SMALL BUSINESS CHECKLIST: SCOUTING OUT A LOCATION

google-maps-iconHere’s your guide to finding the perfect spot for your small business.

As the saying goes, three things matter in property: location, location, location. Here are the top things to consider when your small business is on the real estate hunt.

Costs

Does the space work within your budget?

Consider:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Shared expenses, like lawn/garden care, snow removal, driveway/sign maintenance or exterior lighting
  • Utilities
  • Moving costs
  • Property taxes
  • Insurance requirements

Accessibility

  • Is it easy to find and give directions to?
  • How close is it to major roads, suppliers, public transportation, restaurants or other key vendors?
  • What’s the traffic flow? (Check City-Data.com or your state or city’s department of transportation.)
  • What parking is available, and do any other businesses share the same parking areas?
  • How many entrances are there to the parking lot? Is the location on a divided road that offers limited options for turning left or turning around if a customer misses the entrance?
  • How easy is it for potential customers driving by to see your sign or building?
  • Is there a loading dock or other access for delivery trucks?

Physical Workspace

  • Is it somewhere you and your staff would like to spend the day? Consider lighting, amount of space, amenities and ability to alter the space.

Surrounding Area

  • Is the surrounding area popular and safe?
  • Will nearby businesses provide support or competition? (For example: Rather than a strip mall with a tattoo parlor, auto parts store and hardware store, a better location for a teenage clothing boutique would be near a salon, shoe store and coffee shop or bakery. This would complement the other businesses, and all would attract a common demographic.)

Legal

  • Are you signing the lease as an individual or a company representative? If required to sign as an individual, you will personally be liable if the business defaults on the lease.
  • Is subleasing allowed? You might want this option down the road if finances are tight.
  • Is the area zoned for your type of business?
  • Are there restrictions or requirements about lighting, sign size/location, parking times, hours of operation and workplace compliance standards?
  • Can you hire a real estate attorney who specializes in commercial leases to make sure the contract’s language and terms are favorable?

Long-Term Considerations

  • How long is the lease? Negotiate for flexibility and a shorter-term lease to allow for the unexpected. Get a feel for the space and surrounding area and make sure you’re on sound financial footing before making a long-term commitment.
  • Is the landlord easy to work with?
  • Are there any upcoming traffic revisions that will change access to the property? (Check with local transportation authorities.)
  • Are there nearby parcels of undeveloped commercial property that could radically change the area’s environment when developed (like a big-box store or out-of-character project)?
  • Are other tenants doing well and planning to stay?
    Tips were provided by Tanya Keefe, co-owner of Sense-sational Therapy in Fort Gratiot, Michigan; Walt Batansky, a site selection consultant with Avocat Group in Tampa, Florida;Ken Barrett, president of a chain of Washin Golden Springs Coin Laundry stores in Alabama;Hope Gibbs, founder of PR and publishing firm The Inkandescent Group in Richmond, Virginia; and Kevin Hoult, a business adviser services manager in Bellingham, Washington.
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