Are you looking for new office space but aren’t sure where to start?

This guide will tell you everything you need to know before you start looking for office space. We will guide you through every step of the process from when you should start looking for new office space and estimating costs all the way to preparing for your move.

Kristi Svec Simmons | Tenant Representation Broker in Austin, TX | AQUILA Commercial About the Author

Kristi Svec Simmons

Kristi is a proven leader both in and out of the commercial real estate industry. She works hard to ensure that her clients get the most favorable terms.
Chapter 1

What Does the Office Space Search Process Look Like?

Finding new office space can be overwhelming, but following a process and hiring a tenant representation broker can make it easier and keep you on track.

Here are five general steps your tenant rep broker will guide you through to make the process of finding new office space easier.

1. Discovery

The site selection process should always begin with discovery. Taking the time to understand exactly what your company needs is critical to getting the rest of the process right.

During this phase, your tenant rep broker will get to know your brand, company culture, location preferences, growth plans and budget so that your broker can help you make informed real estate decisions that fit with your company’s strategy. This will include a needs assessment and timeline creation.

During the needs assessment, your broker will work with you to understand your firm’s long and short-term needs and goals.

Next, your broker will analyze the information gathered in the needs assessment and produce a realistic timeline for each step of your project.


Sample Leasing Timeline Template

How long is your site selection process going to take? From discovery to move in, this timeline template breaks out each step of the process in order for you to properly plan and schedule. While every lease is different, this timeline template allows you to customize each piece of the puzzle to reflect your project's requirements.

Download Your Timeline Template Now

In the rest of this guide, we will help you get started on the discovery process, helping you estimate how much office space you need, when you should start looking for space, what type of office space you need and more.

2. Search

After you decide on a strategy, your broker will begin the search for a site based on your needs and goals.

A professional tenant representation broker will do the heavy lifting on the search by preparing surveys and scheduling tours.

Sample Market Survey for Finding Office Space

This is an example of a market survey.

Your broker will find the best options for you and will compile property flyers and floorplans for each option. Then, they will create a shortlist of your top options.

Next, your broker will schedule and facilitate tours of each property. Once you have narrowed your options down to the top properties, your broker will request proposals from each landlord for you to review.

3. Analysis

Depending on the broker you hire, they may leave you to figure out the differences between each proposal. 

If you hire experienced tenant rep brokers, they will provide a detailed comparison and analysis of each offer. By providing the analysis, your broker will better equip you to make the best decision for your company.

During this step, it’s also important to get construction estimates. Typically, landlords will pay for their architect to lay out your desired test fit onto a floorplan and also get a pricing estimate on your behalf. Taking the time to lay out your space and get pricing will allow you to get a full picture of the cost to build out the space. This will help you during the negotiation phase in assessing proposed tenant improvement allowances.

4. Negotiation

A good broker will help you negotiate your deal from initial proposals to an executed lease. They will facilitate communication between your company, lawyers and the landlord throughout the process, working to keep you involved, and making sure you end up with a space and terms that best meet your needs.

The negotiation sequence typically begins with a counter-proposal.

Once you’ve received initial proposals and construction estimates negotiations begin. Your broker should draft counter proposals for each option that still meets your needs in hopes of improving the economics and other deal terms for you.

After primary negotiations with landlords, your broker will prepare a letter of intent (LOI).

A LOI outlines the key terms and conditions of the lease to be drafted and serves as a good faith agreement between the tenant and the landlord.

Based on the LOI, the landlord will then draft a lease. You, your lawyer and your broker will perform a comprehensive review of the commercial terms to make sure they match up with the letter of intent and negotiate any final terms.

5. Build-Out and Delivery

Once your lease is signed, the next step will be to build-out your office space. We recommend engaging a project manager early in the site selection process to help make this last step run smoothly.

After your lease is signed, your broker should work with you to make sure you have a strong understanding of your lease and stay in touch to periodically monitor and reassess your real estate needs and strategies. They should also check-in prior to any expansion deadlines that you may have negotiated into your lease, as well as prior to your renewal option or expiration date.


For a complete guide to the site selection process, download our Site Selection Playbook or read our Step-by-Step Guide to the Site Selection Process.

Chapter 2

When Should You Start Looking for New Office Space?

Timing is one of the most important aspects when looking for office space. It is important to begin the site selection process early enough so that you can consider all potential options such as relocating, renewing in your current location or pre-leasing new construction. Without ample time, you can lose leverage and not have enough time to evaluate your options – causing financial loss or business interruption. 

