Lease or Buy? Your Guide to Business Property Shopping

If the thought of spending a huge chunk of cash on a permanent building scares the heck out of you, there are other options.
Lease or Buy? Your Guide to Business Property Shopping
Dale Willerton founded The Lease Coach in 1993. The company has offices throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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“There is nothing more secure than land and a building.” Commercial real estate expert Dale Willerton says that is the bottom line when it comes to property, but it doesn’t mean that leasing isn’t appropriate. Willerton makes a living at it; he’s a commercial lease consultant known as The Lease Coach and author of books on the topic, such as Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals For Dummies

“I really advocate buying and building if you can,” he says. “The less important location is to you, the more you should try to own the property. Buying a property and paying a mortgage is better than paying a lease. Eventually, you pay off the mortgage.” 

Leasing may be right for some, and it is easier to accomplish. “For every 99 locations for lease, there’s only one location for sale,” he says. “There are more than 10 million companies leasing space in North America. The vast majority of those need to be in a retail store front, in a shopping mall — a place where someone has already bought the land and built a building.”

Willerton, who has been coaching and negotiating for business owners since 1993, also points out that borrowing money to buy property is cheaper than ever right now. Still, there are pros and cons to owning property:

PROs

  • Mortgage payments eventually end; lease payments are forever. Monthly mortgage payments are often very close to rent payments.
  • Equity in your property is an asset that usually increases in value, sometimes greatly. Some owners who sell or close their business will keep the property for a steady income stream.
  • You don't have landlord hassles. "Ownership is empowering and it feels great, most of the time," he says.

CONs

  • You would have to move from your current space that a competing business might move into. Landlords like to rent to companies similar to one that has occupied a building in the past. 
  • You might have to sacrifice on location. Ownership opportunities are usually in secondary locations and not on the busier streets. "If you're willing to drive five minutes farther, you can get land cheaper," he says.
  • You may have to deal with various ownership issues like HVAC, buildling maintenance, etc., that otherwise a landlord would handle. He warns, however, that some leases will require you to provide that same level of maintenance.

Many people use real estate agents to help find property for either sale or lease. Willerton warns that agents generally work for the person providing the commission, which is normally the property owner. “Just because someone says they’re representing you, if you’re not paying them, you’re probably not being represented properly.” He suggests making the investment by paying for that expertise, such as by hiring a buyer’s agent who is paid to represent you. 

As he points out in his book about commercial leasing, your building and location is the platform for your entire business. “Your business may be able to change its products, services, pricing and marketing, but you’ve got to make the location work.” 

Once you’ve made the decision to buy or lease, don’t forget to investigate leasing and financing options, fleet management and routing software and insurance to protect your investment.

Whether you’re looking for all-in-one operational software to track your service trucks, access dispatch schedules or monitor fuel efficiency, there’s a program to meet your needs. Here are some of the best fleet tracking, routing and mobile management software options:

  • TAC Online and Web stations from Clear Computing provide anytime, anywhere access, minimizing productivity delays.
  • The Reveal GPS vehicle tracking solution from Fleetmatics is designed to drive savings and improve productivity for virtually any mobile workforce.
  • GPS Insight fleet and asset tracking software allows management professionals to have complete visibility into mobile operations to reduce costs and drive efficiencies.
  • A & D Technology offers GPS fleet management, vehicle locator and GPS fleet tracking systems.
  • The Smart Antenna fully integrated fleet tracking system from GPS North America has advanced routing capabilities to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
  • NexTraq cloud-based, comprehensive fleet tracking allows managers to easily schedule jobs, dispatch them to vehicles and send messages to and from workers in the field.
  • The Service Module and Mobile WorkForce Module from Point-of-Rental Systems utilize mobile technology to document missed services and show completed services in real time.
  • With SAFE Software, technicians with basic computer skills can enter, organize, route and schedule pumping and service for customers.
  • The V3R telematics platform from Zonar Systems provides vehicle tracking combined with operating information for vehicles working in harsh conditions.
  • The Summit Automatic Decision Mapping and Dispatch add-on from Ritam Technologies sends work orders and service data, balancing loads between drivers with truck capacity in mind, and respect for customer time commitments, minimizing overtime and optimizing routes for most efficient travel.
  • The RouteOptix Android App allows the driver to key notes regarding locations, change service details, record delivery/pickup details and enter tickets from disposal facilities.
  • The StreetSmart suite of configurable mobile apps and a Web-based management application from Xora allows managers and office personnel to analyze performance for better decision-making, faster routing and more efficient customer service.
  • US Fleet Tracking offers 10-second real-time tracking and a software package that includes instant viewing of jobs entered on-screen by dispatchers for owners to see technicians’ promptness and length of time spent at each job. 
  • The Tank Track office software program for septic businesses has a simple, user-friendly design that helps business owners manage customer information and schedule appointments quickly and easily.

And don’t overlook proper insurance and financing options to safeguard your assets:

  • Heffernan Insurance Brokers offers a limited pollution endorsement to their general liability policies by their two lead insurers.
  • Insurance plans from LaPorte & Associates are available for the entire waste and environmental industry.
  • SeptiCover will work with independent insurance agents to offer comprehensive insurance coverage including automobile, general liability, pollution, property, crime, inland marine, umbrella, and errors and omissions coverage.
  • Oakmont Capital Services provides a variety of commercial financing products to clients in all 50 U.S. states and Canada. 

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