Drawing up a list of what you need from your business premises is a good way to start your property search. This list is known as a property specification or ‘spec’.
Your property specification list might include details on how the following requirements should be met when looking for a suitable business premises:
- Property size and layout - do you want an open plan style office space or individual rooms for more privacy? Do you need additional space for equipment, storage, meetings or socialising?
- Property appearance, both internally and externally. For example do you need a visually attractive property both from the outside as well as the inside especially if clients and/or customers are going to be visiting your business property?
- Property structure - do you require any special structural property requirements such as high ceilings, upper-floor loading or reinforced foundations.
- Premises facilities and comfort for employees and visitors - including lighting, toilets, reception areas and kitchen facilities.
- Property utilities, such as power and drainage, and any special requirements - for example, three-phase electricity. Take note of the power and heating/cooling requirements that you may need eg power points for computers and heating and air conditioning for staff and customer comfort. An older building may need rewired, a new heating or air conditioning system installed or additional toilet and kitchen facilities built. It is also a good idea to identify the broadband capabilities that you will require.
- Planning permission - you should take into consideration that you may need to seek planning permission to use the property for your type of business.
- Access and parking - take into consideration access to the property, is it important for it to be near main roads and/or public transport? Is the property accessible for deliveries or customers, including disabled customers. Also do you have a requirement for car parking?
- Option to extend or make alterations - consider how flexible the property is so that you are able to make alterations or expand the property if required.
- Long-term business plans - look at your business plan and weigh up how the business property you choose fits into these plans and business direction.
You also need to think about where you want your property to be located - see choose the right location for your business premises. After drawing up your list of property requirements, you may decide that working from home could suit you. However, there are important legal and practical issues you need to take into account - see use your home as a workplace.
Your choice of commercial property will also depend on your budget. Whether you rent or buy business premises, costs can include:
- initial purchase costs, including legal costs such as solicitor's fees and professional fees for surveyors
- initial alterations, fitting out and decoration
- any alterations required to meet building, health and safety and fire regulations
- ongoing rent, service and utility charges, including water, electricity and gas
- business rates
- continuing maintenance and repairs
- building and contents insurance
Energy performance of the property
Sellers and landlords are obliged to provide prospective buyers or tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). An EPC indicates how energy efficient a building and its services are and can act as a good indicator of likely energy costs. For more information, see Energy Performance Certificates for business properties.
If your property requirements are too specific, you may find that your choice of premises is very limited or you cannot afford them. Think about which requirements are essential and which are desirable, and prioritise them accordingly to make your property decision.
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