There are many arguments for not buying a studio; you’re tied to one place, it’s your responsibility and it’s ridiculously expensive.
For a long time we shared this view and even drew some satisfaction from knowing that when the heating packed in, it was someone else’s problem.
However, rents only go up, never down and we were tired of lining our landlord’s pockets, so we took the plunge and started looking for a place to buy. The process is long and frustrating, but we’d recommend getting on the property ladder to everyone. Why? Freedom – you own a studio and you can do what you like with it.
The hardest part is finding somewhere everyone’s going to feel happy working in for eight hours a day, but we had a good idea of what we wanted; a well-lit studio, smart enough to bring clients to, plenty of storage, close to our clients and near a Tube.
This meant that most of central London was out of our price range, but after nearly two years of searching we eventually found the perfect studio in Waterloo. Well, almost perfect, we bought two units next door to each other. Our criteria always meant that some degree of building work might eat into our budget, but it didn’t make the process of finance any less complicated.
There are many ways to actually buy a building, such as outright or linked to a pension. But whatever you decide, don’t forget the expense of moving itself as commercial lets often require vacating tenants to pay dilapidations (the cost of restoring a property to its original state). However, the good news is that once you’ve established your budget there are plenty of good deals for those willing to negotiate.
We had the money to turn our two units into one, but because poor management and running out of money are the main reasons projects fail, we appointed an architect to plan and manage the process. You might think they’d be busy designing grander buildings, but for the majority, being able to fit your square peg in the round hole you’ve bought is their bread and butter business.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see previous commissions – it’s vital that you trust and establish a good rapport. After all, you’re going to spend a lot of time together talking about costings, lighting specifications, things you can’t do because of building regulations and where the computer gear will go.
But when things go wrong – and it’s important to remember they always do – your architect will offer support. They’ve seen it all before and will know what to do next.
They can also help source builders, plumbers and electricians to put together your dream studio. Do not underestimate the value a skilled team of contractors can add to a build. No floor plan is ever 100 per cent accurate and neither is the schedule of works.
An experienced builder can spot and fix problems before they become expensive. They understand that your studio needs plug sockets, not bare, live wires hanging out of the walls. So look after them; buy them breakfast, get the coffees in. Many of them commute from all over the country to work in London for the week, so let them knock off early on Friday and you’ll find that all the unexpected, tiny jobs that crop up are done for free.
But, above all, be practical in your design and planning. Don’t insist that your studio is designed to a five mill tolerance, don’t have the electricians in a day before the plasterers turn up and don’t be afraid to muck in when a deadline approaches. A little forward planning and healthy scepticism to earnest promises can make the whole process a lot less stressful.
Eventually you’ll get the keys and a new story to tell clients. Owning your studio sends out a very clear message/ there’s permanence to your business. We decided to combine our move with a refresh of our identity and the whole process of new look, new studio has galvanised everyone in the company.
It’s a chance for us to have the studio we always wanted. And if we outgrow our space in the future, we can always rent it out or sell it and move on.
Tom Newman works for Still Waters Run Deep as a copywriter
BUYING YOUR STUDIO
• Always have a contingency fund
• Don’t be afraid to question any proposed costings
• Look after your contractors and they’ll look after you
• Bargain hard, but be practical
• Prepare to move to a less glamorous area
• Don’t spend your whole budget on buying a place
• Consider how your new building will match future growth