Timeline For Relocating A Practice
While every move is different, you can take some general steps to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Here is a basic timeline of the process of a smooth healthcare practice relocation:
12-18 Months Before The Move
If you are meticulous and have the luxury of time, start by surveying your current facility and listing everything you love and hate about it. For instance, you love the patient flow but loathe the lack of storage. Or, due to the nature of your practice, you need a more customized facility to meet your specific needs.
Be sure to speak with your staff about the potential move. Getting input and feedback from your staff members early on in the process is essential. After all, they, too, will be working in the new facility every day, so their constructive feedback is invaluable.
With a crystal clear idea of what you are looking for, that’s when it’s time to find a real estate agent to help you with your search. Having this information allows the agent to search for prospective properties that closely match or meet the criteria on your wish list, and not waste your time touring properties that are not a fit.
9-12 Months Before The Move
During this timeframe, you should thoroughly vet all the options in your market whether they’re for lease or for sale.
Your initial pass through the market could cover as little as two or three properties, or you could see as many as 10-12 viable options. The key is to see everything on your initial tour so that you leave no stone unturned, and you educate yourself on the market. You’re trying to narrow down your list, so you’ll only need 10-15 minutes at each location.
Once you’ve narrowed your search, you’ll want to schedule follow-up visits on your 2-3 top options. This is usually when you’ll bring your architect or contractor through. Some key things to look for during follow-up walkthroughs include:
- Proximity to your current patient base
- Accessibility and parking
- The condition of the property
- Zoning regulations
- The size and layout of the space
After completing your due diligence and visiting each location, it’s time to get some numbers.
6-9 Months Before The Move
This is where you’ll gather offers on all of your top choices, and negotiate the lease of your top choice. You’ll typically go through 3-4 rounds of negotiating a lease offer before you get to the point where the landlords have made their best and final offers. It’s prudent to get 2-3 offers as it does three important things.
- It gets the landlords competing for your business.
- It gives you a plan A, B, and C should any of your top choices fall through.
- It thoroughly educates you on the market so when it’s time to pull the trigger you’re able to do so confidently
While you’re negotiating offers, you may need to have a contractor or architect provide some budgetary construction numbers to help determine the cost difference between the different options. Keep in mind these will not be hard numbers as you won’t have actual construction plans. The intent is to help compare your options so you can narrow down to your top choice.
Once you have agreed upon an offer with your top choice, the landlord will send you an initial draft of the lease. Landlord leases typically benefit the landlord, so you’ll want to have an attorney review the lease and make sure there are no egregious terms in the lease that could hurt you down the road.
1-6 Months Before The Move
The last 6 months before your move, you’ll focus on finalizing your design, construction documents, permitting, and construction.
Some of the design work will have been done while you finalized your lease, but there still may be a few weeks of fine tuning left. Once the design is complete your architect will start on the Construction Documents (CD’s). This process could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks. The CD’s are what the contractors need to price out construction and submit for permits.
Once your CD’s are completed your contractor will submit for permits. The permitting process could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks depending on the municipality
Once the permits are in hand your contractor’s will be ready for construction. Depending on the availability of materials, access to labor, and the scope of your project construction can take anywhere from 2-3 months on the short end to 4-6 months on the long end.
Ways to Streamline the Process
Set aside time to work on your real estate. – It typically takes 2-4 hours to get through an entire market. Setting aside time to see everything at once allows you to quickly eliminate options and focus on your top choices while they’re fresh in your mind.
Tackle the lease and design work at the same time. – It could take as long as a month to negotiate a lease and another month to finalize your designs. While you’re working on the lease, you should be finalizing your design in parallel. It will likely cost money for your architect to start on this, so you may want to wait until your attorney’s initial review of the lease. If nothing looks too egregious you can pay your architect to get started on this work.
Consider going the design build route. – Design build, means involving a contractor in the design process to price out construction as your design moves along, rather than designing a space and then having multiple contractors bid on the project. It will require committing to one contractor upfront, but can save you weeks to even months of time by not over designing your office, only to realize after the bids come in weeks later that it’s more than you can afford.
Leverage the landlord if possible. – This will depend entirely on the scope of your project and the expertise of the landlord. If your project does not require a lot of specialized work and the landlord is experienced enough to handle your construction you could save a lot of time and money by having the landlord handle your project. The benefit is most landlords have economies of scale that a healthcare practice won’t and can complete the design and construction work for less. The trade off is you’ll sacrifice control of your project as once you sign the lease, you can’t fire the landlord if you don’t like their work.
Each project is different, but it’s always best to have time on your side. Consulting with a real estate agent, architect, and contractor early on in the process will ensure that you leave yourself enough time to do your due diligence and get the best deal for your practice, all while hitting your targeted timeline.
Stefan Zelich, President/Founder
FOCUS Healthcare Realty