Starting your search early allows you ample time to evaluate every option, create a competitive environment, negotiate the best transaction and have plenty of time to complete build-outs or construction.

In a competitive market like Austin, this means your search should begin well before your current lease expires. 

Typical renewal/search timelines for office users based on tenant square footage are:

Company Size Timeframe to Begin Process
> 25,000 sf 18 – 24 months prior to lease expiration
10,000 – 25,000 sf 12 months prior to expiration
< 10,000 sf 6 – 12 months prior to expiration


Important things to consider that could change this schedule include:

  • Market conditions
  • Desire to move into new construction
  • Condition of the new space

In Austin, tenants larger than 25,000 sf should enter the market much earlier than smaller tenants because of the competition for these large blocks and the lack of supply in the market. 

If you are interested in a new development that is under construction, it is imperative that you move quickly, often well in advance of your lease expiration. Generally, the first tenants into the space get the most favorable economics. If you hire a tenant rep broker and visit the site in its early stages, you will have a significant advantage and leverage over other interested tenants that come later.

Additionally, the condition of your new space will dictate the time needed to build it out to meet your company’s needs.

Since you will not know the condition of the space you will ultimately end up leasing before beginning the process, it is important to allot enough time for a potentially long construction timeline.”

Matt Wilhite
When Should I Renew My Office Lease (Or Look to Relocate) Prior to My Lease Expiration?

Second generation space typically allows for a faster build-out timeline, because most of the infrastructure should already be in place. Shell space on the other hand typically requires a longer build-out period.

AQUILA Pro Tip

Start the Process Early, Even If You Plan to Renew

Even if you’re happy with your current office and intend to stay in place, it’s important to follow this same timeline and process, in order for you to have the most leverage in your negotiation with your landlord

In some circumstances, if you plan to renew your lease, it makes sense to begin this process even earlier than the recommended timeline above. By starting the negotiation process early, you may be able to lock in a lower rental rate in a competitive market, secure necessary tenant improvement dollars, or even expand or right-size your office space sooner. 

Chapter 3

How to Determine What Type of Office Space Your Company Needs

Before beginning your search for office space, you need to narrow down the field. There is a wide range of office space available in the market, from the Class A office towers downtown and all-encompassing suburban campuses to more value-centric options. It’s important that you know what your company’s priorities and budget are before you begin the search process.

When determining what type of office space is best for your company, you should consider:

Classifications of Office Space

Office properties are typically divided into three main categories: Class A, Class B and Class C. While there aren’t any all-encompassing rules to these classifications, they are typically based on quality factors such as building age, amenities and aesthetics. Each classification has different price points and advantages.

  • Class A Office Space: Class A office space is considered to be the nicest in the market and is also the most expensive. Class A buildings are generally either new developments or properties that have had significant improvements and renovations in recent years. Typically these buildings will feature high-quality finishes in common areas, provide ample on-site amenities, offer structured parking and are conveniently located.
  • Class B Office Space: Class B office space is generally slightly lower than Class A in terms of quality and price. Often Class B office space was originally Class A, but has been downgraded because of age and deterioration. These properties typically have good amenities and management companies. They can sometimes even be brought up to Class A standards with common area renovations and amenity upgrades.
  • Class C Office Space: If you are a company that is looking for a functional space with below-market rates then Class C buildings may be an option. Class C properties are typically dated, with minimal amenities and located in less desirable locations. These properties are usually occupied by tenants requiring value office space. These types of properties can be a good fit for small start-ups as it allows them to allocate the majority of their financial resources towards growth.
  • Flex Space: Flex space is a type of office in which a tenant occupies industrial space but also has office space built-out within the building. This kind of space is for tenants who need to have both the front and back end of their business under one roof, from warehouse and/or distribution to sales, accounting and management.

Types of Office Space

In addition to the quality of office building you’re interested in, it’s also important to identify the style of office layout that will work best for your company. The two primary types of office space we see in Austin, are traditional and creative, with a wide range of layouts that fall in between the two. 

