How to Choose Your Private Practice’s Office Space
How do you find the right office for your private practice?
It can be daunting to find a space that accommodates both your clients and your budget. In the following post, we’ll discuss what to look for when choosing an office space specifically for your private therapy practice.
Working With a Real Estate Agent
While you can search for properties on your own, it’s often a good idea to team up with a real estate agent. Searching for the right office space can turn into a full-time job and distract you from your work with clients. This is why it may be benefit you to hire an agent to look for you. They’ll likely have more resources (and more time), and will often be able to find you an incredible space in less time than you’d have otherwise.
But if you haven’t worked with a real estate agent for a commercial property, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Decide Whether to Lease or Buy
The first question you’ll need to tackle is whether to lease or buy. There are definite pros and cons to both leasing a space and buying one.
If you’re just starting out in private practice, it makes a lot of sense to lease your office space. You’re likely self-funding and may not have the budget to spend on a sizable down payment.
On the other hand, if you’re already established in your practice and you’re hoping to expand into a larger office, buying may be the better option. This way you can build equity while you’re growing into your dream practice.
Choose the Right Agent
Not all agents are experienced in commercial real estate. Ideally, find an agent (and a broker) who understands the unique challenges and legalities of buying/leasing commercial properties. Before hiring an agent, be sure to interview several and ask for references. Every agent should have references. The things you’ll want to know are:
- Was the client satisfied with the property?
- Did the agent stay in communication with the client?
- Were they able to negotiate a good deal for the buyer/lessee?
Define Your Must-Haves
Be specific about what you’re looking for in a property. The more specific you are about your major deal breakers, the better your chances of finding the right property.
Here’s the caveat: You don’t want to get too nit-picky here (i.e. must be located above a bakery and have white-washed brick walls with windows facing south). While the agent will try to accommodate your major requests, they can’t make magic happen. It’s important to know what you want, but to also be flexible.
Make a list of top must-haves, and rank them based on “can’t live without” to “nice to have.” This will help your agent find the right property.
Focus on Your Budget
Unfortunately, you don’t have unlimited funds. But, that doesn’t have to stop you from getting a beautiful and functional office space.
Be strict with your budget especially when hunting for your first commercial office. In fact, go below your maximum budget allotment. It’s guaranteed that once you move into your new office, you’ll have additional costs that you didn’t anticipate.
Speaking of additional costs, be sure to ask the real estate agent how much you can expect to pay in utility costs for that building. Also, get a rundown of what you’ll be responsible for paying and when.
Be Prepared to Negotiate
The asking price is not written in stone. You can always negotiate the asking price.
This is especially true when you’re entering into an extended lease. For example, let’s say your lease is for a term of five years. Your landlord may grant you five months free, one for each year of your lease.
You may also be able to negotiate exclusivity to your lease (i.e. no other therapists within your same office building for the duration of your lease).
Outside of asking price, other ideas to negotiate include utilities, cleaning, landscaping and maintenance, and on-site security.
Hire a Real Estate Attorney
Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that you hire a real estate attorney to go over the fine print. You need to look out for your best interests. Legalese can feel like its own language, so seek help from a professional who’s fluent.
Choosing the Right Office
Not sure what to look for in your future office space? Feeling a little like Goldilocks? Let’s discuss how to find the perfect space.
But before we dive into looking for an office space in a commercial building, let’s briefly discuss the biggest pro and con of working from your home.
The biggest pro is that you won’t have to buy or lease space in your own home. You’ll save a huge amount of money by carving out an office space in your home.
The biggest con of working from your home is that it’s your home—there’s no separation between you and professional you. You’ll always bring work home because even, if you close the door, it’s still there. You’ve got to work a lot harder to prevent your personal life from spilling over into your office. Plus, clients will know where you live.
If you do work from home, make sure that you have a separate entrance for clients. Also, check with your city to make sure that there are no zoning issues with operating a practice out of your home.
But if you’re looking to find a commercial space, disregard all of that, and let’s keep going.
Consider Your Ideal Client
The most important consideration when searching for an office space is how your location will affect your clients.
Will this location be easy to find?
Some therapists like to set up shop near hospitals or major landmarks to make their office space easy to locate.
Will the location also be easy to remember?
Don’t forget about referral traffic. If your client can’t remember or can’t easily explain where you’re located to others, they simply won’t recommend you.
Is the location accessible by public transportation?
If the majority of your clients will be using buses, subways, or trains to meet you, you’ll need an office space that’s on route.
Will the location feel welcoming to your clients or will it scare them off?
Check out the surroundings. Does everything look great? Are you located in a nice neighborhood even if your actual office is part of an office park? Surroundings matter. Security is huge with any client, but in mental health when clients already feel vulnerable, it’s important that you choose an office that feels inviting and not scary or desolate.
Focus on Visibility
Piggybacking off of that last point, is your office in a highly visible spot? You may get foot traffic from people who find out about your practice when passing by. If you’re still building your clientele, choose an office with a location that can double as a marketing strategy.
By doing so, you may get new clients just because you’re visible and in the neighborhood.
Go for the Less Concentrated Area
Another thing to consider is the amount of therapists within your desired area. If there’s a huge concentration of competing therapists, it may be a good idea to expand your search parameters. As we just discussed above, part of your business will come from foot traffic. You don’t want to set up shop in a saturated area when prospects have a dizzying amount of choices—it’ll be hard to stand out from the crowd.
Use Google Maps to find where most therapists are located in your area, and then go for the less popular locations.
Choose a Sound Proof Office
To satisfy privacy, you’ll need to choose a sound proof office space. That means lofts are out of the picture, unless you have a way of soundproofing the waiting area.
When office hunting, look for thick walls and solid doors. You’ll also need to consider the floor plan. It’s best to choose an office with some separation between the waiting area and your consultation office.
Consider Your Neighbors
If you’re in an office building, consider who you’ll share walls with. It would be pretty unfortunate and insensitive to run a private practice for clients who may be struggling with weight issues right next to a donut shop.
Also, the smell of fresh donuts every morning can be distracting for both you and your clients.
Before you go, check out these related posts: