How to (and how not to) lease commercial real estate space

There are a number of right ways and a myriad of bad ways to lease out your commercial real estate vacancy

ICR Commercial Real Estate
July 19, 2019


The best way to lease out our commercial space is to have a great location and demand. These stand out as the major leasing drivers of commercial real estate; however they are not the only factors.

Here are a few tips I share with landlords to help their properties shine above the competition.

Spick and span

Even a dated property will show best when it’s cleaned up. This means disposing of any debris left over from the last tenancy, preparing broom-swept or vacuumed floors and clean windows.

Some tenants can see past the cobwebs but most won’t. Simply creating a clean atmosphere can help them envision the potential that exists within the space, even if alterations are required.

Paint the picture

If you do not have plans for the current layout, it’s a good idea to create a floor plan for prospective tenants. I frequently map out spaces for my landlords because simply describing a space is not enough.

If you include specific measurements, that is even better. This will help tenants plan where they can fit in existing equipment and office furniture.

In the example of shell space, I often draw up a few different office layout options. I display the drawings in the space, which helps generate discussion during site tours.

Set the stage

Where applicable, staging a space can really enhance its “showability.”

We currently have an office space listed in which the previous tenant had invested a tremendous amount in improvements, including demountable walls and desk systems. The tenant has no immediate need to move the furniture elsewhere so we are able to not only show prospective tenants the potential but also offer the space furnished.

Do the homework 

Agents want to gather as much information as possible prior to bringing properties to market. This may require them to ask landlords for updated occupancy costs or current utility expenses.

Any homework you can prepare for a prospective tenant will help them when they are considering your space. In markets where there are many options, this type of background work from the landlord can save time and help speed up a tenant’s decision.

First impressions

The interior is important; however don’t overlook the first impression of the building you’re advertising. It is called curb appeal. Tenants will often drive by properties before discussing them in depth with an agent; if the building looks less than desirable, that call may never transpire.

Applying bit of elbow grease prior to listing a commercial property is one way to ensure your vacancy will rise to the top of any tenant’s search list.

Here is how not to lease: 

Everyone has ideas about how to get a space leased up, but when is the last time someone made a list about how not to get a space filled?

Wait no more, laggard landlords; I have the list for you.

Keep it full

If your last tenant didn’t take all their belongings, or has left general debris behind, go ahead and leave things the way they are. The next tenant will surely be able to see past the mess and create their own vision for the space.

It’s beautiful as it is

You as the landlord know it’s got great potential; likewise, a tenant should be able to see that too!

Update what?

You never know when a tenant might come along and need the 50-year-old millwork that your previous tenant had used. Stains on the countertops or floors, for example, may fit fine with an incoming tenant’s design sense.

Surely the showability of these items doesn’t matter or have any bearing on a first impression. Leave them be, they’re not hurting anyone.

Keep it natural

Weed control season is upon us, but without a tenant in your vacancy, who needs to take care of landscaping? Some folks like the natural look, and you can capitalize on that by not doing any yard upkeep.

Ditto on winter listings

Everyone wears boots in the winter; a little snow built up on sidewalks makes accessing the property more of an adventure for everyone.


No! My goodness, under no circumstances. Just no.

Please ignore everything above if you’re a landlord looking to obtain the highest and best value for your space for lease.

A word of warning: if you have no interest in hearing these suggestions, do not engage a professional commercial leasing agency. 

Reread the “how to” suggestions above, contact an experienced agency and follow it to commercial leasing success.

Kelly Macsymic is a sales associate and business manager, Stuart Commercial Inc., with ICR Commercial Real Estate in Saskatoon. Contact her via email at

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