How much time should you allow to find a new office and what happens if you leave it late?

New clients often come our way ill-equipped to begin their search for new office space, mostly because they haven’t dealt with some fundamental, preparatory questions. As a consequence, critical decisions that should have been taken well before their search begins aren’t even considered until it’s well under way, which often means that precious time is wasted and effort misdirected.

To deal with each of these basic questions, I’m writing a series of blog posts, to identify and address each one in turn. So far we’ve dealt with location, budget, size and style, and flexibility and control. In this final instalment, we will be looking at the critical issue of *timing*: when do you need your office and how much time will it take to sort out?

It’s not that unusual for potential clients to approach us in a mild panic, because their lease is about to expire and they’ve only just begun to think about what to do about it. It’s entirely understandable in the SME world – running a business is time-consuming. If we are not servicing our clients, marketing to attract new clients, we’ll be training our staff, managing cashflow or fine-tuning our systems. All important fundamentals in running a business and that’s just scratching the surface. There is a lot to do! In this environment, it’s hardly surprising that the problem of finding new office space often takes a back seat. When it finally becomes a priority, it’s very much last minute, which is far from ideal. Unfortunately this isn’t an uncommon scenario.

There are other reasons you might need a new office at short notice of course. If you’ve suddenly won substantial new business, you may need more floorspace to accommodate new staff. You may be growing faster than you’ve anticipated. Or perhaps in a challenging economy, you need to downsize your operation to reduce your costs.

In an ideal world, plan ahead

If you can possibly avoid it, rather than a last minute panic, it is far better to plan ahead and calmly consider what your business requirements will be in the medium term and how long you believe that will continue to be the case. For help with this, please refer to my posts on how to look for London office space, as well as our office space calculator and office rental guide

When should I start planning a move?

6 months might seem like a long time, but it isn’t when it comes to acquiring office space! Many leases have a tenant break which must be triggered no later than 6 months before the lease expiry date, so you should give the subject serious thought about 9 months before the lease ends. And whether you have a lease break or the lease just comes to an end, 9 months is the ideal length of time for acquiring office space in a controlled way. This leaves 3 months for discussion, with time to bring yourself up to date on market conditions, followed by 6 months for the search itself, selecting the best option on the correct terms, letting the solicitors do their bit and maybe fitting out your new office space.

9 months is the ideal length of time for acquiring office space in a controlled way

So much for the ideal, what are my options if I need to move at short notice?

Firstly, do you have existing premises? And if you do, are they serviced or on a conventional lease?

If you are already in serviced space, then you may be able to expand within your current business centre, without too much trouble. If this isn’t an option then you may still be able to dispense with your existing space at as little as a month’s notice, as serviced offices run on simple, short term licences.

Making important decisions in a hurry, while the clock is ticking, is rarely the best option. If you are currently on a conventional lease which is very near expiry, we would highly recommend serviced office space – even if it’s a stop-gap to buy you time whilst you conduct a proper longer term search for conventionally leased space without the clock ticking. We’ve helped several clients on this basis – solving their immediate problem (‘We need office space now!’) with a serviced option – and then helping them find longer-term premises at a more appropriate pace, with proper consideration for their long-term needs.

If you need office space in a hurry, go for serviced, even if it’s a stop gap to buy you time

Tackle it early

So my advise is :tackle it early. Our most prepared clients approach us many months in advance – and we are very happy to give early “budget advice” and then wait until you are ready to have a look at the available options. If you contact us with your requirements, we will give you an overview of the likely availability and likely cost, improving your forward planning significantly.

How quickly can I find a new London office?

About Michael Fraser

Michael Fraser

Michael - founding partner of Find a London Office - started in the London property market in 1970. Michael has developed extensive knowledge of the locations, the owners, the rental values, and - most importantly - has developed very solid contacts with the other agents working in the hub of the conventional office market, giving him a considerable advantage both sourcing office space, and negotiating the best possible terms for the tenant.

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