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Starting your search

Once you have decided what you want in an office, you need to get out there and find an office that meets your brief, and is available to rent.

In this section you can find advice on:

Where to look

There are many ways to find offices which might suit you. The most common ones include:

Word of mouth

Ask other organisations and advertise through networks or via email groups. This is a good way to find out about sublets, or offices that are about to come on the market. You might also get some insider information on good agents or landlords.

Walk the streets!

If you find an area that you know is generally affordable and you think will meet your needs, it’s worth taking a few hours to walk around it. It will help you enormously to know the area when you talk to agents – they will find it easier to work with you if you know well a particular building or street – and the sign boards will give you a strong sense of how much there is to let in the area. Be aware though – just because something has a board up doesn’t always mean it is still to let or for sale!

Use an agent

If you have little time to spend searching yourself, and have a clear idea of the sort of office you need, you may wish to engage a commercial property agent to help you.

Agents may charge for a full service but will give you a very good idea of available space in their area.

To find a local agent:

  • ask other organisations for recommendations of local agents they have used
  • contact agents advertising with ‘For Rent’ boards in the area. If the property you spot is unsuitable, they are likely to have other spaces for rent locally
  • web search (type in 'commercial agents' or 'commercial property agents' and the locations you are interested in)

Working with an agent

Always meet the agent first to ensure that you are happy that they understand your needs and will provide you with a good service.

You can work with an agent in two ways. You can ask about properties that they have available at the moment. Be aware that they will be acting on behalf of the landlord who is paying their fee in this situation. Alternatively, you can commission an agent to search for properties that match your brief. You will have to negotiate a fee for this service, but it means that the agent is acting for you rather than the landlord. Retaining an agent is only necessary if you require something very specific

Voluntary Sector Support Organisations

There are several organisations which you can approach to see if they can help you find out what is on the market in your local area:

  • your local CVS (Council for Voluntary Service) might keep a list of property to let in the area, or may be able to direct you to sympathetic landlords. To find your local CVS, you can search the NAVCA website
  • the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) also maintain an 'Accommodation Noticeboard' of property to let. This is a service for NCVO members only
  • My Community Space is a free website that allows community and voluntary organisations to advertise space for hire, covering both short hire periods and long term leases. The site also provides useful information on finding, renting and managing space.

Local authorities

Councils sometimes provide office space within community buildings, although this varies across the country, and space is less readily available than in the private sector.

Some councils keep lists of privately owned vacant office space. Contact the Council's Economic Development or Business Department and they should be able to assist you. Councils will also have lists of their own properties for let or sale.

Specialist providers of accommodation for the Voluntary Sector

Across the country there are a variety of ethical/low cost office providers who often specialise in providing space to charities. Approach these organisations directly to see if they have any space available that meets your requirements.

  • the Ethical Property Company, our sister organisation, owns 15 and manages 7 centres in the UK housing charities, voluntary groups and social change organisations
  • Community Action Network run Mezzanine2 in London, housing a variety of social sector organisations. They are planning to replicate their model elsewhere, and provide advice and support to organisations who would like to develop similar projects
  • Workspace provide low cost serviced office accommodation to business and the voluntary sector across the South East
  • Oasis Trust offer high quality office and conference facilities at their building in Westminster - ideal for campaigning groups
  • churches sometimes have office space in their buildings which they rent out to the voluntary sector. Your local CVS is likely to know of any such opportunities in your local area

Serviced Office Accommodation providers 

Companies such as Regus or MWB Business Exchange provide fully serviced, flexible office accommodation in business centres across the UK. In addition, there are many local serviced office providers. Contact several to ensure that you get the best location for the best price.

One of the best ways to find out who operates in your area is through a web search – type ‘serviced office space’ and the location you are interested in into a search engine to see what is available.

Approach Landlords

You can contact landlords directly to find out if they have space available. Again, ask other organisations and contacts if they know of landlords who it might be worth approaching.