Why Is Finding Small Office Space So Hard?

Cogeian Systems is mostly a virtual team, with the project management office in central California directing the efforts of developers/designers in southern California, Brazil, New Zealand, and on the East Coast.  However, things are quickly coming to the point where I need to get a few folks into an office here in central CA.  So, I’ve been looking around town for office space recently.  The search has not gone well.

In general, it seems that renting office space is a game that has been polarized to cater to two types of folks: solo operators who can get by with a 12′ x 12′ executive suite, or mid-size+ firms who can actually make use of 2500 square foot office suites.

My little company is on the low side of the middle in terms of space requirements; I only need space enough for 3 people, with maybe some flex space for folks who drop in to perform recurring duties from time to time (my wife, the bookkeeper, the PC tech, etc.).  So, we need maybe 500 square feet.  After speaking to some other local tech guys, it seems I am not alone.

This morning, I noticed that Andrey Butov of Antair Software is having a similar problem in his locale as well.  From Andrey’s blog:

The few hours a week that I can spend perusing the locals for office space are not proving to be very fruitful. Everything available is either a 100 sq ft shack, or a 10,000 sq foot store front. Honestly, why is it so difficult to find a nice, clean, networked building with a space for, say 3-5 developers working comfortably?

I couldn’t sum it up any better.  I’ve found spaces that could house 3 people with some flex space left over, but most of those spaces were shabby.  I’m not looking for the Taj Majal here, I just want a “clean, networked building” that’s neither 40 years old and crumbling nor brand-new and still in its “inflated honeymoon pricing” period, charging double what anyone else is charging.  The quality of most spaces I have seen doesn’t seem to justify the rent.

I can’t help but wonder if other small tech firms have similar problems finding smallish office space?  Is it a location problem?  Mt HQ is in a small town in central CA, a primarily agricultural area that is, frankly, not the best place in the world to locate a tech business.  Andrey is in New York City though; I’m surprised that’s he finding it hard to find good space.  I guess that just proves I don’t know anything about New York’s commercial realty market.  Out here, I’ve looked north and south to larger cities – Fresno and Bakersfield, specifically – and have found a fair amount of suitable space. So, perhaps it IS simply a matter of location.  Or is it simple a matter of having a business that is a tweener size-wise?

I have considered starting up a co-working space in Visalia, using Cogeian Systems as the anchor and inviting other independent small firms & consultants to join the space.  It would be a super cool environment to work in, but I’m not sure I want to be in the landlord business.

I’d love to hear form other small-firm operators who are having the same problem – do you find it difficult to find suitable space for a 3 – 5 person firm?