How to Find the Best Commercial Property for Your Franchise

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When you’re starting a franchise, there’s a lot to consider. Figuring out how to choose the best commercial property for your business is at the top of that list. But where do you start? How do you find a property that meets all your requirements?This comprehensive guide should help you get started.

When you’re running your own business, there’s a decision to make every day. And the premises that your franchise will operate from is a big decision, regardless of the industry you’re working in. 

With 45 million square feet of commercial property built every year [Property Industry Alliance], it can be hard to choose the right home for your franchise. These commercial real estate tips for franchisors and franchisees will lead you in the right direction.

Starting the search for a suitable commercial property

Step one of the process is all about learning how to conduct a commercial property search. There are several ways to locate properties that might be suitable for your franchise’s needs:

1. Browse the online options

You’ll find a lot of property options online, and this is a great place to start the search. Work proactively with other members of the decision-making team to narrow down exactly the type of space you’re searching for. At this early stage, it’s important to ensure that the franchisor and the franchisee are on the same page, and looking for the same kind of property.

2. Ask your community

Use your networking connections to scout potential deals and get reviews on potential locations. Listen to trusted opinions, and you might discover information that would never be available online.

3. Get a commercial estate agent involved

If anyone is well versed in commercial real estate best practises, it’s a property agent. When you know what you’re looking for and you’ve gathered all the intel that you can, reach out to a commercial estate agent to discover the available options that meet your newly-honed criteria.

What to look for in a commercial property 

Now that you know how to find a commercial property for your franchise, you need to know how to find the BEST commercial property for your franchise. This sort of property will best suit your business needs, and allow you to enjoy the highest return on your initial investment.

There are several key factors to consider when you’re figuring out what to look for in a commercial property...

1. What is the ideal location for your franchise?

Working out how to pinpoint the right location for your franchise is key. You can do this by knowing your customer profile like the back of your hand, and keeping up with trends and important occurrences within your industry. Check out Point Franchise’s latest news to stay up-to-date.

The crux of the location question comes down to the advantages and disadvantages of a central location versus a more out-of-town spot.

The advantages to being centrally located are:

  • Solid transport links providing employees and customers with easy access to the franchise

  • Close proximity to other important facilities, increasing the likelihood of foot traffic and customer conversion (especially true for retailers, employment agencies and professional firms)

  • A base in a thriving area with a good reputation will boost the reputation of your franchise by association

The disadvantages to being centrally located are:

  • Increased expense - a good location in a central position can be very costly

  • Vehicle accessibility is likely to be more of a struggle (lack of parking, less space for delivery access)

  • The available portfolio of commercial property in a thriving area is likely to include less-than-ideal older spaces which will require a lot of extra expense in renovation

The advantages to being out-of-town are:

  • Plenty of space for parking and deliveries

  • Available commercial properties tend to be better-equipped, more modern and purpose built

  • An easier employee commute (ideal for less storefront-style franchises, like sales operations, call centres and manufacturing businesses)

The disadvantages to being out-of-town are:

  • Industrial estate maintenance and management charges can be quite high

  • Employees and customers without cars might struggle to access the commercial property you operate out of

  • Fewer shops nearby, limiting foot traffic and brand visibility

2. What do your customers want?

Understanding the profile of your ideal customer will help you to make decisions that benefit the future success of your franchise. If you haven’t already, you can identify this customer via data collection, and via asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who will they be? (Students? Stay-at-home parents? Full-time workers?)

  • Where will you find them? (If you’re looking to target a commuter, for example, you’d be best placed along a well-known commuter route.)

  • What will they want?

  • How will you give them what they want?

3. What about the competition?

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the competition is always key when you’re running a franchise. Know your competitors - their strengths, their weaknesses, and more. When you do, you’ll benefit from a lot of insight that you can apply to your own business.

If a business just like yours struggled to perform in a location that you were considering, why was that? What can you learn from what went wrong?

4. What’s your budget?

A good address usually comes with a substantial price tag, and you’ll need to balance cost and location carefully in order to secure the best commercial property for your franchise. Be aware of the market, and of what constitutes an average price in the area you’re looking to open a business in. Don’t let yourself be taken in by over-priced properties.

New towns and new developments tend to be less costly, but that doesn’t mean they’re always the best options. Prices also tend to be lower in areas with a lot of vacant properties, but again, this might be less than ideal, and a sign that many businesses can’t thrive in the area. Do your research, plan your budget, and don’t rush into an unsuitable purchase. 

Leasing commercial property versus buying commercial property

Once you’ve secured the best possible commercial property for your franchise, you’ll need to answer the next question: Will you lease the property, or buy it?

Many established businesses and franchises choose to lease property. In fact, in 2017, over half of commercial property was rented, compared to only a third of homes, and commercial property rents had increased at a slower rate than any other business cost [Property Industry Alliance].

Here are four reasons to lease:

1. Flexibility. When you’re leasing, picking up and moving your franchise across town is much easier.

2. External responsibility for repairs. When you’re renting, repairs are the responsibility of the landlord, and if something huge goes wrong with the property, it’s not down to you or your franchisor to get it sorted.

3. Flexibility still available. Although the space is owned by someone else, most commercial landlords will be open to changes and customisations. You can still be flexible with the decoration and organisation of the property.

4. Fewer legal considerations. When you purchase a property, you’ll have to sort out a whole host of different permissions, licenses, regulations and insurances.

Here are four reasons to buy:

1. Fewer rules to follow. When you’re leasing, you’ll need to comply with the terms of your lease agreement, which might be restrictive in a number of ways. When you leave the space, if you’ve made any changes, you might be responsible for putting things back how you found them.

2. More options available to you. You can make any changes you like, subject to planning and building regulations. And, if you no longer require use of the property, you can lease it out.

3. The experience of leasing differs from landlord to landlord. A bad landlord might leave you waiting for repairs, or charge you unfairly for things.

4. Stability. Nobody can ask you to vacate a property you own. Nobody can suddenly raise the rent on a property you own. When you’re running a franchise and looking to plan ahead, the stability of ownership is a huge bonus.

Finding a home for your franchise 

It’s worth bearing in mind that many franchisors will help you find the ideal location as part of their franchise package. Their experience, both in the sector and with commercial properties, will help you find a spot that’s right for your business, balancing cost, footfall and accessibility. It’s just one of the many benefits to becoming a franchisee. 

To dive further into the world of franchising, explore our UK Franchise Directory today, or check out our latest articles.

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