Category: Commercial

Land and Property Professionals

We sell, rent, manage, survey, plan and advise...what can we do for you?

Bedford: 01234 351000 (Sales, lettings and viewing enquiries)
01234 352201 (Professional services and general enquiries)
Buckingham: 01280 428010

2023 saw the commercial market witness a period of stagnation due to a significant uplift in interest rates and inflation. The office and retail sector were most affected.

It is thought that interest rates have now peaked, and there are obvious signs that the rate of inflation is falling as we enter the second quarter of 2024. This in turn has had an impact on the commercial market. We have witnessed an uplift in office enquiries with more businesses demanding a more consistent office attendance, rather than home working.

The retail sector is still experiencing challenging market conditions, with short-term lettings being favoured by tenants, who want the comfort of knowing that if trading does not go as hoped, they are not committed to long-term contracts.

The industrial and warehouse market is still seeing a proficient level of demand. Pre-pandemic, High Street retailers were the dominant occupier of warehouse space. Now, the largest increase in occupation is by online retailers, who have increased their footprint from 8 million sq ft to 69 million sq ft nationally, a rise of 813%.

The supply of new units is very limited, and the development pipeline will remain restricted, given the constraints on construction and labour costs. This is beneficial for the owners of any existing high-quality buildings.

Competition amongst occupiers for existing and new build commercial units has helped maintain upward pressure on rental values. There are expectations of a further rental growth in the year ahead, as reported in the RICS UK Commercial Property Survey.

For more information or to find out how our Commercial department can help you, please contact Milena.

The recent Government announcements regarding changes to the requirements for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) only covered domestic properties, therefore if you are a commercial landlord, the rules have not changed. In this article, I provide a brief recap on the legislation and what commercial property owners should still be aware of.

Since April this year, it has been unlawful to receive rent for a property with an EPC rating of F or G. There are financial penalties for landlords not complying with the legislation, therefore it is critical you carry out a review of your property portfolio to ensure all your properties meet or exceed the minimum EPC rating of E.

Whilst the Government is stalling on providing greater clarity of future legislation requirements, we know many financial institutions are already restricting lending for any poorly rated EPC properties in a landlord’s portfolio. This is not only for new lending but also placing greater emphasis on only energy efficient properties when refinancing existing loans.

With more and more focus on energy efficiency and achieving minimum EPC ratings, now is the time for property owners to plan sensible improvements to ensure they don’t get left behind.

Property leases are already changing to reflect more efficient buildings, and the cost of energy is still very high. Tenants are therefore paying more attention to EPC ratings with inefficient buildings often struggling to let.

We know that both the requirements for EPCs and the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards legislation is very challenging and confusing to some landlords and therefore it is critical you obtain the correct advice.

Please contact us to ensure you plan ahead, to review how energy efficient your buildings currently are and to agree how best to ensure the minimum grades can be achieved. We can’t always predict future legislative changes, however we can help to ensure your buildings meet the minimum standards, not only for now but also futureproofing for years to come. This will ensure your buildings continue to be attractive to tenants and maintain your rental income.

If you require help on how to review your commercial EPC and the changes you need to make so you don’t get caught out, then please give me a call.

Diversification of rural buildings can involve a change to a huge variety of uses and can be rewarding for land owners, seeing disused buildings put to a new use and creating a new income stream.

Due to an increase in online shopping over the years, the storage and distribution market remains the most robust in the commercial property sector and has seen an increase in demand in 2023. Where we have buildings to let for storage in rural areas, we are seeing continued demand and increases to rents received. There is also demand for workshops and, despite struggling in recent years, there is some demand in rural offices.

At Robinson & Hall, we can advise on the letting of a property from start to finish. Our commercial team often works with our building surveyors and planners to advise clients on improvements they can make to a property prior to letting to ensure all regulations are met. We can then market the property and ensure that the best rent is achieved from a suitable tenant. Our commercial team manage numerous properties on behalf of landlords and our building surveyors can advise on any dilapidations etc at the end of the lease term.

