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Real estate tips for small business owners

If you are venturing into starting your own business, you may also have certain real estate considerations to take into account. Maybe you’ve been running a successful business for a while and have outgrown your current space. Maybe you’re in need of an off-site commercial kitchen, or an office with a boardroom so that you can comfortably host meetings with clients. No matter what type of business you plan to run — whether you’ll be opening a retail location or renting, buying or leasing office space — consider the following.

Price

Be honest about your cash flow and take a hard look at your balance sheet before you even start looking at physical properties. Have a number or a range in mind at the outset. This will help ensure that the carrying costs of the location you choose are indeed sustainable over the long haul. Consult with an accounting professional who specializes in handling the books of other successful small- and medium-sized businesses; they will have the experience to know how much you should realistically be spending and can advise you on whether leasing or buying outright is the best way to go. (An accountant is also a terrific resource to have in your back pocket as you grow your business over the years.) While you’re at it, enlist the services of a trusted commercial real estate agent, too.

Location

Much will depend on the type of business you run. Will your storefront rely heavily on foot traffic? If so, you’ll want to be on a main thoroughfare, busy commercial strip or arterial road. Is your potential office better situated within a larger business park, where you and your clients will benefit from the use of already established, shared amenities? Will you need access to a loading dock and separate delivery area? Knowing the answers to these questions beforehand will handily narrow down your search right from the start.

Proximity to transit

Maybe your business can be located a bit off the beaten path because your primary customers are fellow industry folk who will be coming to you by car. On the other hand, maybe a good portion of your clientele relies on transit; you’ll want to ensure that they can get to you easily and seamlessly. Consider your typical customers’ needs before committing to a location.

Parking availability

If getting to you is a hassle and drivers have to go out of their way to secure a hard-to-find (or worse, expensive) parking spot, you risk losing business in the long run. While they may tolerate the inconvenience in the short term, customers may soon find it easier to visit another supplier or service provider in a more convenient location. Ideally, there is at least some parking available nearby — either free parking or ample spots that do not charge a prohibitive hourly rate.

Accessibility

Again, think of your clientele. Make sure the space you’re securing is bright and well-lit, including any hallways or corridors clients may have to travel through to get to you. Make sure the pavement outside is in good repair. If you’re above the first floor, is there an elevator and a bright, clean staircase? Areas inside and out should be wheelchair accessible. Another item to add to your checklist: accessible washrooms. Keep ease of use and access top of mind.

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