1. One form of a shell lease, a plain white box is a commercial or residential building with a minimally finished interior, usually with ceilings, lighting, plumbing, heating and cooling (HVAC), interior walls (painted or unpainted), electrical outlets, elevators, rest rooms, and a concrete floor. A plain white box is considered ready to lease and ready for tenant improvements (TI's). In many cases, the landlord (the lessor) will offer financial incentives in the form of a tenant improvement allowance (TIA), which pays for or at least partially defrays the cost of any improvements necessary for the tenant (the lessee) to occupy the building itself. Tenant improvement allowances do not usually include furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE) or trade fixtures necessary for the tenant to conduct business. Usually plain white box improvements (also known as vanilla shell improvements (VSI)), or those improvements necessary to upgrade the building from a cold shell or base shell state, are not completed until the lease agreement between the tenant and landlord has been negotiated and executed. This ensures that the landlord does not pay for improvements that are unnecessary or that the tenant does not want.
2. The lease agreement or contract for a plain white box building. A proper plain white box lease should describe in detail the tenant improvements (TI's) that are to be completed, and any other information necessary for construction of the building to be completed (commonly known as build-out) prior to tenant occupancy.
Also known as a Plain white shell.
More or less the same as Lit shell, Lit box, Plain vanilla shell, Plain vanilla box, Vanilla shell, Vanilla box, Tropical shell, Warm lit shell, Warm lit box, Warm shell, Warm box, Warm vanilla shell, Warm vanilla box, Warm white box, Warm white shell, White box, White shell, or White box shell.
Discussion: Like many real estate terms and phrases, practical use and meanings of those terms associated with shell leases (e.g., vanilla shell, base shell, cold shell, warm shell, etc.) differ by location and situation, sometimes even within the same region or municipal area. As they say, the devil is in the details. The lease or sales contract should clearly and exactly specify the degree to which construction of any sort of "shell" or "box" building has been or will be completed prior to tenant occupancy. As either a tenant or landlord, you should not assume that the other party's definitions of shell lease terminology are the same as yours. Get it in writing, and make sure you understand and agree with all the terms and conditions of the shell lease agreement before you sign. If necessary, have a real estate attorney review the contract prior to its execution.
Shell leasing and its various forms (warm, cold, base, etc.) are used primarily in commercial real estate, but are gaining popularity in upscale condominiums and townhouses and other high-end residential real estate transactions. The idea is to attract either tenants or buyers, or both, by offering customizable living units. Financial incentives in the form of tenant (or buyer) improvement allowances afford new residents the opportunity to select nearly all aspects of interior decor, including relatively large projects such as plumbing and fixtures, wiring, and interior walls.
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