Sunday, 1 May 2011

How to Find and Lease the Perfect Commercial Property - 10 Top Tips

Yes this is one of the most exciting titles for any Blog post. I toyed with punning my way into this subject, but it is just too important to make the subject line any more exciting. I shall endeavour to make the content a little more interesting than the title!

July 2010 - May 2011

Just Looking I am Not Buying

I have been looking for a commercial property to lease in South Wales of the UK for the past ten months, to become the perfect home for my Tea Room Business. The writing of my business plan was one of the first steps in creating my venue requirement brief. You probably have a pre-conception in your head for what a traditional tea room looks like. I am coming at this from a different angle, I can picture several types of buildings that may suit, but actually it is the content and subsequent functionality that helps me stay open minded to a venue. Jane Way advised me that it may easily take over a year to find a venue, when we met in July 2010 and here I am ten months on with no signed lease agreement. It may be very easy to find the venue you want, but the majority of small business' rely to a crucial extent on finding a venue that is actually quite unique. To me it feels like finding a needle in a haystack.

When I sat down to find my perfect property I started by creating a brief that would allow me to rule in, or rule out certain venues quickly. There are many things to consider when making your venue brief here are a few good questions to ask yourself particularly if you are looking for a retail property;

  • Who are your customers? 
  • Where are they coming from? get on Google Maps and narrow down prospective areas.
  • Do they need to drive? 
  • Is there parking? 
  • Will your customers pay to park?
  • Who are your neighbours? Go and knock the door.  
  • Are there tenants above your venue if so who are they? find out if there have been any planning objections or issues with neighbours in the past.
  • What is the competition like? look who is trading in the area, then look again.  My competitors are not just other tea rooms, but café's, restaurants, coffee shops, deli's, community centres, department stores...
  • What are the plans for future development surrounding your venue?  you may have a lovely park surrounding you, best to check if there are any plans to build a council estate on it!
  • What size venue do you need? many estate agents talk in terms of unit square footage, check whether the square footage on their brief is all usable floor space or if it includes non customer facing areas.
  • What type of planning consent does your property need? you may find you need A3 planning consent for your business.
  • How much are you willing to pay?  do you pay more money to be in a busy spot and therefore take more cash?  Every time you seriously consider a property I would recommend you run a full cash flow projection taking into account the lease and all associated costs against what sales you could make.
  • What are the Business Rates for your venue? find out how much the local council charge you to operate your business in their area and what you get for your money.
  • What are the utility rates for your venue? find out how much you can expect to pay to run your venue this may help you decide on really how much space you need.
  • What comes with your property? make sure you ask exactly what is included in the property when you view it, what fixtures and fittings.  You can make great savings by negotiating in existing fittings on commercial properties.
I split my brief into two, the things my venue must have and things I want it to have;

Must Haves
  • Located in a well populated area
  • Good footfall
  • Minimum 20 seats
  • A3 planning consent
  • Lease price in budget 
  • Kitchen
  • Toilets
  • Within South Wales - ideally Cardiff

Would Likes
  • Outdoor seating
  • Good views
  • Unit with character
  • Free parking
  • Easy access
No Phil and Kirsty for Folk Like Me

I am still utterly flabbergasted by the lack of support that there is in locating commercial property to lease in this day and age. Someone will make an awful lot of money when they get there act together and make it easy to find up to date commercial property listings on-line. Something similar to or At the moment there is no such listing, where are the Phil and Kirsty of commercial lets?

Here are my top ten tips to finding the perfect venue, just remember there is no magic trick you just have to keep going and try not to lose heart, especially after the knock backs that will no doubt come.

My Top 10 Tips to Find a Commercial Property to Lease

1. Tell me what you want, what you really really want - Think about what you want from a property and then think outside the box. Start with a good brief so you know the difference between what you want and what your need in a property.

2. Location location location - This is a brilliant cliché but it is so important so think about where your customers are and where you need to be. I hit Google Maps then printed out South Wales and surrounding areas; then to help my search I looked at locations of post offices to help me find small communities.

3. Agents, make a nuisance of yourself - Do you want to buy a warehouse? No? then you are NOT a priority. It is painful but the majority of agents will not be interested in helping you find a small commercial property to lease. It is very rare you will find an agent who will actively look for you. The best advice I can give is to introduce yourself to as many commercial agents as you can find in your area and make sure they have your brief, then email and ring them at least weekly if not more.

4. Look for empty lets - Drive around areas that you like and look for empty units.  This is one of the best ways to find a property so do it regularly!

5. Get a solicitor - Unless you happen to have a law degree take legal advice on finding your property.  They can help you understand important matters including, boundaries, security of tenure etc

6. Find an existing business and buy it - You may be inspired by a particular business that you love, which is perfect. Have you thought to ask them if they want to sell?

7. When you find somewhere you love pick it apart - You may fall instantly in love with a property, always shine a bright torch on all of the negatives.  What is happening near by? Who are your neighbours? Where are your customers coming from? Who do they have to walk past to get to you?

8. Planning - What planning consent do you need on a property?  Check what the law asks of you and ask the agent what the property has.  In some areas it may be very simple to get a change of usage, but it is not guaranteed and may lead to heart ache and cost down the line.

9. Network, you never know who you know until you know - Crazy as it may seem, the World is a small place and you may know the person who owns your perfect venue so tell everyone you can what you are looking for.
10. DON'T DESPAIR and DON'T GIVE UP! If you don't get the first place you want then it isn't meant to be.  Be prepared for let down, it may be hard to find your perfect venue and it may take time. I found the perfect venue in September 2010 after ten minutes searching on line from a selection of about 10 properties, and I mean perfect.

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