cons of various alternatives has given me insight into what makes tenants fall in love with a particular space, but also what makes them rule others out. Below are ten simple and effective ways landlords can make their office spaces as attractive – and leasable – as possible.

1. Build for your desired tenant.

Who is your audience? Are you hoping to attract the next big tech company or a traditional law firm? Build your space with your dream end user in mind. If you are aiming for those creative start-ups with enormous potential for growth, then focus on a terrific, modern kitchen and open workspace along the window line with plenty of room for benching systems. If you are hoping to attract law firms, financial institutions, and other professional services firms, build large offices along the window line and a more traditional layout. It is important to stick to your desired audience though, as you can’t appeal to everyone. Build-outs that are a middle ground between the “progressive” and “traditional” layouts generally turn away both types of users.

2. Utilize glass; either full glass walls or sidelites.

Glass walls in Hughes Marino's Orange County office
Private offices enclosed in glass in Hughes Marino’s Orange County office.

Glass walls – or at a minimum glass sidelites – is a look that appeals to nearly all types of tenants. And, if an individual using the office wants extra privacy, it is easy to frost the glass with a window film. Avoid herculite doors though. They’re not worth the cost, and very few tenants insist on them when they realize how expensive they are. An easy substitution is a metal or wood framed storefront door with a glass cutout.

3. Add luxury vinyl tile in the reception area.

It is not that expensive to cover a few hundred square feet of your space with luxury vinyl tile (LVT) but to tenants it makes a world of a difference. The reception area is generally the prime spot for it, as it’s what makes a first impression to a prospective tenant’s clients, team members, and visitors. Go for a neutral wood tone that will appeal to just about all companies. Avoid trendy colors, such as gray-washed or blue-washed LVT wood, as those are more likely to clash with a company’s desired look than a natural wood tone.

4. Stick to blues, grays, and whites for your paint colors.

The overwhelming majority of prospective tenants are not going to want bright green, orange, and yellow office walls. Even though bold colors may catch some eyes and can create a fun, energetic feel, neutral colors, particularly in the cool color scheme, will appeal to many more prospective tenants. That’s because these colors are versatile and will compliment just about every company’s branding/marketing colors. Do make sure that the blues and grays you use are very light – just a few shades darker than white – as you don’t want to unnecessarily (and unintentionally) darken the suite.

5. Utilize double doors, regardless of where the space is located.

Whether your space is directly off the elevator or down the hallway a bit, double doors make any space feel grander. Tenants absolutely love them, and they hold great long-term value as tenants cycle through the space over the long haul.

6. Don’t overdo the built-ins.

Built-ins are very costly and become even more so when tenants need to remove them to make room for their furniture. There are better places to spend your money than on shelving that may need to be removed, especially when many companies prefer their built-ins to match their furniture, or require special sizing for filing purposes.

7. Upgrade the kitchen.

Gourmet kitchen in Hughes Marino's San Diego headquarters
Our gourmet kitchen is a favorite gathering spot for Hughes Marino team members.

The kitchen is an area that is often overlooked by landlords, but it is one of the focal points that tenants love in a space. An upgraded kitchen might not be a “must-have” on every tenant’s check-list, but it certainly will differentiate the space from others if the tenant is looking at multiple buildings. For many, the kitchen is a place of bonding and team building, so it is important not to discredit it.

A nice way to upgrade a kitchen is to add solid surface counter tops, especially when paired with stainless steel appliances. If you use a solid surface counter top, make sure it is neutral (i.e. gray, white, or black granite). If you opt for laminate, definitely choose white so that does not become dated immediately. Try adding a simple backsplash too. Backsplashes are a high-end finish that can be very affordable from the landlord’s perspective – consider basic subway tile for a classic, refreshed look.

8. Provide a welcome cart for prospective tenants.

A welcome cart with floor plans and water bottles will go a long way in making guests feel at home in a prospective space. To go a step further, try furnishing the space, as it helps tenants to visualize its true size and maximum potential. Many furniture vendors will rent or loan you office furniture in order to get their name out with tenants too.

9. Don’t forget the bathrooms!

Marble lined bathrooms in Hughes Marino's San Diego office
Marble lined bathrooms with polished chrome fixtures at Hughes Marino’s San Diego headquarters.

Most tenants check the bathrooms in every building they tour. If your bathroom is dated, dirty, or dim, it isn’t going to win you the tenant’s favor.

10. Be open to change.

Expecting a tenant to move right in without requesting any changes is unrealistic. If you can help them get 90% of the way there, then you are doing something right.

Star Hughes-Gorup is a senior vice president and director at Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate firm with offices across the nation. Star is a key member of Hughes Marino’s brokerage team, where she specializes in tenant representation and building purchases. Star also makes frequent media appearances to speak on business issues from a millennial perspective, and regularly writes for Hughes Marino’s “Spaces We Love” blog. Contact Star at 1-844-662-6635, or star@hughesmarino.com.

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