When it comes to setting a budget, your rent is just one of many operational costs to consider. Business rates vary depending on the type and location of property you choose, and if the warehouse forms part of a multi-let estate under one ownership, there will likely be a service charge to pay. These can vary from 5p to £1 per square foot if factors like round-the-clock on site security are added in. On a multi-let estate without estate security it would typically cost between 20p and 40p.
If you’re weighing up whether to buy or rent, it’s worth knowing that there are fewer options available for purchase. From time to time properties will be available to buy and, if they’re good quality and in a sought after location, they‘ll go quickly.
2. Look at locations
Make sure your site has easy access to main roads and motorways if your business relies on fast deliveries. But it’s not just about your goods leaving the premises. Think about how items you need will be delivered to you. Road, rail or air links could be vital.
You’ll also need to consider access to the labour force you’ll need if you’re employing staff. Will your location provide you with enough people with the appropriate skills set at an affordable rate? And don’t forget about the amenities on offer for your staff. Places to go at lunchtime, restaurants nearby are key if you plan to entertaining clients, or for your workforce to take their breaks.
Here in the North West, there are a few areas which are synonymous with certain industries. Take Birchwood Park in Warrington with its long history with the nuclear sector. The area has recently been designated an Enterprise Zone known as the Cheshire Science Corridor which has unlocked benefits for science-based businesses locating there including wider business support and business rates relief. And, of course, if an area has an affiliation to a sector there will be a skilled wokforce in situ.
3. Ask permission
It’s vital to check that the warehouse you’re looking at has the right planning permission in place for your needs.
You can apply to change planning permission but there’s no guarantee your request will be granted.
4. Bespoke, brand new or pre-loved?
What kind of building are you after? Design and Build, also known as Build-to-Suit, solutions are usually the most expensive. This is where you agree the property specification and the purchase price or lease terms with a developer who will then build the property on your behalf. It can take about 12 months to deliver a completed building, so its not as quick as taking a property that is already built. You should note that a developer will insist on a minimum 10 year lease with no earlier break option for this type of property.
Speculatively built new builds are also a costly option. You’ll pay for a property in excellent condition but your repair liability will be less and you’ll also benefit from guarantees for the building materials used. Don’t forget that as a tenant taking a full repairing and insuring lease, you’re liable for maintaining the condition of your property and handing the building back in a good state of repair and decoration at the end of the lease.
A second-hand building will be more affordable with lower rent and rates but, depending on condition, the repair and liability costs could be higher. Whatever you choose, the condition of the property is an important factor when viewing so don’t be shy about having a building survey undertaken and taking specialist advice before you agree to anything.
5. Exploring space
When you’re thinking about the size of space you need, be open minded. Could you consolidate three buildings into one more efficient building to get what you need for a good price? Or perhaps if you don’t need a great deal of internal height for racking storage or large vehicles? Could you add a mezzanine level and save on floorspace costs?
Think about whether there is enough office space for people to work quietly and comfortably away from any factory noise. Can the offices be extended if necessary? And with utilities you’ll obviously need warehouse lighting but do you need heating as well? Check what power supply you need to run your plant and machinery and ask what power is currently serving the property. Most units have a 3-phase supply but this may need to be increased which can be costly and take several months. Do you need a mains gas supply? Not all units have one.
Outside space is important too. There’s parking to consider for your staff and the service yard for deliveries or collections that need to be dealt with along with any external storage of vehicles, equipment and materials. Do you need a detached property with a self-contained secure yard or will a terraced building with a shared yard be sufficient?
And finally, don’t forget the all-important logistics too. How much height do you need? Are there enough loading doors and are they electronically operated? What is the internal circulation space like in the warehouse?
6. Freedom and flexibility
Many tenants like flexibility when they’re signing up to a lease but landlords usually prefer longer lease terms with a minimum 5 years for second-hand space and 10 years on new build space.
If you’re investing a lot in machinery and equipment the security of knowing you’ll have space to keep it for the next 5 or 10 years might prove appealing, but for small businesses keen to scale up fast, that’s sometimes a point requiring negotiation.