Heather Anderson stands in front of her hard-won business space, where she opened her Yogalinda hot yoga studio.
Based on her own experiences of trying to find a space for her new yoga studio in Barcelona, Heather Anderson tells us about some of the pitfalls of looking for business premises in Barcelona, along with suggestions for success
What to do
1) Use your contacts and networking skills to find a trustworthy real estate agent who will help you with the negotiation process and reviewing the rental agreement contract. As foreigners, we are often unaware of the rules and regulations in Spain and it really helps to know the ins and outs. For instance, owners are likely to allow tenants that are doing renovations to have a space rent-free for two or three months; they may also agree to an escalating rental contract such as €1,000 in year one, €1,200 in year two and €1,500 in year three. Since the renter needs to pay the real estate agent’s commission anyway, you might as well get something beneficial out of it.
2) If you are able to speak to the owner of the space it makes everything faster, easier and cheaper. The owner cares about renting their space so they are more likely to show up on time for your viewing. Plus, this way you can normally cut out the real estate fee, which can be up to 15 percent of the yearly rental price.
3) Most office spaces are listed with more than one real estate agency so if you can’t talk to someone about a viewing with one agency, call the other ones until you get someone willing to show you the space.
4) If you are opening a venue that will need a special license—a bar for example— before you start looking at spaces, contact the town hall to find out if they are giving licenses in the area of the city you are interested in. My friend Louise Keohane is opened a café/used book store called Babelia in Sant Antoni and she told me: “I had to ask for an ‘Informe Previo’ on my locale to ensure that I could put a café there. You ask for one from the Ayuntamiento of your area. The problem areas are Gràcia and Ciutat Vella, and Eixample has a limited number of licenses per 50m2 so you have to make sure.” In other words, the only way you can get a license for a café in Gràcia, Ciutat Vella or Eixample is if you pay a traspaso (where the owner is selling an existing business and the contents of the space). You don’t want to start looking in a neighbourhood where you will never be able to launch your business.
5) Be patient—finding the perfect space can take some time. Especially if you want a good retail space with foot traffic. It took me almost two years to find my perfect space while Louise only took three months to find a spot for her café. (I am opened a 40ºC hot yoga studio so location, size of space and natural light was very important to me while a café can open almost anywhere). You never know; trust your instincts. If, for some reason, a space you love doesn’t work out, don’t worry about it; something better will come along in the future.
What to avoid:
1) Don’t expect any real estate agency to call you back. Keep calling until you get someone that knows something about the space you want to see and book a viewing. Never leave a message as many agents never call you back.
2) Don’t believe everything the agent says about the space. Normally they know very little about the owner and the space. Do your due diligences if you can find the previous renters; ask them why they left and if there are any problems with the space such as electrical, leaks, noise issues etc. I did that and found out there was flooding problems with the space I was in. They owner said it was fixed but now 7 years down the road I can tell you not even close. Do not rent a space with water issues is my advice. I had 5 floods and had to close several times.
3) Don’t take no for an answer. If an agent says you cannot see the space a second or third time as you are wasting their time, or the time you want to meet doesn’t fit into their schedule, say whatever you need to in order to see it again. Jordi Esteban from Fincas Esteban S.L. says that “Big real estate agencies don’t really care about the renters’ interests, they only care about their fees and signing contracts.” As renters you need to be certain, so if you need to see a space four or five times before signing a contract, do it.
4) Don’t sign a contract until your architects/contractors or interior designer have given you a quote for making the space how you want it. Make sure the space you love fits into your budget.
5) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket—look in several areas of the city. I started looking in Zona Alta and Poble Nou as I decided I didn’t want to be in the centre of the city. Zona Alta was nice except I realised I could never afford the rent. In Poble Nou, the rent was the right price but all the retail locations were located in new buildings which meant that the renovation costs of the space were way out of my budget. In the end, I found a space in Port Olimpic, in the Centre de la Vila Icaria mall. Fantastic foot traffic, close to the beach, tons of light, close to public transport and totally in my budget.
If you have any stories about searching for a business premises, please add a comment here. And good luck with finding your own perfect space!