Whether you’re looking for an office to rent for the first time or want to relocate your business, you’re about to undertake a huge financial commitment.

As with any important legal contract, there’s a fair bit of homework for you to do before you sign on the dotted line. From understanding the ins and outs of your lease, to ensuring you find an office that fulfils your business’s needs, it helps to be armed with a list of questions when viewing properties. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of the essential things you should be enquiring about on your search, all in the name of finding that pitch perfect space. 

1. Is there a lot of crime in the area?

This may seem a little forward, and you may not get a straightforward response from your property agent, but enquiring how safe the location of the office is is still wise.

It’s not always easy to see whether a place is a little rough around the edges at first, but it’ll become all too apparent when you’re three month’s into your lease and are struggling to attract talent because of safety issues. Enquiring at this stage will give you a feel, at least, for the situation, and you can follow up with your own research.

2. Exactly what is included in the lease?

There are many different types of commercial property lease with variations on who’s responsible for what, and what’s included in the cost. For example, some rental agreements mean that utilities are included, while others state that the tenant is responsible for these. Make sure you’re absolutely clear on factors like this before making any decisions, as they could have a serious impact on your annual outgoings. 

3. Who’s responsible for repairs?

Repairs and maintenance are one of the most commonly litigated aspects of commercial rental agreements, so it’s crucial to understand exactly who’s responsible for them from the off. It’s likely that you, as the tenant, will be responsible, but you may be able to negotiate to what scale. 

4. What happens if you want to get out of your lease?

It’s crucial to know of any penalties you may incur by ending your lease early – or if this is even possible at all – before signing anything. Even if you’re 99% sure you won’t want to, you need to know what the potential cost would be should anything happen to your business that means you need to leave your office. 

5. How much will the rent increase by each year?

Many lease agreements have built-in rent increases included, so make sure you have a full view of what these are and have assessed whether your business can afford them.

6. Who owns the building?

It’s wise to learn as soon as possible who owns the building so you can start doing some digging to find out what kind of landlord you may end up with. It can even be a good idea to ask for the contact details of previous tenants so you can get a feel for how quickly they resolved issues and whether they were generally fair. 

7. Is there plenty of parking?

This one is surprisingly easy to overlook, especially if you find yourself viewing a place that’s pretty much perfect in every way. But ensuring the office space has enough parking is absolutely crucial for your business (if you live in a location where most people drive) – as you can soon find yourself dealing with disgruntled employees and even losing valued members of staff over this small but crucial practical issue.

Even if there is on-street parking, consider how accessible this is and whether employees will feel safe parking their car a distance from the office, especially on dark winter nights. Finally, think about where clients will be able to park and what their experience of visiting you at your office will be like.

8. Do you really need your own space?

This final question is one to ask yourself and business partners, rather than your property agent. And while it may seem a little strange to be asking yourself this at this stage, it could potentially save your business from getting tied into a lengthy, expensive and unnecessary lease.

Renting your own office might seem like a rite of passage if you’re a startup, but it’s not something to be rushed into. Going for something with less commitment like a shared serviced office or even coworking space, for example, could give you all the facilities you need to grow your business will far less financial strain. Try to answer this question as honestly as you can by considering, realistically, what your business can afford, as well as what its future projections look like.

Renting an office space can feel daunting, but when all’s said and done it’s an incredibly exciting process for any business. With the right amount of research and a little nous, you’ll be able to walk into this momentous milestone with your eyes wide open – and that, in business, is what counts. 

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