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Vintage Office Space Dreams Can Be a Renovation Nightmare

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Small businesses looking for office space may find themselves drawn to charming vintage loft spaces or older buildings with atmosphere -- there's nothing quite like vaulted ceilings and exposed brick to add creative flare.

Although hardwood flooring and winding metal staircases may be more likely to wow clients and make employees feel at home, serious renovations and costly improvements are often necessary to bring older buildings up to standard. To prevent your loft space dreams from turning into a nightmare, experts advise finding out exactly how much it's going to cost and what you'll need to do to bring your office space up to modern standards.

Most small business owners planning a renovation can expect to spend between $20 and $60 per square foot, says Mark Hemmeter, CEO of Office Evolution, a Colorado-based small-business office space provider. Since around 90% of small businesses lease space rather than buy, Hemmeter says, gut renovations are not always worth the money invested.

"That's a lot of capital out of pocket, especially if it's a space you're just leasing," Hemmeter says. "Keep in mind that any renovations you put into the place, when you leave the building, you leave them with the landlord."

Also, Hemmeter points out that most leases on commercial space are for between three and seven years, "a huge commitment in today's world."

"To get your money out of the renovation, you'll need to lease a space for at least five or seven years, and are you really sure that making that big of a commitment is right for your company?" asks Hemmeter, adding that most small businesses have to remain fluid to remain successful. If your company grows or shrinks dramatically or relocation is necessary before the lease is up, you're stuck.

"Really, every tenant in the world right now is trying to be less committed to their space, looking for ways to have people work remotely or work out of shared common rooms," he says. "The most important thing that any small-business owner can do is seriously evaluate a space before they sign on the dotted line. Where will you be in five, 10 years?"