Survey Of Office Occupiers. Changing Attitudes To Property Needs

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1 Survey Of Office Occupiers Changing Attitudes To Property Needs

2 Business Legal Services One of the largest law firms in the UK, Irwin Mitchell provides a wide range of legal services to a diverse spectrum of clients and sectors through its business practice. The latest technology, innovative pricing and a commitment to excellence in service delivery are at the heart of what we do. Established UK Offices Glasgow Newcastle Leeds Manchester Sheffield Birmingham Cambridge Bristol London Southampton Page 2 2

3 Introduction Welcome to the first UK office occupiers report from national law firm Irwin Mitchell. Paul Firth Head of National Real Estate Rob Thompson Partner, Real Estate Real estate is core to our legal practice both in London and in the UK generally and in a changing economic climate, we decided that we wanted to find out how our clients and other businesses feel about the properties they occupy, what their plans are for the future and how happy they are with current landlord/tenant relationships. We spoke to senior decision makers at over 250 companies, who together employ a total of 111,680 members of staff. The companies range from smaller companies employing 200 people to the largest who employ over 6,100 staff. We hope you find the report interesting and if you would like to discuss any of the issues further, please get in touch with any of our team of real estate experts who will be happy to help. 3

4 Our sample We spoke to a wide range of companies: S S S69+31+S 34.7% 12.7% 21.2% 31.4% 85 had over 10 commercial premises 31 had 6-10 commercial premises 52 had 2-5 commercial premises 77 had just one commercial premise And in terms of location: S S S92+8+S 68% 9.6% 14% 8.4% 170 of the businesses were in the South of England 24 of the businesses were in the Midlands 35 of the businesses were in Yorkshire 21 of the businesses were in the North West 4

5 Key findings from our research 17% of businesses intend to relocate or take on more space in the next 12 months London remains the most popular location for those moving Location is the most important factor considered in making an office move. Energy efficiency is the least important 72% sufficient 72% of occupiers feel landlords offer them flexibility Occupiers would like to see more flexible break clauses Nearly a quarter of businesses (23.6%) are likely to or are definitely going to engage with the local planning authority in the next 12 months 5

6 The main findings - changing premises There has been a great deal of positive economic data about the UK economy and greater confidence in the real estate market. We wanted to establish sentiment amongst the businesses we were researching and whether they were considering expansion. We therefore asked businesses whether they were planning to change their business premises requirements in the next 12 months. Whilst over 80.8% of businesses said they intend to stay in the same premises in the next 12 months, 16.8% plan to relocate or take on more space and only 2.4% said they planned to reduce space - a real sign of economic confidence. The availability of finance did not seem to be a factor in influencing this decision with 88% of respondents saying it did not impact on their planning and only 12% saying that it did S S S98+2+S 80.8% 10% 6.8% 2.4% Stay the same Take on more space Relocate Reduce space Fig 1 Proportion of occupiers changing their business premises requirements in the next 12 months 6

7 UK location We asked about location and found that almost all of those companies who are changing their premises said that they plan to remain in the same region of the UK (nearly 92%). We also asked which business location was the most attractive. London came out as the most popular, with almost 72% of the vote, followed by the Midlands and North East, with just over 8% each. The South West came out as the least attractive place for businesses to move to. The current race to find good supply in the capital therefore looks unlikely to slow down. North East 8.2% Another Country 3% North West 5.2% Midlands 8.2% South East 2.6% London 71.9% South West 0.86% Fig 2 Regions in the UK most attractive to occupiers 7

8 S+2 Factors in decision making We also asked respondents what is the most important factor in choosing premises for their businesses. By far the most important factor was location, with 70% of the businesses placing this first. The second most important factor was cost, followed by workforce accessibility and transport links. Of all the factors, energy efficiency was the least important, with no businesses classing it as a top priority. This seems to suggest that environmental issues remain a low priority for businesses, despite the Government s plans to raise green issues higher up the agenda. Proximity to similar or complimentary businesses also scored low in our survey. Interestingly, the responses were in accordance with a snapshot survey of 100 London occupiers, carried out last month by Irwin Mitchell, which also showed that location (34%), and then cost (24%) were the most important factors in making property decisions. In London, the quality of the building was ranked third (14%), perhaps illustrating a need to attract employees by taking good quality space S S S S98+ 70% 16% 9% 4% 1% Location Cost Workforce accessibility Transport links Proximity to similar businesses Fig 3 The most important factors in choosing business premises 8

9 Working online The survey also asked about attitudes to the effect of increased online working practices and 43% consider that this will result in businesses requiring less office space in the future, and 40% thinking requirements will stay the same. Only 16% of businesses thought online working would mean they would need more office space. Interestingly, however, only a very small percentage of those surveyed, 2.4%, said they personally plan to reduce their premises requirements in the next 12 months, indicating that a reduction in office space requirements due to online working may be a longer term trend S S S99+1+S 43.2% 16% 40% 0.8% Less space More space The same Don t know Fig 4 Impact on space requirement through online working 9

