Whether you are looking to move into your own premises for the first time or seeking to move from your existing space to a new one, there are some things to be considered when searching for a property to operate a private practice from.

In this blog, we are going to unpack some of the key things to consider when looking to lease a private practice premises.

 

Location

It seems obvious, but picking the right location is critical. It’s important not just for client access but also for the practitioners who work for you and for your own access to the premises. If you have an established brand, then you are going to want to make sure you are within easy access to your local referrer network. If you are relocating from existing premises then generally you don’t want to be relocating to a different area and disrupting your existing clients or referrers.

 

Current and Future Needs

If commercial properties were made with rubber walls, this wouldn’t be a problem but sadly that is not the case. That means that when you are looking at a property you have to consider what your longer-term growth goals are.

If you are planning to expand the number of practitioners over the next five years, you will need to make sure the practice has room to accommodate extra people, extra rooms, extra clients in the waiting area, more car parking, and so on. However, not so much extra space that you have too many rooms to practically fill. It’s a balancing act, but it comes down to having a clear idea of your strategic growth goals.

 

Duration of Lease

The length of a commercial lease is generally made up of 3 or 5-year terms. For private practices, establishing in a location for a longer period is usually better for the practice, local referrers and the clients. It’s more important to provide a long-term, stable location for allied health practices than it is for say, an accounting firm. If you have a lot of referrals from GPs, they have a tendency not to keep up with location changes, so changing the location as infrequently as possible makes sense.

There is also quantifiable value to your business in having an established lease term in a good location. But on the flip side, a commercial lease also has liability attached to it with regard to the term. If you decide to close the practice 2 years into a 5-year lease term, you are very likely going to be liable for the remaining unused lease period. So again, planning is the key here.

It is also a good idea to try to negotiate an initial rent-free period. Trying to secure a couple of months of rent-free period can give you a good leg up for the rest of the term. But there are other ways to use rent-free periods as well. For example, instead of looking for 2 months of free rent at commencement, you could try to use that as 12 months of reduced rent instead. That also can work well for the landlord.

When we negotiate lease terms on behalf of our clients, we would usually look to secure an initial lease term of 5 years, with further options to follow.

 

Premises Features

Depending on the type of private practice you operate, there are some features that may be more relevant to you than others. Making sure a premises is easy to find, easy to access, and easy to enter are all important things for any business. If you have clients with mobility challenges, then making sure you have access and facilities for wheelchair users is critical. Making sure there is easily accessible car parking will make life for your clients easier as well as for your team.

If you are looking at a property on a busy main road, you might want to consider what the busiest time of day for appointments is, then take into account which side of the road the property is on and how easy it is for clients to get into it. Do they have to U-turn on a busy road at peak hour? In a private practice, this isn’t a deal breaker. But it is still important to think about.

If you are considering using a converted residential property, you absolutely must check the use-zoning with the relevant council. Even if the property has been used for a similar purpose in the past, you still need to check that it is able to be used for the purpose you want. Don’t just assume that the previous occupant had the correct permits or zoning in place.

 

Necessary Works

Some properties will require some internal works before they are ready for you to occupy. Make sure you carefully scope out what needs to be done and work out how much those works will cost.

If possible, you are looking to get these works undertaken and paid for by the landlord. If you are offering a reasonable lease term, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Remember commercial agents are used to these kinds of inclusions.

 

Budget Planning

There’s no point looking for a property you don’t know if you can afford. As part of your longer-term strategic plan, make sure to prepare a comprehensive budget for the business as well as a project specific budget for the property acquisition. It’s helpful to work through this with a private practice coach or an accountant to make sure you cover all the bases.

 

Negotiating the Lease

This part comes down to your own preferred style of negotiation. When we negotiate a lease on behalf of our clients, to some degree we have an advantage because we aren’t in any way personally invested in the outcome. That allows us to negotiate without an emotional or desirous motivation. So if you are negotiating yourself, try to take the emotion out of it.

Remember it’s a give-and-take approach that is likely going to win the day. If you want to reduce the rent you might need to offer something in return, like a longer lease term. The key here is to reach an outcome that works for the landlord and your business. It’s essential to know what you can afford and that you have some idea about the likely impacts of things such as inflation over the coming years so you can appropriately negotiate the rent increase measure. If inflation is likely to be high, then a CPI increase is not your best play. Try to keep rent increases capped to an amount you can budget for.

 

Summary of Tips

Here is a summary of the tips covered in this blog. When looking for a premises for your private practice, make sure you:

  • Completed your strategic plan before starting the process
  • Know what your budget is
  • Know your minimum requirements in a property
  • Checked the relative ease of access of the premises
  • Identified any required works to the property
  • Checked the zoning
  • Get some advice from a coach or advisor
  • Are prepared to walk away from the deal