  • Traditional: Traditional office space is the most conventional style of office. This kind of space will have all of the customary features that one might expect to find. In a traditional office layout, you’ll find a mix of private offices for managers and executives and open area with cubicles for employees, as well as conference rooms, break rooms, a workroom, etc. 
  • Creative Open Space: Creative office space is a growing trend in office environments. Its key identifiers include open floor plans, with minimal private offices and no cubicles, a design that features open ceilings with exposed ductwork or exposed concrete floors, and ample collaborative spaces, including conference rooms and group work stations throughout the office. These types of office layouts often include amenities such as a large kitchen, break rooms, game rooms and even lounge areas. These areas are meant to encourage collaboration amongst employees and spark creativity.
  • Cubicles in traditional office space
    Cubicles and private offices are one of the key features of traditional office space.
  • Main Street Hub Creative Office in Austin, TX | Types of Office Space
    Open floor plans and low-walled workstations are the new trend in creative office space.
  • Latinworks Creative Office in Austin, TX | Types of Office Space
    Open floor plans and low-walled workstations are the new trend in creative office space.
  • Creative Office Space in Austin, TX | Types of Office Space
    Open floor plans and low-walled workstations are the new trend in creative office space.
  • Creative Office in Austin, TX | Types of Office Space
    Open floor plans and low-walled workstations are the new trend in creative office space.
  • Google Creative Office in Austin, TX | Types of Office Space
    Open floor plans and low-walled workstations are the new trend in creative office space.

Your budget and company culture will play a large role in the decision for what your company needs. After considering the different classifications and types of office space, you should have an idea of what the right fit for your company looks like.

Chapter 4

How Much Office Space Do You Need?

Once you have an idea of the type of office space you want, the next step is to find out how much space you will need. In order to help you estimate this number, we’ve provided the following rules of thumb for you to follow.

To determine how much space you need,  you first have to decide how much space you want per employee.

  • High Density (80 – 150 square feet per employee): Creative space with majority open seating and rows of small desks. May have a few private offices. Often seen in companies that house many different teams within the same space, as well as for sales, technology, coworking or customer support offices.
  • Average Density (150 – 250 square feet per employee): Mix of open cube or desk space and private offices. Traditional office layout.
  • Spacious (250 – 500 square feet per employee): Majority of the space consisting of large private offices. Historically seen in law firms.

To estimate how much space you need for your next office, multiply your employee headcount by the number of square feet per employee that best fits your density needs.

SF Needed = Number of Employees x Desired SF/Employee

To quickly estimate how much office space you may need, use our handy office space calculator


Please remember, this is meant to give you a ballpark range of how much space you will need. AQUILA highly recommends working with a tenant representative and engaging an architect to determine exact requirements.

Not all of this square footage will be dedicated to individual employee workspaces; however, this total size should also include space for common areas and conference rooms. As a general rule of thumb, the denser the office space, the higher the percentage of your overall office space should be committed to common areas.

When determining how much office space you need, it is vital to plan for growth.

You don’t want to plan for just the space you need today, but also the office space that you’ll need as your company grows down the road. It can be beneficial to add 10% to 20% to the total square footage you calculated to accommodate for future growth. Building in your anticipated growth helps you expand your business without costly interruptions.  

Depending on your company’s growth projections, it can also be helpful to negotiate expansion rights into your lease to plan ahead for this future growth.

And don’t forget about parking!

It’s important that you also have enough space for your employees to park at your new office. This can get tricky in larger and denser cities. We will talk more about parking in the next chapter.

Parking for office space is quoted as a ratio of the number of spots per 1,000 sf. For example, a tenant may lease a 10,000-sf space and receive a parking allowance of 4:1000. In this case, the tenant would be allowed to lease 40 parking spots for employees.

Companies located in dense areas, like downtown Austin, or who have high-density ratios, may not have enough parking to accommodate all of their employees. For companies in this situation, we recommend looking into these five creative parking solutions.

Chapter 5

How Much Does Office Space Cost?

When comparing office rental rates, there are many factors that could influence the rate. These include

  • Class of the building
  • Amenities
  • Location
  • Operating expenses (which include property taxes, common area maintenance fees and property insurance)

How Rental Rates Are Calculated

To calculate the total yearly cost to lease your office space, multiply the full-service rental rate (the sum of the base rent and all operating expenses) by the square footage of the space. Note, most office landlords quote rental rates on sf/year basis.

Total Annual Rent Cost = (Base Rent + Operating Expenses) x Square Feet

This formula is a good starting point but it does not include additional intricacies such as free rent, tenant improvement (TI) allowances or the length of the term.

Average Asking Rates in Austin, Texas

Below you will find current and historical average asking base rental rates for Class A office space in Austin’s three major submarkets. 

