Make all the right moves

Sarah Taylor of Square Feet finds property for creatives, and appreciates how much a building says about your company’s identity, style and culture

Finding a property and planning a move can be a huge and time-consuming project for any company, but finding the right space is particularly important for design consultancies.

Here are some of the basic questions to be considered before you embark on a search:

Size

Say between 279-372m2 – allow for future expansion, but it is not a good idea to take on too much space.

Buy or rent?

If you are renting, the average lease in the current market is approximately five years. Sometimes a landlord will agree to a break clause.

If you are buying, the options are long leasehold or freehold.

When purchasing a property with a mortgage it is a good idea to research the options ahead of time, even though you will have to wait for a mortgage offer until you can buy the property.

If you are buying the property as a pension, there is a lot of ground work to do, which can take a long time and slow down the purchasing process.

Timing

Allow plenty of time – at least six months to a year to find a leasehold property, complete all legal work and fit it out. This may need to be synchronised with the end of your current lease or break clause.

If you are buying, it can take a year at least to search for the right space for legals, and to carry out the refurbishment. There are usually less freeholds/long leaseholds on the market than leasehold options.

It is worth considering how much work you would be prepared to do on a building. Also, the building may need planning permission for change of use and so on, which would add to the timetable.

It could be down to you to market your current space if you are not at the end of your lease or if you don’t have a break clause. Your lawyer can advise you on this. It would then be a question of appointing a firm of agents to market it for you. This all takes considerable time.

The main point is to contact all the professionals whose help you require well in advance.

The new space

Think about whether the new building is the right style and meets with the particular requirements of your company and staff.

Location

You may want to remain in the same area or you may have ideas about new ones.

Plot where your staff live and where your clients are, and consider other factors such as good access to airports, motorways, distance from train and Tube stations and so on.

Budget

If you are renting, there are rent, rates, a service charge and building insurance. Usually an average of six months rent deposit is required, although this can vary.

The actual fit-out of the space such as cabling, meeting rooms and so on is usually part of the tenant’s costs. Depending on the length of the lease and the condition of the space, a rent-free period can sometimes be negotiated.

Professional fees

These can include surveyors, agents, lawyers, accountants, architects and interior designers. Then there are the actual moving costs: removals, IT, fit-out, furniture and so on.

You may also have dilapidation costs to pay on your existing space, which could incur additional lawyers and surveyors costs.

An extra factor is if you are not moving into the new space immediately you may have a period of paying rent or mortgage on both properties.

Preparation

Stating the obvious, I know, but the more homework you do in advance the better.

Corporate information

Landlords will want to see information about your business – company profile, the last three years’ accounts or a business plan – and will request references from your bank, solicitor, accountant and landlord.

Even if you are buying the property the vendor will normally want to see evidence that you have the funds and the means to purchase the premises.

As I’ve already stated, planning a move can be very time-consuming, but it’s vital that it shouldn’t distract you from your core business.

Despite all the extra work involved, moving can be a positive, fulfilling experience and is an excellent opportunity to change the way you work, look at who you are and where your business is going.

The basics

• Plan well ahead

• However long the ‘wish list’ it will usually come down to three top priorities: location, cost and the space

• Allow plenty of time for the search so you don’t have to compromise on the building you choose

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