COUNTRYWIDE, the biggest name in the UK property services market, has made a move of its own by relocating a key administrative and customer contact operation to one of the most prestigious and best-established business parks in the East Midlands.
The UK’s largest estate agency did not have far to go when expansion meant it needed to find a new location for the operation – it has switched from an existing base in Mansfield to a 20,000 sq ft standalone building at the Sherwood Business Park close to Junction 27 of the M1 at Annesley.
Nor did Countrywide need many removals vans when it made the move. For the building it has taken over was left in plug-and-go condition by its previous occupant, Homeserve, with furniture, partitioning and data installations meaning the new occupier could get an important business function up and running very quickly.
Countrywide, which trades through leading high street estate agencies such as Bairstow Eves, has moved into Sherwood Court on Sherwood Park in what is one of the largest office lettings in the East Midlands in recent months. The deal was concluded by John Proctor, of the Nottingham property consultancy FHP.
Brad Pitts, Project Manager at Countrywide, explained: “The administration and contact centre is a crucial function within our business, and an expanding one. We carried out an exhaustive search of the options available for relocation and Sherwood Court was the obvious choice. It suits our purposes well because it is a detached building on its own site, which means we have full control of our operations and we are operating from a modern and flexible office environment.”
Countrywide has taken a 10-year lease on the L-shaped building, which has an atrium entrance area and flexible workspace ranged around a central corridor. John Proctor, who acted for property investment syndicate landlords, says that the presence of fixtures and fittings proved decisive in Countrywide’s decision to select it as their home.
He commented: “The landlords fully recognised the value of the fit out which had been left in situ by Homeserve, and the fact that we were able to offer the building in plug-and-go condition was a key factor in Countrywide’s decision to choose this location.
“Countrywide is a market-leading business which clearly required a certain quality standard, and the detached nature of the building and the flexibility of the internal space also played an important part in their decision. But the way in which the landlords worked with Homeserve to ensure the building was left with not just furniture but a working data and telecoms installation meant we were able to show potential occupiers a fully functional building able to accommodate an open plan layout.
“While it’s true that many potential occupiers will think of doing their own fit-out, the way in which Sherwood Court was maintained and marketed after Homeserve’s departure suggests there is potential added value in keeping existing fixtures and fittings in place. It could mean a move being made quickly and fit-out costs being reduced.”
Brad Pitts added: “It was certainly immensely helpful for us to be in a position where the lead time for a substantial move was reduced. The logistics of moving this kind of operation can be complex, and the availability of not just furniture but data and telecoms infrastructure meant we were able to reduce our costs and ‘switch on’ the operation quickly.”
Sherwood Park is one of the most prominent strategic business locations on the M1 corridor in the East Midlands, and John Proctor says opportunities like that presented by Sherwood Court are becoming rare.
“While the market remains difficult, FHP has seen an upturn in interest in good quality office space in recent months,” he said. “However, finding this office space is not easy as funding challenges and caution among potential occupiers means nothing new is currently being built.
“The result is that those businesses who are looking to move or expand are focusing on good quality existing stock. This is the pattern we have seen play out during 2012, with Browne Jacobson taking vacant HMRC space at Castle Meadow, the Nottingham Post Media Group going to City Gate, the land Registry taking their building at Castle Wharf and TDX taking space at The Pod on Fletcher Gate.”
John Proctor concluded: “It is still a tenant’s market, but the balance between supply and demand is beginning to shift in a way that looks likely to lead to a strengthening in rental deals and a hardening in the terms offered by landlords. If we now see some sort of upturn in the economy the the market will have to start thinking about a new build programme.”
For further information contact John Proctor at FHP on 0115 950 7577