This is a question that I get all the time. “We have a GSA Market Survey coming up soon, what are they looking for and how do we prepare?”
First of all, depending on the size of the space and the agency, a GSA market survey visit will consist of somewhere between 3 to 20 people. Seriously, I once did a market survey for an agency, that will remain nameless, that showed up with around 20 people! (Just know that they are an Agency that Manages Federal Emergencies… but I won’t say who they are, ha)
Once the caravan of either non-descript black SUVs or Ford Focuses with GSA plates show up to your building, the GSA Leasing Specialist should immediately begin assessing your building. The primary point of a GSA market survey is to give GSA and their client an opportunity to look at several aspects of the building, but this entire market survey will boil down to one single question. Is the building CAPABLE of meeting the Government’s requirements?
Next, they will likely begin looking at the building’s accessibility. This will be done in terms of ABAAS compliance (ramps, curb cuts, automatic door openers, etc.). During this GSA market survey be prepared to describe how someone with mobility challenges will be able to access the building.
Also, a growing area of interest now includes proximity to amenities. The latest version of the RLP has a matrix of required amenities at a required proximity. I always share this information with my clients so that they are prepared to speak to this issue during the GSA market survey. While preparedness is important from a professional perspective, it also goes a long way toward helping GSA make that critical decision that your building is indeed capable of meeting the requirements for this procurement.
The final exterior check should be for adjacent uses. While I would not recommend to a client that you initiate this discussion, you should at least be prepared to discuss what the surrounding uses are and perhaps even what vacant land is zoned for.
As the group moves to the interior of the building, this is where I have always seen the biggest disconnect between what building representatives believe they should highlight and what GSA is actually looking for in these market surveys. Building representatives always want to highlight the number of offices, the beautiful new conference room, the break area, the nice interior doors that the last tenant paid thousands of dollars for. While this is how you would present space to a private sector tenant, the GSA Leasing Specialist is politely thinking to them self, “that’s nice, but we are going to demo this entire space and build it out to our client’s needs”. And in the vast majority of cases, that is exactly what is going to happen. If you are attached to the designer finishes that your last tenant built out, you need to accept the fact that GSA really doesn’t care.
So, if GSA doesn’t care about the TI’s that are already in place, what are they looking for and what do you need to be prepared to highlight?
GSA will be looking at ceiling height. Can your building achieve the minimum drop ceiling height required by the lease? You need to be prepared to pop ceiling tiles if the current drop ceiling is less than 9’. Have a ladder handy.
Depending on the floor of proposed occupancy, where are the emergency egress stairs? Are there enough? Do they meet the lease requirements? Does the building have fire sprinklers / fire alarm?
In the suite itself, what is the column spacing? What is the shape of the offered space? Given these parameters, can the Government achieve an efficient space design?
And the list goes on and on. Bottom line, GSA is more concerned about the “bones” of the building. GSA will make its decision whether or not to solicit your building based on what the building and the offered space can become, and not what it currently is.
When you understand what GSA is looking for, then you will be better positioned to address their concerns in the GSA market survey and increase your chances of moving on to the next stage of the procurement.
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. With proper preparation and guidance, we can help to ensure you are making a good one.
Still needing assistance navigating the GSA market survey process?
Chad worked in federal real estate at the GSA and the U.S. Navy for over 15 years. As Principal of Arco Real Estate Solutions, he now assists building owners and brokers obtain and maintain leases with GSA and other Federal Agencies. When he is not using his expertise in this niche industry to assist his clients, he serves as an instructor for the very classes GSA requires for its leasing employees.