Once you have identified the outline parameters of your workplace requirement you can begin to look at available properties.
When you have reached this stage we would strongly advise on two immediate courses of action:
- See what’s available: Publications on-line etc.
- Appoint a commercial property agent Directory to help with your search and ultimately negotiate your acquisition. Sourcing a new workplace is a business-critical process and you should not try to negotiate it yourself unless you have substantial experience in this area. Consult property experts first. Directory
Seeing what’s available
Although we’d suggest that you work with an agent Directory to fulfil your property search, you can also use internet property listings sites and also simply walk around the area, look out for the "To Let" boards on buildings and get a feel for what’s available.
There are many online sources - www.compropregister.com - and it’s worth taking a couple of hours to browse through listings to familiarise yourself with the market. However, we would strongly advise that you have appointed an agent before you start any discussions or negotiations on a specific property.
At the interview the agent should give you:
- Examples from their relevant track record of advising occupiers.
- Details of previous clients from whom you can get references/testimonials.
- An overview of the current property market detailing levels of availability, rental levels and any incentives currently available to occupiers.
- Outline thoughts on your requirements.
- Details of their fee structures.
Like any professional consultancy relationship, the decision you make as to who to appoint will be based on a combination of the consultant’s track record, proposed service level, fee structure and also the personal relationship with the individual or team who will be working on your instruction. Directory
Working with your agent
When you have appointed an agent Directory you need to give them any further information that is pertinent to your requirement. For example, you may wish to share more precise budgeting detail than was given at the interview stage and also discuss whether your business is likely to need expansion space in the medium term.
The lease contract that your business will sign on the new workplace is all-important and there should be detailed discussion with your agent at the outset as to exactly what will best support your business planning and development.
The search process will be shaped not only by what property is available but also, if you intend to rent, what lease terms are on offer. This may vary from landlord to landlord so it is important to establish your occupational requirements at the start.
Shortlisting and viewing properties
Once the agent has the precise details of your requirement they will then search available properties. One of the advantages of working with an agent is that their databases should be able to integrate other sources as well as drawing on their own market knowledge. The search will produce a shortlist of the space that is appropriate to your requirements. This shortlist should be supplied together with a matrix that shows how each property scores in terms of your core requirements. From the shortlist, you can then select the properties that you wish to view.
Appointing an agent
Appointing an experienced property agent Directory will help you source the best property at the best price. Your agent should have an intimate knowledge of property in your area and also a perspective on the best deals that occupiers can strike in the prevailing market conditions.
Accordingly, you should look to appoint an agent that has a proven track record of working in the City with occupiers. Some agents specialise in letting property and working for landlords: they are unlikely to be appropriate for your needs. Whilst experience and an occupier-focus are essential, you also need to find an agent whose service offer is appropriate to your requirements.
There is no exact science as to which size of agency to appoint. It may be that a smaller, niche agency who specialises in the particular City location that you want to be can better service your needs than one of the large multi-national consultancies who tend to specialise in advising major corporates on substantial space acquisitions.
Prior to meeting with a prospective agent, you should give them details of:
- The location in which you are interested in locating your business.
- The current number of personnel in your business (and, if possible, future growth projections).
- What you need in terms of cellular offices, open plan workstations, meeting rooms, storage etc.
- What amount of space in square feet you think you may need (use the Space Calculator on the website to get an idea of what your requirements equate to).
- The type of property you want to be in: period or modern, do you want your own front door or are you happy to be in a multi-let building.
- What length of lease you want to take and whether you want any structured "break clauses" that can enable you to exit the lease at a pre-determined time prior to expiry.
By providing these details in advance, the initial meeting will be more about your requirement rather than just a general conversation about the market and the agent’s services.
An initial viewing is about getting a feel for the location, configuration and condition of the space. Some properties may "look good on paper" but will be discounted immediately after a first visit. Accordingly, it’s not efficient to involve all the relevant people within your business on a first viewing.
If the viewed space meets your outline criteria there should be a subsequent operational inspection which analyses whether the space can accommodate your workplace configuration, IT, power, air conditioning (if required) and other needs.
As with most buying decisions there is likely to be a degree of compromise and it is rare that a perfect solution is found. Compromise can reduce costs. For example, if it’s "secondhand" space and you can utilise the previous occupant’s fit-out then this can substantially reduce the cost of carpets, decoration etc.
While you are evaluating whether a shortlisted property is fit-for-purpose, your agent should be ascertaining what the lease terms are, if there are incentives to rent the space, and to what extent these match your criteria.
Once you have a group of properties that meet both your operational and leasing criteria, you can instruct your agent to open negotiations with the relevant landlord(s) or their letting agent.
You may wish to progress discussions on more than one building to ascertain early on how much room there may be for negotiation with each landlord and therefore how much value can be extracted from leasing either of the respective properties.
Negotiations with a landlord will involve making offers and receiving counter offers. Accordingly, if you are going to rent a property, it is essential at the outset that you know exactly what you need from your lease. How to evaluate this is dealt with in the information sheet, Structuring your lease so that it suits your business plan.