The first step is to decide what business premises you are looking for. Draw up a property specification with details such as:
- Whether you are looking for freehold commercial property, leasehold property or a flexible, short-term business premises rental
- What type of premises you want (for example, office, shop or retail)
- How much space you need and any particular requirements (for example, high ceilings or parking spaces)
- Where you want the premises to be.
Business premises will be a considerable expense, whether you rent or buy. Buying can be cheaper than renting on a month to month expense basis, but a commercial mortgage can be difficult to obtain, and you’ll probably need at least 15% of the premises’ value as a deposit. Commercial leases can often run for 15 years; so that’s quite a commitment, particularly if you choose unsuitable premises.
There’s a well-known estate agent’s saying that the three most important things to consider about any kind of property are; location, location and location. And then many business people claim that the most important thing to consider about ‘location’, particularly for retail premises, is the amount of ‘passing trade’, ‘traffic’ or ‘footfall’; literally the number of people that naturally travel past the premises entrance.
But not everyone can afford business premises on the most popular High Streets in town, and in any case for some types of business this will prove to be a waste of money, impractical, or not allowed (local councils employ strict guidelines that can restrict the types of business that can operate in certain premises or certain areas).
So, as well as location you’ll need to think about your budget, and what trade-offs you are prepared to make: for example, whether you would be prepared to consider business premises further away from your ideal location if they are substantially cheaper.
However, if you look at somewhere more remote think about; is there any car parking space for your employees and customers, are the premises well served by public transport (how will your employees get to work?), and is there enough space to stock everything you need? Are the premises accessible to wheelchair users? Is there enough power, water and drainage?
Think about the space you’ll require, the layout you’ll require, and the space and layout you may need if your business grows.
Once you know what you are looking for, check commercial property websites and contact local commercial estate agents. It’s also worth contacting the local council and local business support organisations (such as enterprise agencies) as there may be grants to help you.
After that, a good solicitor will check leases for hidden costs, help protect you against any penalty clauses that appear in there, and can even use their local knowledge to negotiate a better deal for you.