Phone conversations with the property owner, pictures, or even video can’t give you a true appreciation of the unit. You need to stand in the potential space to understand its size, smell, and feeling.
During your office search, there’s a good chance you’ll make the same mistake many small businesses make: You’ll overestimate your needs. (You might make some other mistakes too.)
Many people think an employee needs far more work space than they actually do. Once you stand inside a unit, however, you’ll probably say “Wow, this is more space than we need.” That’s not something you can learn from a photograph.
(Tenant Advisors has a handy calculator to help you discover how much space you need.)
But one viewing isn’t enough. You have to view multiple properties before you can confidently rent one. This is especially important for businesses who have never rented space in the past. There’s no way to know what’s available or what you want without touring around a bit.
A viewing can be an exciting moment for you. You’ll feel like your business is growing right before your eyes. Don’t become overwhelmed with excitement and forget to thoroughly investigate the potential space. Enjoy the hype in the car ride, but when you step into the unit, it’s time to focus.
As you view office environments, make sure to carefully consider these factors.
1. Common Areas
It’s important to consider hallways, walkways, patios, courtyards, rooftops, lobbies, and other common areas of a potential office. You can use them as a meter to determine how well the property owner cares for the individual units.
Are the common areas clean and free of clutter or debris? Are there any ongoing projects that look like they’ve been in-progress for a while? Are there any easy-to-fix blemishes (like scuffs or dents in the walls, worn carpeting, or broken fixtures) that haven’t been repaired?
The office environment may have shared spaces that are included in your rent as well. For instance, you might have rights to use the conference room on your floor, but so does everyone else. There’s likely a shared bathroom. In some cases, you might share a receptionist with several units. (He/she will answer your phones in your name and transfer calls accordingly.)
Make sure these spaces are appropriate for your business. For example, an accessible conference room may sound useful, but if your three-person team can easily meet within your unit, is it worth paying extra for the space?
What about the other units on the floor? If the conference room is shared between twenty businesses, how often will you get to use it? If there’s a reserve schedule for shared spaces, examine it briefly to see how often it’s used.
The beauty of a turnkey space is that you can start working on the first day of your lease. The leases are simple, written in plain language, and the units often come with their own amenities.
Most businesses need a reliable Internet connection (and you’re probably one of them). Don’t be satisfied with the property owner’s opinion here. If a connection is important to you, ask the other tenants about it. If you really rely on your connection, ask a tenant if you can plug in for a few minutes and test your most taxing task.
Second, test your cellular service in the building. Even if you can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, you’ll still want the ability to make phone calls.
If having mail delivered is important to you, you’ll want to make sure the postal service delivers to the building. Or will you have to rent a PO Box across town?
I don’t recommend stressing over the square footage of a potential unit. The exact footage is important if you have a lot of employees or bulky equipment, but if your business is just a few people and their computers you can get all the information you need by standing in the space.
Keep in mind that your business may grow. You don’t want to move in a year or have to break your lease because your team expanded suddenly. Think ahead: Will you be hiring more people soon? If so, does the unit make room for them?
Consider the acoustics. Is there a lot of ambient noise that would disrupt your work? Does sound echo within the unit? Can you hear traffic, other businesses, or machinery?
Finally, make sure you’re happy with the layout. Smaller turnkey spaces can have interesting layouts because a property owner is attempting to use every nook and cranny in his building (but most are laid out reasonably). Do you need an open plan or office separation? HubSpot has a great guide on determining the right layout for your team.
Don’t be afraid to consider the style of the unit. With a turnkey space, you don’t have a lot of leeway to customize the unit (plus wall art and new carpeting are unnecessary expenses for growing businesses). Do you enjoy sitting in it? Does it make you feel productive? Will you be comfortable bringing clients or customers in? Would you be proud to show pictures of your office on social media?
It’s important to investigate the area before or after your viewing. Take a walk or drive around the neighborhood to get a feel for where you might be working.
What’s nearby? Are there places to eat lunch, or maybe a nice restaurant to take clients/customers? Everyone has basic needs, so check for a supermarket or convenience store if you need a stack of napkins or tin of coffee. Your employees would love it if their new office came with a nearby bank, pharmacy, post office, or dry cleaners.
Is the neighborhood trendy, casual, family, or business-orientated? Will the scene hurt or help your business in anyway? For instance, a disruptive startup would benefit from a trendy entrepreneur scene, but not from an old town center.
Is there any construction in the area? Look for crews breaking ground on big projects. You might prefer a quiet setting, but it won’t be if a mall or shopping center is built nearby. (If you’re especially concerned about this, big projects are pretty easy to look up online.)
Finally, check the commute situation. Is there enough space for your entire team (and future team)? If you rely on public transportation, is it adjacent to any hubs? If you plan to have clients or customers stop by, make sure directions to the location are easy to explain.
(Ideally you should have considered the length of the commute for you and your employees before you arranged the viewing. If you didn’t, track the time it takes to arrive at the property from your home. Don’t forget to take into account traffic conditions.)
Making a Decision
Try to make a calculating, objective decision, but don’t rent any space that doesn’t feel right. Tenants rarely learn to love their office space. If you aren’t happy with what you see at the viewing, you won’t be happy in a few months or a year.
That said, if you do like the unit you’ve viewed, don’t sit on the decision too long. Turnkey spaces are rarely held for tenants. The property owner will still show it to other people, even if you verbally express interest. Sign the paperwork and get back to growing your business.
If you’re ready to find your next office, start your search here.