10 S+10 Attitude to landlords We asked business occupiers about their attitudes to their landlords. Perhaps surprisingly, given accepted current perceptions, 180 out of the 250 businesses researched, or 72%, consider that landlords offer sufficient flexibility to occupiers, with only 17.6% saying they do not S S90+ 72% 17.6% 10.4% Of those respondents who felt landlords do not offer sufficient flexibility, 27% said they would like landlords to offer more flexible lease break options, followed by lower or capped service charges (14%) and shorter lease terms (14%). Yes No Don t know Fig 5 Do you think landlords offer sufficient flexibility to occupiers? 27% More flexible break clauses 14% 14% 12% 11% 11% 11% Lower service charges/capped or fixed Shorter leases Less onerous repairing liability Monthly rent payments Upwards and downwards rent reviews Longer leases Fig 6 What Occupiers would like Landlords to provide 10

11 S+10 S+20 Green buildings We also asked about energy efficiency. Interestingly, although this was the least important factor in choosing premises, almost 82% of businesses said they think improving energy efficiency has benefitted, or will benefit, their business, with only 7.6% saying it has not and 10.8% did not know. However, occupiers were realistic about who should address this. Surprisingly, the majority of those surveyed do not just consider energy efficiency to be purely the landlords responsibility, with 68% saying it should be the joint responsibility of landlords and tenants S S % 7.6% 10.8% Benefitted Not benefitted Don t know Fig 7 Will improving the energy efficiency of your building provide a benefit? S S S S80+ 68% 0.4% 4.4% 6.8% 20.4% Both Don t know Neither Occupier Owner Fig 8 Who should be responsible for improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings? 11

12 Planning issues Irwin Mitchell also canvassed attitudes to the planning system. Although 56% of those surveyed said they are unlikely to or will not need to engage with their local planning authority in the next twelve months, one fifth were not sure and nearly a quarter, 23.6%, said it was likely or highly likely that they will do so, a promising indicator of potential development activity. When asked which of the recent changes to the planning system they considered the most helpful, the expansion of permitted development rights received most votes, suggesting that this element of the Government s planning reforms designed to stimulate development has been well received by the business sector. However, local authorities have not been so welcoming of these reforms, partly given the significant difference in fees between a full planning application and those for prior approval under the new regime. If a substantial number of those who said they will be engaging with planners will be seeking prior approval under permitted development rights, local authorities may well be under some resourcing pressure over the coming months. 13 New planning guidance 8 NPPF and presumption in favour of sustainable development 3 Amendments to CIL 19 Expansion of permitted development rights Fig 9 Most helpful planning change 12

13 Conclusion Business occupiers attitudes to property are therefore changing as the economic upturn continues and businesses feel increasingly confident. It appears that the attitude to landlords is also changing with businesses feeling landlords are more flexible and accommodating than in the past. Perhaps this is a function of the market in the last few years, whereby landlords have had to improve their offer to attract the best tenants in difficult markets. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, as markets improve and the availability of space declines. With 17% of businesses saying they plan to expand or relocate, but the majority wishing to stay in the same location, this situation will be particularly critical in London. And as the balance of power swings back towards landlords due to declining supply, business occupiers will need all their wits about them to negotiate the best terms they can. 13

14 Irwin Mitchell s Real Estate team Our national Real Estate team acts for clients across all sectors, whether they are investing in, developing or occupying property. We have a full service real estate practice and advise on and undertake the following types of work: Transactional corporate real estate and complex structures Investment offices, logistics, retail and healthcare Development strategic land through to city centre development Management significant portfolios nationally Real estate tax structuring and advisory Property litigation and strategic development advice Construction Planning and environment In the past four years we have invested heavily in recruiting partners who are leaders in their field. We are a team of 80 solicitors across a network of national offices. We have become one of the leading providers of legal advice in the real estate sector at a time when market conditions have been challenging. We have taken market share from other firms at a time when they are deprioritising their real estate offering. Real estate is a core practice area for us (unlike some of our competitors) and we are ambitious and determined to provide the best possible service to our clients. 14

15 Contacts Paul Firth Head of National Real Estate T: +44 (0) M: +44 (0) E: Rob Thompson Head of Real Estate London T: +44 (0) M: +44 (0) E: Kevin Docherty Partner, Real Estate T: +44(0) M: +44 (0) E: John Flathers Partner, Real Estate T: +44(0) M: +44 (0) E: Oliver Martin Partner, Real Estate T: +44(0) M: +44 (0) E: Anita Weightman Partner, Real Estate T: +44(0) M: +44 (0) E: Follow Irwin Mitchell s Real Estate team on 15

16 For a list of our offices visit our website Irwin Mitchell LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. BLS-RE-0006-B

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