Prior to letting a property it is important to consider the type of tenant you are looking for. You can then give thought to whether improvements are needed to the property to attract that type of tenant. For example, do they need:

Thought also needs to be given to how the site will be used and whether that will affect neighbouring properties. Factors to consider are:

Once a suitable tenant has been found, we progress to agreeing heads of terms. As well as the items already mentioned, at this stage we also agree the following with the tenant:

At the end of a lease, our building surveyors are often asked to act for either landlords or tenant to prepare or respond to schedules of dilapidations. Recently, a long-established hairdresser on Bedford’s High Street decided not to renew their lease and, having been served a Schedule of Dilapidations by their landlord, turned to our Building Surveying department for advice. Following examination of the schedule, we were able to identify items of the claim that were outside the scope of the repairing covenants of the lease. Eventually a settlement was reached with the landlord’s surveyor at 45% of the original claim.

To find out more about the commercial services we offer, please contact Milena or Stuart.

Milena Horrocks

Milena Horrocks joined Robinson & Hall in April 2023 and was appointed as Commercial Property Manager taking responsibility for commercial agency and property management.

With 13 years of experience, Milena brings a wealth of knowledge in residential and luxury properties having been Head of Operations and Property Management at Madley Property, a boutique estate agency in London. The client-side experience has given Milena the best possible grounding and insight for a career in property management and has tailored the professional services that she provides to our valued clients.

Since joining our highly experienced team, headed by David Watling, our Commercial department has taken over the estate management of two well-established blocks of office/industrial properties in St Neots and Sandy, broadening our management portfolio. Currently we manage a variety of commercial properties including retail, office, and industrial premises as well as mixed use buildings throughout the region.

There is always a strong demand for a responsive and efficient property management department, particularly at a time when the market is experiencing significant disruption across all sectors. Here at Robinson & Hall we aim to build relationships that last and develop long-term partnerships with our clients. Our clients are at the heart of everything we do. They appreciate that they have a dedicated Property Manager who provides the best professional service in a truly bespoke and tailored manner.

Robinson & Hall’s Commercial Property Services offer:

If you need a professional property management service, please get in touch with David Watling, Head of Commercial Property, on 01234 362934 or Milena Horrocks, Commercial Property Manager, on 01234 362939.

Robinson & Hall’s agency teams have in-depth knowledge of a range of property markets across the region.

The sector which has been most active for our teams this year has been the sale of residential development land. Our offices lie in the middle of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc which is a focus for new housebuilding. With easy commuting into London and good transport links to the remainder of the country and internationally, our region is an obvious area for the release of land for housing developments.

Of course, the competition to receive a coveted planning consent is fierce and nothing is won easily. Often sites have to be promoted for years or even decades before a success can be achieved and many will never make it despite the efforts and money which have been sunk into the project. It is a risky business and the development world is inhabited by every variety of shark. It is our job to steer our clients through this dangerous and ever-changing maze.

For more information please contact David Jones.

With recent rising energy costs and global insecurity brought into sharp focus by the war in Ukraine, it is time to take stock of your property assets.

Two issues should be to the forefront of consideration:

For landlords, if you have let your property to a tenant on a long lease with the tenant solely responsible for repairs, it is easy to become complacent. However, there is an ongoing trend of Government tightening legislation as it seeks to meet climate change targets, thermal performance and efficient use of energy.

The Government White Paper for Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) sets out the need for commercial rented buildings to meet a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C from 2028, with an EPC rating of B from 2030. It is estimated that in Bedfordshire alone, 55% of the commercial buildings have an EPC worse than C.

If a property is not maintained and improved on a continual basis and meets tenant/buyer expectations, it can quickly become unlettable and unfit for purpose. Poor maintenance can also result in users of the building having day-to-day activities disrupted and lead to a spiral of lack of care, resulting in an unattractive property.

Recently we have been commissioned by a local property owner of two town centre offices to advise on management issues as follows:

Following a review of the EPCs and obtaining advice on potential improvements by a specialist consultant, we are now drawing up proposals of how to achieve an acceptable rating with a target of EPC rating of at least C and possibly B to future proof.

Various parts of the building were found to be suffering from decay and deterioration resulting in tenant dissatisfaction. Opportunities are being taken to replace windows with thermally efficient versions, while still maintaining the character of the building.

We are also consultants to several local churches to advise on their ongoing repairs and refurbishments. Recently, we have carried out a quinquennial review of properties belonging to Three Rivers Church in Bedford. Various repairs and improvements have been carried out to their three properties during 2021, with cyclical redecoration planned for 2022. Spurred on by the Mayor’s Climate Change fund initiative, the trustees are now looking at ways to reduce their energy bills. Following obtaining an EPC as preliminary guidance, we are now advising on options to carry out improvements to lighting, heating and insulating the building fabric.

