A guide to avoid property headaches when choosing that first office space

Choice of Space
What kind of property solution is right for you? The options range from ‘fully serviced business centres’ to ‘buying your own space’. 
  • If you need a quick and easy way of taking space, an inclusive monthly fee which covers the space and running costs so you can be certain of your outgoings then a Business Centre/Innovation Centre Business Centres could be the best solution. Most Business Centres will allow you to leave at one month’s notice and are furnished so you can move in and start work immediately.

  • If you can’t make a long-term commitment and want the choice to stay or go when you like or at the least with three months notice, then a Flexible Lease is the best option. Be aware the flexibility will come at a price.  However, it might be worth paying to avoid the risk of being trapped in a long-term commitment. 

  • A Traditional lease is ideal if you can confidently plan with a 5-10 year time horizon and want to keep your direct property costs down.  If you need to invest heavily in fitting out the premises and couldn’t afford to write this off in a short time then a traditional lease will offer security.  Generally, a traditional lease will commit you to your space for at least 5-10 years.

  • Many businesses operate successfully from home – it can offer convenience, low costs and freedom – but are you sure you can balance your home and work life successfully? Touch down or business lounges are popular with start-ups and home workers, offering a place to work in a more informal setting with other like-minded entrepreneurs.
The Search:
  • It might seem obvious but drive or walk around the areas you’re interested in to look out for ‘To-let’ or ‘For sale’ signs. 
  • Use your contacts and ask others to recommend landlords or buildings they think could fit the bill. 
  • If you are an established business you may engage with a local commercial agent. 
  • A huge source of information is readily available on the internet. Look at websites like anyspacedirect.co.uk. 
The Viewing
Here is a practical list of things to look out for when viewing space
  • First impressions count – ask yourself is this somewhere you would really like to work?
  • Will the space work for you? 
  • Is the image right for today and for your business moving forward?
  • Do reception and security personnel ‘meet and greet’ visitors well or do they seem disinterested and ineffective?
  • Are the doors and windows properly secured from break-ins? Is there a shared alarm system or will you be able to install your own?
  • Will the space work for you? Ask for a floor plan or be prepared to sketch your own grid plan. Typically for office requirements allow 8-10 square metres per person.
  • What are the fixtures and fittings? 
  • If it’s an empty shell are there any rules about what you can do with the space?
Understanding & details of the lease
The true cost of occupying space is a lot more than the rent. Here are some of the
items you’ll need to take into account to get a good picture of the true cost involved in setting up your new premises: 
  • Moving in/Set-up costs (fixtures, fittings, decorations, furniture)
  • Fees (legal, stamp duty, surveyors fees)
  • Property costs (rent, business rates, service charge, building insurance, surveyors fees)
  • IT/Telecoms installation (telephone, internet, cabling)
  • Running costs (gas, water, electricity, telephone line rental, cleaning) 
  • Moving out costs (dilapidations, legal costs)
Whether the cost is fixed or variable will depend on the type of property you take. 
Look at the small print and make sure you know what you’re entering into! 
Agreeing the deal
You’ve found the right space for your business and now it’s time to talk terms. The following should help:
  • Do your homework. Make sure you know not just what prices are being quoted in your area of search, as well as the actual terms upon which deals are being done. 
  • Find out how long the space has been on the market and how much space is available in the neighbourhood. 
  • State your terms confidently.
  • Ask the Landlord to confirm their offer in writing.
  • Request a copy of the draft contract if not already provided.
  • Move quickly if you feel confident – but if you feel pressurised or if you’re not happy and something doesn’t feel right, be prepared to walk away!
For more tips on how to make your business move as easy as possible Workspace has created a Beginners Guide available at: www.workspacegroup.co.uk