How to choose a business premises

Whether you’re looking to buy an office, a shop or a warehouse, choosing the right commercial property is critical to the success of your business.

We’ll run through some top tips for finding the right business premises and completing the purchase process as smoothly as possible.

Choosing a business premises

It’s important to choose the right premises for your business, as it’s likely to be one of your biggest outlays when you’re setting up or expanding, and it could play a major role in your ultimate success.

When you’re choosing a business premises, take into account these key factors:

Location

If you’re buying a shop, obviously a good location is critical, as high footfall should mean a steady flow of customers. If you’re not located in a busy area, you’ll need to have excellent marketing strategies in place to encourage customers to travel to your location.

However, premises in popular shopping areas tend to come with a hefty price tag, so you’ll need to find the right balance between price and location.

If you’re buying a warehouse, an office, or another type of site, it’s still important to choose the right location for your business. You may need to think about where it’s located in relation to where your workers live and how accessible the location is for deliveries, for example.

Size

Next up, how big does your business premises need to be? This may be a tricky one, as while you don’t want to be paying for lots of space you don’t need, it’s wise to take into account future expansion of your business so that you don’t grow out of your premises too quickly.

Bear in mind that there are health and safety regulations in place to ensure that workers have enough space at work. There should be a minimum of 11 cubic metres per person in an office or other workroom, with room height counted as a maximum of three metres.

You may need more than this if a lot of the space will be occupied by furniture or other objects. There’s more information on the guidelines on the HSE website.

You’ll also need to consider how much room you need for things like furniture, equipment and stock, making sure that you’re leaving enough space for people to move around and use equipment safely.

Facilities

In most cases, your business premises will need to be connected to basic services like power, plumbing, heating, phone and internet. But depending on the type of business you run, you may also need additional services, like special arrangements for power and ventilation if you’re running particular equipment, or the capacity to deal with toxic waste.

You’ll need to find business premises that either have these facilities already, or premises where you’re able to set them up.

Permissions

Bear in mind that special permissions and licences may be required for certain business activities, and that you should investigate whether this is possible at the site before you plump for a business premises.

And if the building is currently used for a different purpose (for example, it’s currently a residential premises), you’re likely to need planning permission to change the use. You’ll also usually need planning permission if you’re planning to make any alterations or extensions.

Security and access

It’s important to make sure that your business premises can be properly secured, but the specific security measures you need are likely to depend on whether you’ll have particularly valuable stock or equipment at the premises.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may decide you need 24/7 security guards and CCTV cameras, or just good door locks and safe boxes. Make sure that the business premises you’re considering either already have the security measures in place that you need, or that there’s the possibility of adding them.

In terms of access, think about whether you’ll only need access to the premises during working weekday hours, or whether you need to be able to enter at other times of day or night. If you’re considering an office in a shared office block, there may be access restrictions that you’ll need to take into account.

Renting versus purchasing commercial property

The pros of buying business premises

Most businesses rent business premises rather than buying them outright, but there are several advantages to buying commercial property. As mortgage rates are currently low, your repayments may be lower than the amount you’d pay in rent.

Another advantage is that you retain control of the premises, whereas if you rent, you’re subject to the decisions of your landlord, who may decide to raise the rent or sell the building. If your business requires elaborate equipment or expensive installations, this may be particularly problematic.

The downsides of buying a business property

However, there are also some disadvantages to buying business premises. It’s likely to tie up a lot of your business capital, which may be better spent on other things.

And if your business grows or shrinks, the premises you’ve bought may no longer be suitable. Plus, just like residential property, the value of commercial property may decrease rather than increase, so there’s the chance that you lose money in the long term.

Before you make a decision on purchasing commercial property, speak to your accountant to understand the financial and tax implications on your business.

How to buy commercial property

If you’ve decided that purchasing premises is the right decision for your business and you’ve firmed up your list of requirements, it’s time to take action.

You can search for available commercial properties through online portals like rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation. You can also speak to estate agents who deal with commercial property sales, and check newspaper listings.

As well as making sure the premises meet your requirements, also check the business rates, the energy costs and the use class (which determines what a particular property may be used for) of any properties you look at.

Once you’ve found the right business premises, you’ll probably need to apply for a commercial mortgage, unless you have enough money to buy it outright. You’ll also need to instruct a commercial conveyancing solicitor to deal with the legal aspects of the purchase.

It’s also a good idea to commission a building survey to identify any structural problems. You’ll need business buildings insurance too, which can be purchased as part of a comprehensive business insurance policy.

Once all the searches have been completed, the contract has been finalised and the finance is in place, you’ll be in a position to complete the purchase of your business premises.

What are your key requirements when looking for a business premises? Tell us in the comments below!

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