Renting Your First Office Space in Singapore: a Step-by-step Guide

6 min read

Congratulations on registering a business! While other preparation work like setting up accounting is mostly digital, finding and renting an office is an exciting way to make your company exist physically.

We joined forces with our partner spaceSense and prepared instructions on how to lease your dream office. Tips are inside!

Decide what you need an office for
Figure out how much space you need
Decide if you are okay with coworking or if you want a separate office
Search for options
Arrange viewings
Assess the offer
Sign the papers

Decide what you need an office for

Before you start looking, ask yourself as many questions as you can.

Do you need a nice place to host business meetings with clients or are you just looking for a space to house your team? Do you need a place close to your partners’ offices?

What impression do you want to make with your office? What do you want to show to your potential employees and clients and partners?

How important is it for you that the transport nodes are nearby, like MRT and F&B? Do you expect to be working long hours in this place or do you think most of the team will be working from home and mostly come in for meetings?

Find the most pressing problem the office will be solving for you. Here are some examples:

renting-office-space-problems--1

Having the answer in mind, you will be able to sort and evaluate the offers. Otherwise, there is a risk of being distracted by an alluring price or a nice interior and ending up in an office that doesn’t make your life better.

Figure out how much space you need

The amount of space you need depends heavily on the type of office and on what furniture will be there. But there are still some approximate figures you can rely on in the very beginning.

You need about 70 square feet per person. What will fit in 70 square feet? A working desk, a chair, and some air to breathe. Having less space per person is likely to mean working elbow-to-elbow.

Number of employees you have The minimum space you need
5—10 350—700 sq ft
10—15 700—1 050 sq ft
15—20 1 050—1 400 sq ft
20—30 1 050—2 100 sq ft

If you need conference rooms for meetings and other collaboration, aim for at least 293 square feet of additional space per every 10 people.

Try this interactive calculator to better understand how big an office you need.

Tip

If you do not need to hold meetings every day, you might want to consider coworking spaces where you can rent conference rooms on a one-off basis. This way you will be able to cut your fixed costs.

Decide if you are okay with coworking or if you want a separate office

Coworking spaces have mushroomed in Singapore over the last 3 years. They still make up only 5% of Singapore’s total office space, yet finding an affordable place in Singapore has become easier than ever.

Coworking spaces are cheaper to lease in the short-term (less than 1 year) as compared to 2–3 years for a conventional office lease as you do not have to spend money on office furniture and other fit-outs — you just lease desks or rooms and move in.

Coworking spaces are also a more flexible option: if your team expands, you can lease more desks in the same space instead of packing up your things the moment you stop fitting into a traditional office.

There are cases when it makes sense to consider options going beyond coworking spaces:

  • you need a certain amount of warehouse space;
  • you need your own corporate branding;
  • you expect to host important corporate clients regularly;
  • privacy and security are your utmost concern and you want to have full control here.

If something from the list rings a bell, you have a predictable revenue stream as well as a more or less fixed headcount, then traditional office space seems to be a reasonable option for you.

Search for options

The most obvious resource to turn to is online aggregators. They consolidate all the information and let you compare options. The concern here is that you will have to reach out to many different parties who list on the online platforms.

If you are not ready to get in touch with all the landlords, you may hire an intermediary. Services like spaceSense assign you a tenant representative to guide you through the entire process of leasing an office. The person working with you typically helps to sort options, communicates with the office landlords on your behalf and gives advice on the pricing and contracts.

Arrange viewings

Viewings can be overwhelming, especially if you do a lot of them in a short period of time. So we prepared a list of things to pay attention to.

The condition of the office

  • Is there sufficient natural lighting? Sitting under electric light all day can be depressing.
  • Do you need a raised floor system to hide an extensive amount of electrical and network cables? Cables lying around are neither safe nor aesthetic.
  • What is the condition of the building’s common area and office interior? Is the office building well-maintained to fit your corporate image?

The location

  • Is the place accessible by public transport?
  • How many allocated car park places are available to you as a tenant at the commercial office? If none are, where are the nearby car park facilities?
  • Are there places to eat nearby? Retail options? Pharmacies? If you like a certain place, spend some time exploring the area and find where you could have coffee or lunch.

The impact on your image

  • Does the design of the office building and lobby suit the company’s image?
  • Do you require access control systems as part of the building’s security? Some financial institutions and tech companies appreciate the additional safety l measures and security screening to protect their staff and property.
  • Who are the other tenants in the building? Check if your competitors are among them.

You and your partners may want to rank the key criteria for your ideal office space. Having clear selection criteria will let you have more efficient viewings.

Assess the offer

  • Check the lease duration. Normally offices are leased for 2–3 years, and coworking spaces sign contracts with a duration starting from 3–6 months depending on the coworking operator.
  • Make sure there is a rent-free period. This is the time when you don’t have to pay any rental fee. It is typically granted if you need time for renovation. In most cases, this period will last from 1 to 3 months.
  • Double check the “dream” offers. If an offer appears too good, you should have misgivings about what you are getting yourself into over the next 2—3 years during your lease period. Check the rental pricing rate nearby for similar building types and profiles. If you find nothing, but you are still suspicious, review the rental and other lease terms with an office leasing consultant.
  • The office site possession date. It is important to confirm the office site possession date in your office leasing terms.
  • Allow for at least 2-3 months for office renovation. This mostly applies to traditional office spaces. Even if no renovation is required, you will still need to engage cleaners to get the space ready for business. Do ask for more time if the renovation period coincides with any major festivals like the Lunar New Year, Christmas or New Year’s.
  • Confirm the office move-in date. Allow some time to renovate the new office space. You may need to exit your current office space earlier for office reinstatement.
  • Move-in and stay on top of your office lease. Congratulations on the move! Do keep your office lease expiry date in mind and review it at least 6 months prior to expiry.

Sign the papers

The most important thing here is to understand every word in the legal documents you sign. If you have doubts about some terms or if you think certain sentences are vague, do not hesitate to contact the landlord and ask for clarification. Suggest changes without doubt — you have the right to sign a contract you feel protected by.

After you make your choice, there are three steps to take:

  1. You issue the Letter of Intent (LOI) — it is a non-legally binding document stating your intention to lease and the key terms. Having received it, the Landlord will conduct due diligence on you and start negotiations with you or your office leasing representative .
  2. You approve and sign the Letter of Offer (LOO) — a legally binding document that explains terms that are found in the Tenancy Agreement. Once you sign it, you will make certain payments like the Security Deposit. As soon as the landlord gets the signed Letter of Offer and receives the payments, the finalised Tenancy Agreement will be issued.
  3. You and your landlord sign the Tenancy Agreement — the contract between you and the landlord, where the rights and responsibilities are stated. Having signed the contract, you will have to make the final payments and execute your office move.

And that’s it! Good luck with leasing your first office in Singapore!


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