29 September 2016 - Dave Jackson

The trouble that is finding Dublin office space

Over the last 3 years, we have had the luxury of working from an amazing studio space on the north side of Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge. The time has come for us to move onwards and upwards to a bigger studio so we recently made the decision to start looking for a new Dublin office space we can grow into.

We work in what used to be an old mill, its an open space full of character, atmosphere and history. This plays a huge part in encouraging creativity and collaboration for both us and our clients. Its a place people love coming to visit, we love working here and have had a lot of fun doing great work in this studio. If you have seen our Friday People video you will get a sense of our studio and what a special place it is. We’ve been spoiled to date and we realise we may have to compromise but we didn’t realise to what extent.

Starting out

With a positive spring in our step, we took on the exciting job of finding a new Dublin office space. We put the word out, contacted dozens of estate agents and hit the usual suspects online hoping to get together a shortlist of places we could view and fall in love with, who wouldn’t want to be our landlord?

We’re not a big agency, our needs are basic enough and we would probably prefer to style a space ourselves then get our hands on a turnkey office with beige walls, suspended ceilings and blue carpets. What we are looking for is a space around 800–1,200 ft sq to put our stamp on and create a new home for ourselves.

The reality

To our horror, we quickly found out that Dublin City has almost zero to offer in terms of office space for small businesses. There is literally almost nothing available. Even if you wanted beige walls, suspended ceilings and blue carpets. Over the last few weeks we have been patiently awaiting Daft.ie email alerts that fit our wide criteria to arrive but our inboxes remain empty. The few places we have viewed are either overpriced or unsuitable.

Serviced offices and co-working spaces

We have looked at a number of serviced offices but what they see as a 6–8 person office most would consider a 3–4 person office. Some of them are really beautiful but the small spaces and build up of overpriced extra charges make them extraordinarily expensive. In one serviced office I was quoted €10,000 a year for 24 MB broadband. Currently, we get 10 times that speed for 10% of the price!

We also looked at co-working spaces and there are some great options out there based around open plan hot-desks like Dog Patch Labs, Do Space and Digital Depot but most of these would only be temporary solutions, we really need our own space to move around in without annoying others.

Top 10 Tips

We have learned many valuable lessons in the process so I decided to share the love and put together my top 10 tips for anyone looking for Dublin office space under 200 m sq in and around Dublin City. Anyone reading this before they set out to look for a space owes me a drink!

  1. Give yourself as much time as possible, weeks turn into months quickly. Be proactive, tell everyone regardless of whether you think they might know a space or not, you never know.
  2. Don’t expect all estate agents to call you back when you leave a message. Unfortunately, they don’t need you as much as you need them. You need to chase.
  3. The commercial property industry is not as transparent as I would like. You will be expected to ask questions, nobody will offer all the information you need. You have to work for it and know what to ask or you may get nasty surprises.
  4. Few mention prices in online ads and if they do you need to get your calculator out to get a final figure. Everyone prices real estate differently, there is no standard and you have to learn to ask the right questions. Or you may get a nasty surprise of extra charges you forgot to ask about. When rent is quoted it can be a mix of per week, per month per year or per sq foot. There are no standards.
  5. In online ads, save time by learning how to spot the difference between serviced offices and lease based offices. Serviced offices in Dublin are run by a handful of companies that show up again and again. Unfortunately, Daft.ie do not separate them from the leased based offices.
  6. You’ll find many spaces listed online have already been let. Estate agents are slow to remove old listings.
  7. Not all agents have gone metric, its a confusing mix of square meters and square feet.
  8. Ask about heating. Is there heating? What type of heating? Avoid storage heating or it will hurt your wallet.
  9. If you have a company, don’t personally guarantee the lease. If another recession came along and your business went to the wall you would be personally responsible for paying the rent for the remainder of the lease, you don’t want that.
  10. Learn how to calculate the final price. In most cases, you will be given a rental figure based per sq ft per year. So you take this and multiply it by the total area to get the annual rent. Hang on, service charges may also be quoted per ft sq so that needs to be added on. Not there yet, you will also need to add on council rates which is also calculated per ft sq so ask what the rates were last year. Now see if you need to add insurance and any other extras and you should have your final figure. An example would be a 1,100 sq ft office could be quoted at around €35,000. But with rates and extras it added another €10,000. Bringing the total up to €45,000 per year before you get any bills.

I know we‘ll find something eventually but we are preparing ourselves to make huge compromises. Maybe we’ll get lucky like we did 3 years ago when we started out. But the way things are looking I wouldn’t advise anyone to set up a small business in Dublin if you need to be in and around the city centre, unless you already have a premises ready to go.

The wider problem

This has gotten me thinking about the wider problem for Dublin, how can new SME’s do business here? How can the economy grow? SMEs account for 99.7 per cent of all active businesses in Ireland. Significantly, over 90 per cent of these SMEs were classified as “micro-enterprises” with less than 10 employees. The government need to start thinking about where are all the so-called children of the Brexit going to work when they move their businesses to Dublin. Apparently, there is a similar problem with larger scale commercial property? And lets not forget the shortage of residential accommodation.

Leave a comment below if you have anything to add or want to share your experiences.