Do you have a commercial property that needs to be looked at? Please contact Stuart Brown to find out how we can help you.

If you have a commercial property that you let but are considering property management, then please contact Tessa Smith.

The industrial and storage market has seen the largest growth in property rents and has remained the most robust of the commercial property sectors. Over recent years, there has been a growth in online sales following the onset of coronavirus and both retailers and distributors are requiring an increased amount of storage space to facilitate these requirements.

Are my farm buildings suitable?

When considering whether commercial industrial property diversification is an option for you, there are a number of matters you should take into consideration, which include:-

  1. Access hours
  2. Additional security
  3. Lease agreements
  4. Deposits
  5. Planning permission and building regulations
  6. Legal requirements
  7. Property management
  8. The tenant’s usage
  9. Additional insurance requirements
  10. Required adaptations to the existing farming method and business
  11. Health and safety requirements

The benefits compared to other diversification options:

When considering whether your farm buildings are suitable, you could also consider storage containers. These have also increased in demand and may be a smaller initial step into the commercial market.  

For more information or to discuss your farm buildings and their suitability, please contact Tessa.

There are a wide range of benefits when using a commercial property agent, such as Robinson & Hall, to assist you with the disposal of a property, by lease or sale, or when acquiring a property, either as a purchaser or a tenant. We have detailed a number of these key advantages below.

Selling/letting your property

We offer a no obligation market appraisal where we will visit the property and then provide advice to you on the best methods of marketing the property, timing and the potential sale price or rent.

Once you have decided to sell/let your property we will advise on what pre-marketing works need to be completed to maximise the value and how to set a property up for marketing, We will assist with taking photos of the property to present it in the best light and prepare a professional and detailed set of marketing particulars. All of this helps to ensure you get the best out of your sale/letting.

These include advice on:

Our properties are marketed on a variety of online property portals which increases the property’s exposure to interested parties.

We send properties to suitable applicants on our database. Sometimes this means we can find a buyer/tenant prior to launching the property to the open market.

We carry out reference checks on all tenants to ensure their financial position will enable them to cover the rent.

Property Searches

As well as assisting in the sale or letting of commercial properties we also regularly carry out property searches for those looking to purchase or rent a property. The benefit of using an agent in these instances are as follows:

Key benefits for both parties

For more information or to find out how our Commercial Property Services department can help you please contact Tessa Smith.

Do you have redundant farm buildings that your machinery no longer fits into or are surplus to requirements?

Have you considered a change of use to diversify the building into a commercial unit?

Commercial property comes in a variety of forms including offices, retail, industrial and storage units to name a few. It is worth considering what alterations and services are needed in respect of each of the uses and the impact that this will have on your existing farm.

Additional income
By adding a commercial enterprise to your business, you bring in an additional income stream that will help spread risk.

Possible investment required
When thinking about the type of diversification, you also need to consider the amount of investment needed. Each type of commercial property requires different levels of conversion.

Retaining the asset
When considering commercial diversification compared to residential use, the lower cost of conversion often means you can retain the premises and rent them out so you retain control and produce an income.

Use class order change
In September 2020, there were amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. If considering diversification, it would be beneficial to review these changes and to check which use class would be required. Please see our planning article here.

Increased tenant demand in the industrial and storage sector
There has been a noticeable increase in demand from tenants looking for space from which to run their e-commerce business. This grew even further as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Larger, more urban developments are being occupied by national companies and this has resulted in smaller companies, who are desperately searching for space, considering relocating to rural locations.

New life to old buildings
Modern machinery can often be too large for older agricultural sheds and by converting these former agricultural properties to commercial use can give the buildings a new purpose, whilst producing an income.

The change of use also ensures that the property is maintained, preventing it from falling into a state of disrepair.

Things to consider
The possible impacts on your existing business

Current market

The area where we are seeing the largest growth is in industrial, storage and distribution. We have received good interest for all units marketed in these sectors in the last 12 months.

If you have a redundant farm building and would like to discuss the opportunity of turning it into commercial premises, please contact Tessa.