Navigating Short Term Commercial Leases

Navigating Short Term Commercial Leases: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Considerations

In the intricate landscape of commercial real estate, short term leases play a distinctive role, standing apart from their long-term counterparts. A short term commercial lease, typically spanning three years or less, is characterized by its flexibility and quick turnover.  Notably, the concept of time in real estate is relative, with what constitutes a short term varying across markets. Understanding this relativity is key to navigating the nuanced terrain of short term commercial leases, where strategic decision-making becomes paramount

Understanding Short Term Commercial Leases

Short term commercial leases are unique arrangements exclusively leased to businesses, encompassing spaces like offices, warehouses, studios, or restaurants. Unlike residential leases, which are typically 5 to 8 pages long, commercial leases are complex documents exceeding 40 pages, intricately outlining legal responsibilities for each party involved. The concept of time in commercial real estate is relative, varying across markets and property types. A short term lease, generally lasting three years or less, contrasts with its long-term counterpart, emphasizing flexibility and quick adjustments to market dynamics. This distinction is vital in navigating the intricacies of commercial real estate.

Lease Length Dynamics

Lease length definitions exhibit variations influenced by local market dynamics. While the general classification designates leases lasting three years or less as short term, and those extending beyond a decade as long term, these parameters can be fluid. Market nuances may alter these definitions, emphasizing the importance of understanding regional trends. Consequently, what constitutes a short term lease in one locale may differ elsewhere, underscoring the need for a nuanced and localized approach in comprehending lease length dynamics within the realm of commercial real estate.

Commercial Lease Complexity

In juxtaposition to the simplicity of apartment leases, commercial leases are intricate legal documents, often surpassing 40 pages. The complexity arises from the thorough coverage of legal responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Unlike the concise 5 to 8 pages of residential leases, commercial counterparts delve deep into the intricacies of each party’s obligations, necessitating a meticulous understanding. The comprehensive nature of commercial leases is reflective of the significant legal considerations involved, making them distinctively multifaceted within the real estate landscape.

Landlord Responsibilities

Similar to apartment leases, commercial leases involve landlords, but the responsibilities and complexities diverge significantly. While residential leases may be more straightforward, commercial leases, exceeding 40 pages, demand meticulous attention to detail. Landlords in commercial real estate face unique challenges, particularly in tenant improvement build-outs. Unlike long-term tenants, short term leases may not benefit from extensive build-out investments, showcasing the nuanced negotiation landscape landlords navigate in ensuring the viability of their commercial properties. Balancing these responsibilities is essential for effective management in the commercial real estate sphere.

Pros and Cons of Short Term Leases


  • Flexibility: Swiftly fill gaps in rental spaces, preventing prolonged vacancies.
  • Rent Increase Opportunities: Potential for annual rent hikes, especially in buoyant markets.
  • Lower Construction Budgets: Minimal build-outs required for short term tenants.
  • Reduced Vacancies: Pragmatic choice to mitigate prolonged empty spaces.
  • Faster Move-in Times: Quick turnaround due to reduced lease complexities.


  • Instability for Tenants: Short-term lease uncertainty for businesses.
  • Limited Negotiating Power: Reduced ability to negotiate favorable terms.
  • Paying Market Costs: Vulnerability to market-dependent pricing fluctuations.
  • Legal Complexities: Intricate legal considerations tied to shorter lease durations.

Navigating the intricacies of short term commercial leases requires a careful consideration of these varied advantages and disadvantages for landlords in the commercial real estate landscape.

Importance of Lease Terms

The significance of lease terms in commercial real estate extends beyond the tenant-landlord relationship. Investors often gauge a property’s value through the Weighted Average Lease Term (WALT), calculated by dividing the years left in leases by the square footage leased. Longer leases contribute to a higher WALT, translating to lower risks, increased property value, and lower cap rates. Lenders, favoring stability, typically prefer a 15-year WALT or above, impacting mortgage interest rates. Striking a balance between short and long term leases is pivotal for landlords seeking optimal property valuation and financial terms.

Conclusion on Short Term Leases

In conclusion, the traditional wisdom advising caution with short term leases in commercial properties remains steadfast. While there are instances where short term leases prove highly beneficial, these circumstances are often the exception rather than the rule. The over-reliance on short term leases may diminish a property’s appeal to cash flow buyers, potentially leading to higher mortgage interest rates. Sustained success in commercial real estate hinges on securing long term, high-quality tenants. As we navigate the intricate realm of short term commercial leases, it is prudent for landlords to strike a delicate balance, avoiding an overabundance of short term agreements. The key lies in a strategic mix, where the advantages of short term leases complement the stability offered by their long-term counterparts, ensuring optimal portfolio management within the ever-evolving landscape of commercial real estate.

Posted in Blog About CRE Market.