Buying or leasing premises may allow you to start work in your new practice sooner than if you build, and can reduce your initial costs.
To get started, talk to real estate agents about:
- potential properties - if you find a property that suits your needs but is already occupied, consider approaching the agent with an offer, as the current occupants might be thinking of moving out
- current commercial leasing valuations, including packages on offer.
Real estate agents sometimes advertise properties as being “suitable for a medical practice, STCA”. STCA means “subject to council approval”, which means the site has not been yet approved for such use, and you will need to apply to the council. The approval process can be lengthy, and there is no guarantee that your application will be successful, especially if neighbours submit objections. This might result in a long delay before you can open your practice or, even worse, you may find yourself committed to a building in which you can’t operate your practice.
Assessing a building’s suitability
Before you commit to buying or leasing a particular building, ask the local council about zoning regulations, car parking requirements, and approval processes for operating a general practice.
When assessing a potential building, consider:
- ease of access for ambulances and taxis
- car-parking for staff and patients: is there enough parking on the premises (as a guide, aim for five car spaces per consulting room)? Is other parking readily available on the street or nearby (eg at a supermarket), and will patients have to pay for it? Is there space to extend the on-site parking? Have you checked the local council’s car parking requirements?
- public transport for staff and patients: how easy is it for them to get to and from the closest public transport stops and stations? Are there any proposed or planned changes (eg rerouting of bus routes, significant infrastructure work) that would affect this?
- Nearby services:
- patients’ access to other health facilities, such as allied health professionals, pathologists, radiology, pharmacies, hospitals, aged care facilities, disability services
- patients’ and staff’s access to other services, such as childcare, schools, shops
- Is it in a shopping centre, adjacent to public transport, or out of sight? Is there a shop front where passing traffic can see signs? High visibility means your premises are easy for people to find, and easy for potential patients and staff to notice and become aware of.
- Potential for co-location:
- Give serious consideration to the potential to co-locate your practice with other health care providers, such as allied health and mental health professionals and medical specialists. Ideally, choose premises that already have co-located services or have adequate space for them.
Co-locating with other health professionals can increase patients’ awareness of your practice, and make it more convenient for them to visit multiple services. It can also increase mutual referrals.
Before buying premises, consider:
- the terms and conditions of the sale contract, including any specifications
- your need for finance, the availability of loans, and associated costs (such as interest you will pay, mortgage insurance, conveyancing and other professional fees, loss of interest from your savings)
- building regulations, especially if you are considering changing the interior or exterior
- the work, cost and time required to fit-out the space as a general practice
- what you plan to do with the practice and premises when you decide to move on.
Before leasing premises, consider:
- the current rent and possible rental increases
- the potential to negotiate your lease to include, for example, an initial rent-free period and a portion of the fit-out costs
- the terms and conditions of the lease contract, including notice period, length of the lease, options to renew the lease, what is and what is not covered by the lease (eg insurance, rates, maintenance)
- the amount of work and cost required to fit-out the space as a general practice, or to upgrade an existing fit-out.
Whether you build, buy, or lease premises, you may need to fit-out the space so that it can function as a general practice, or you may want to upgrade an existing fit-out.
There are companies that specialise in medical fitouts who can:
- identify and develop the spaces and facilities you need
- ‘look past the walls’ and visualise new rooms and areas in the short-term and the long-term
- provide expert advice to help you manage government and council building codes and zoning regulations
- supervise the planning and construction.
If you are leasing, you will also need to consider the time and cost to return the premises to the original condition at the end of the lease, if this is a condition of the lease.