Real Estate Articles

How to Pick an Office Location: Suburban or Urban

Written by Brent Pace for Gaebler Ventures

As you search for your first office space, the big question becomes location. Will you seek a space downtown or are the suburbs just fine? This article will help you decide.

Selecting your first office location can be a daunting task.

There are so many different types of buildings and spaces to choose from. The space you rent can say a lot about your business, both to clients and to employees. So where should you rent? Here are a few things to think about as you decide whether to rent space downtown or in the suburbs.

Type of Business (which part of operations)

First you should consider what type of business you run. For many law firms being downtown is a must. It's where the other law firms are, and where most of your clients work. If you are running a call center type operation, you will almost always rent in the suburbs. Think about your business carefully. Where do your competitors have space? Is that an indication of a good choice on their part that you should follow?

Often times, the decision can be swayed by operational issues. For instance, if you are going to have a corporate office function as well as some storage and light manufacturing needs then you will want to take FLEX space in the suburbs. If you are consulting and it's just three offices and an administrative assistant, then downtown may be more appropriate.

Where Your Employees Live

An often overlooked consideration has to do with where your employees live. Many businesses could do just fine downtown or in the suburbs, but the decision comes down to employee preference. A lot of financial firms could actually thrive in the suburbs, but they choose to be downtown to attract the hip young 20-something crowd who enjoys that scene. Conversely, a lot of insurance companies would do well to locate downtown to drum up more corporate business, but they choose to stay in the suburbs to cater to their work force which tends to be middle-aged and very stable.

If you are just starting up, think about where you are drawing employees from. Will you make experienced hires that will likely enjoy a shorter commute? Or are you going to recruit young people from the local University who will likely enjoy the excitement of working downtown? These little things will make a big difference to your employees' satisfaction.

Where Your Clients Live

Going along with the previous two points, you really want to focus on where your clients live as well. If you are a business-to-business type operation, you may benefit from the synergy of a downtown area. It makes for convenient lunch appointments and helps you develop your business network more quickly.

If you are dealing with clients through a web interface or over the phone - or if you have a product or service that you need to deliver to your clients - the suburbs are probably fine.

Parking and Other Incidentals

Don't forget other important little details that may matter to your space. You can usually get more parking spaces in the suburbs (and for cheaper rates). If you are planning on high-density employment you may want to think about the parking issue.

Signage is also a big issue for many employers. Signage may be cheaper to get in the suburbs, but could be more effective downtown. Be sure to weigh these options as you consider your next office lease.

Brent Pace is currently an MBA candidate at University of California at Berkeley. Originally from Salt Lake City, Brent's experience is in commercial real estate development and management. Brent will have tips for small business owners as they negotiate their real estate needs.

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