Office rental rates in downtown Austin have historically been the highest of all the submarkets.”

Kirk Silas
How Much Does It Cost to Lease Office Space in Austin, Texas? (Rental Rates, Pricing)

Office Submarkets Map | Austin, Texas

Downtown Austin

Office rental rates in downtown Austin have historically been the highest of all the submarkets. Below you can see where rates have been and where they currently are.


Northwest Austin

The Northwest submarket has historically had the lowest rental rates when compared to the other major submarkets. Its longer distance from downtown has put it slightly behind, but it has recently emerged as a hub for large technology companies.


Southwest Austin

The Southwest submarket is traditionally where tenants first look when they are thinking about leaving downtown. This submarket tends to have the second-highest rental rates after downtown.



Short Commute, Happy Employees

Find the perfect location within Austin, Texas for your company. Allow us to provide you with a map highlighting the best location in Austin for your company, based on your employee addresses. Knowing the where to look is the first step in the search for the perfect new office space.

Download Your Map Now

Now that you know how much office space you need and average rental rates, you can estimate your annual full service (base + operating expenses) rental rate using our rent calculator.


Austin Office Rental Rate Calculator

How much will it cost to lease office space in Austin, Texas?

Curious how much you should anticipate paying for office space in Austin, Texas? Get a quick estimate using our office rent calculator today!

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Additional Expenses

When thinking about your all-in leasing costs, don’t forget these other items that may add to your annual office expenses. 

Beyond rent, there are several items you should plan and budget for in order to complete the lease transaction, build-out the project and occupy the space.”

Kristi Svec Simmons
What Are the All-In Costs of Relocating My Office?

Parking

Depending on what kind of market your building is in, parking may be free for your employees or it might cost upwards of $200 a month per spot. It all depends on what the demand is in the area and how much supply there is to fill it.

In Austin, parking is typically an additional expense in the CBD and sometimes in other dense areas like East Austin or the Domain. In most other submarkets it is built into your rate, but reserved or dedicated parking might come at an additional expense.

Security Deposit

Similar to renting an apartment, a security deposit is standard when signing a commercial lease.

The security deposit required can vary on a case-by-case basis; however, in Austin, it is typical for landlords to require a deposit equal to one month’s gross rent.

Legal Fees

As with any legal document, you should always have an attorney review your lease contract as well as the terms and conditions before signing.

This price will vary depending on your attorney and the time required to review your contract. 

Other Expenses

Additional expenses you may encounter include:

  • Data Cabling, WiFi & Technology
  • Moving Fees
  • Build-Out Costs
  • Furniture 
Chapter 6

How Long of a Lease Do I Need to Sign?

Typical lease lengths vary by city and fluctuate with the market. In Austin, landlords are currently asking for lease terms between three and ten years due to the competitiveness and growth of the market.

Typically, landlords offer more concessions like additional TI allowance, free rent and more attractive rates in exchange for longer leases.”

Taylor McHargue
How Long of a Commercial Lease Should I Sign?

Longer Leases

Most landlords will prefer to have tenants sign a longer lease because it gives them stability within a building.

The more competitive the market and the more concessions you ask for, the more leverage the landlord has to demand a longer lease.

From a tenant’s perspective, the advantages of signing a longer lease can be:

  • Locking in favorable rates in a climbing market
  • Avoiding frequent relocation costs
  • Ability to negotiate larger concessions like additional TI allowance, free rent and more attractive rates.

Shorter Leases

Each time a tenant vacates a space, the landlord has to spend time and money to market the space, pay additional broker commissions and more TIs. As a result, shorter leases can cost the landlord more than longer leases.

Typically, in a competitive market, it can be hard to secure a short-term lease. However, there are some factors that may make a landlord more willing to sign a shorter lease. These include:

The benefits of a shorter lease for tenants are:

  • Flexibility to easily expand or downsize
  • If your company plans to grow, you won’t have to worry about paying additional expenses to terminate the lease or sublease your space

Typically, it makes sense for established, stable companies with clearly defined growth projections to sign longer-term leases, while shorter-term leases are a good fit for young companies with rapid growth plans who value flexibility.

Chapter 7

What are the Alternatives to Leasing Office Space?

Do traditional leases not fit your needs?

If you are looking for a short-term or flexible lease the best options for you may be coworking or subleasing space. These options could be ideal for rapidly growing companies or companies looking for less expensive options.

Co-working space

Co-working office space is an office concept that offers rentable office space or desks for small startup companies and entrepreneurs, though many traditional businesses are getting in on the co-working trend as well. 

Ideally, this form of officing would appeal to a person or entity that is unwilling or unable to pay the premium market rates for commercial space, do not have the flexibility to commit to a lease agreement, or are looking for a space that is renewed on a month-to-month basis.

Co-working space offers a wide variety of benefits. Financially, you avoid the extreme upfront costs normally associated with lease agreements. Co-working space typically is rented out on a month-to-month basis, while some vendors offer week-to-week or day-to-day renting predicated on availability. Co-working space costs are all-inclusive, meaning utilities, common area maintenance (CAM) expenses, insurance and other costs are worked into the agreement, so you don’t have to be burdened with the many intricacies of traditional commercial office leases. 

The most prominent coworking spaces in Austin include WeWork, Capital Factory, LINK Coworking, Galvanize and Firmspace, with a majority of coworking offices located in either the Domain or the CBD.

Think a co-working space may be the right option for you? A tenant representative can help you secure your space and negotiate terms at a co-working firm, just as they would with a typical landlord. They can also help you evaluate your options and determine if co-working, and which one is right for you.

Executive Suites

Executive suites are the more traditional version of co-working spaces. Renting an executive suite allows you a lot of the same benefits of a co-working space, including smaller lease size in desirable areas and term flexibility.

These are often leased by small law firms and other professional service firms or remote sales teams. An executive suite lends a small business the authority of professional office space as well as the benefits of such a space, including:

  • A receptionist or call system to manage incoming phone calls
  • Conference rooms in order to meet with clients or team members
  • A business mailing address for mail delivery
  • Printers and photocopy machines
  • Private office(s)
Or maybe you’re looking for a bit more of a commitment. Purchasing your office space can make sense for the right tenant.

There are pros and cons to owning your own property, and what’s best for your company is largely dependent on your company’s needs and expectations for the future.

While each transaction is unique, there are some key advantages to both owning and leasing your property.”

Jon Wheless
Buying vs. Leasing a Commercial Property (Pros & Cons)

The benefits of owning office space can include:

  • The opportunity to build equity, rather than just paying rent
  • Fixed mortgage payments that aren’t susceptible to market changes
  • Tax benefits, including depreciation 

For nonprofits, it often makes sense to own property, rather than lease, as nonprofits are exempt from paying property taxes. However, if a nonprofit leases office space from a landlord who is not exempt, then the landlord will still pay property taxes on the building and the nonprofit will still reimburse the landlord for their pro-rata share of those property taxes through operating expenses.

The disadvantages to owning office space, rather than leasing, include:

  • Limited flexibility for growth
  • Significant upfront costs, including the initial equity (down payment), appraisal fees, loan fees, repairs and capital improvement costs
  • Managing all repairs, maintenance and taxes in-house
  • Fewer options on the market, especially in desirable locations like the CBD

You ultimately have to decide which path is the right choice for your company. If your company is stable with little plans for growth and has large amounts of cash on hand, purchasing your property may make sense. On the other hand, if your company is rapidly growing and tends to reinvest cash into business expansion or development, leasing space is likely going to be the right answer for you.

A tenant representation broker can help you evaluate if buying or leasing is the right option for your company, and guide you through the property acquisition process if you decide to pursue a purchase. 

Chapter 8

Should You Use a Tenant Rep Broker to Help You Find Your Office Space?

It is possible to go through this entire process without a tenant representation broker…but it would be a long and painful process.

Due to the complexity of the site selection and lease negotiation process, we strongly recommend enlisting a tenant representation broker.”

Kirk Silas
How to Find Office Space on Your Own, and Why You Shouldn’t

A few issues you may encounter are:

  • Searching for space is time-consuming and takes away from the time you could be spending on your business
  • Your negotiating power may be limited without having a tenant representation broker on your side
  • Finding the space is only the first step; commercial leases are complicated and the negotiation process requires extensive real estate knowledge in order to ensure that you achieve the best terms possible.

These challenges are why we highly recommend hiring a tenant representation broker to assist you throughout the site selection and leasing process. 

There are numerous benefits to hiring a tenant rep, and it may not cost as much as you think. Tenant reps save time and make the process efficient, allowing you to make the best decision for your company.

They are expert negotiators, they know the market, and they can prevent hidden costs and problems.

To learn more about hiring a tenant rep broker, read The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Tenant Representation Broker. 


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