Howie’s note: construction always takes longer than you think. Two good ideas are to contractually have a deadline in your lease agreement on when the office will be ready for occupancy, with financial penalties if it isn’t ready. The second idea is to visit the site and phone the contractor frequently for updates. By being a pest you’ll get things done.
As for the lease commencement, since the real estate market wasn’t tight when I signed my lease they didn’t start the lease until I actually moved in (and even gave me a two week rent free move in grace period). This is in contrast to Ho Sun who had to pay rent during tenant improvements.
The market has tightened since then, and I believe if I signed a lease today they’d commence it so I’d have to pay rent even during tenant improvements. But everything is negotiable!
Since my tenant improvements were minimal they wanted me to move in before I was ready- I wanted to take more time off. You can see that finding a space with the least amount of tenant improvements saves both time and money, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of picking a less than desirable location or wrong size office or overpaying rent.