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Location is the new priority

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Businesses and their workforces are now looking for the right spots with added-value offerings

Location, location, location is a phrase long used in the residential property industry, and is becoming increasingly critical to the success of today’s businesses – not only for operational reasons, but also to attract the desired workforce.

Commercial property experts say location is now key when developing or acquiring corporate premises, with strong business nodes increasingly defined by added-value offerings.

Lifestyle factors such as shops, schools, gyms and other conveniences are also in play.

Broll Property Group’s Frank Reardon says the “insatiable demand” for sectional title office and industrial units in key nodes across the country is “hard to explain”, and many of these successful sectional title schemes are in locations “meticulously selected by astute developers”.

“They are located in places that investors and end-users find extremely desirable for their businesses.”

What is classified desirable is dictated by the type of business.

In Durban, the nodes with the best amenities are mixed-use with retail.

The fewest amenities are found in the decentralised “office estates”, where tenants often have to get in their cars to access them. The Durban CBD remains the office node with the best public transport, Reardon says.

Reasons or motivations for companies to relocate have “certainly changed over the years”, says Gavin Klarmann, national broker manager at Cushman & Wakefield Excellerate.

“In years gone by, brokers (half) jokingly asked, ‘Where does the boss live?’ and then offered properties close to that residence.”

Access to major transport routes is an important consideration when deciding on business premises. Picture: Supplied

However, in the modern business era, the decision-making process has become more sophisticated and complex with a plethora of factors that an organisation must take into account. If not, Klarmann says they could face “the wrath of employees, shareholders, or customers, or all of them combined”.

“As a starting point, many organisations now query whether they should relocate or simply renew on aggressive terms. If, after careful consideration, the organisation decides they must definitely move, then many factors will arise.”

Lifestyle and convenience factors will feature in the decision-making process, Klarmann says.

“Proximity to shops, hotels, schools, crèches, gyms and restaurants will influence the decision to some degree.

“It is not uncommon these days for office buildings to even have some convenience retail inside the building, thus avoiding, or minimising, the need for personnel to venture out into traffic to eat or get some shopping done.”

JT Ross’s Craig Woods says the company aims to build communities within a park where tenant mix is key.

“For example, our big parks have accountants, marketing companies, coffee, an insurance company, hairdressers and gyms, which add overall benefit to everyone.”

Woods says commercial nodes that offer much of this include Westway Office Park, Lion Match Office Park, and La Lucia Ridge Office Estate, while industrial nodes include Riverhorse Valley and the Jacobs/Mobeni area.

Although salary, future prospects in a company and other HR-related aspects are key to employees considering job offers, Woods says the amenities companies offer can make employees’ lives easier.

Of these location-added benefits, safety and the amount of travel time are the two main items employees look at, says Yianni Pavlou, company principal of Portfolio Property Investments.

“The closer and safer the location, the more relevance it has for an employee in deciding where to work. If the location ticks these boxes and is located in an upcoming new node, then even better. For parents, proximity to schools is also a major factor.”

Pavlou says the value of an employee’s time must never be discounted.

“Spending hours in traffic is valuable time you could be spending with family, on yourself, earning money or just relaxing. I commuted for four to five hours a day in the UK for three years, and realised the value of time then,” he says.

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