Digital services dominate the property market. Customers browse available business premises online and expect the process to move quickly from first contact to signing the lease. This makes it more important than ever that property owners provide property agents with up-to-date information on vacant business premises.

When the agent gets in contact with the customer, it is crucial that the agent is already thoroughly familiar with the business premises. The agent must know the current condition of the premises, how much time it will take for the property owner to get the premises into the condition required by the tenant, and what kind of lease the tenant expects to sign.

“Comprehensive familiarity with available premises cannot be replaced by having them effectively displayed online. For this reason, we regularly visit premises even without customers,” says Ilkka Kujanpää, CEO of DTZ Finland, and partners Hanna Lamadon and Pekka Piironen.

In 2013, Sponda selected the company as property agent of the year. DTZ Finland has successfully ridden the crest of the digital wave. For example, it was the first property agent in Finland to have a website. Today, the company has a search engine to help businesses browse available premises, and this year DTZ also launched a real-time chat service on its website. Search engines are available from many property agents, but the chat service is only offered by a few. However, even the best online solutions cannot replace qualified human professionals.

Lamadon points out that not all business premises are even listed online. There is always a small number of prime properties that do not even show up online before they are taken. Customers do not necessarily realise that there are potential tenants practically lining up for certain premises. Property agents also have information on where premises are about to become vacant. They are also familiar with the owners’ strategies regarding their properties.

Kujanpää emphasises the importance of customer orientation. It is crucial to understand the customer’s needs. When the right premises become vacant, the agent can take the proactive step of offering it to the customer.

High demand for consulting services

Finland is seeing the emergence of the international trend of hiring a consultant to find premises for businesses. As most companies are not experts in matters involving leases and real estate, they look for professional assistance. According to Hanna Lamadon, in Sweden some 70 per cent of businesses use a consultant to find business premises.

“In normal rental arrangements, we clearly represent the lessor in lease negotiations. When a business hires us to find premises for it, we take a neutral position in relation to the client and act in the interests of the tenant. In such cases, we must discuss our role clearly with the property owner, as we can only sit on one side of the negotiating table at a time,” Piironen explains.

Lamadon says that today there is significant demand for business premises from overseas, particularly from American customers.

“We discuss their needs with them and find the right premises. We produce cost analyses on the value of their investment. We also provide relocation services for these types of customers.

Agility is the key to survival

During economically challenging times, it is essential for lessors to keep their existing tenants happy. If 12 per cent of premises are vacant, you must focus on those who occupy the other 88 per cent. The property agent takes responsibility for filling up the remaining 12 per cent.

According to the representatives of DTZ Finland, the weak economic prospects have not put a freeze on the business premises market.

“In central Helsinki, for example, rents have actually increased while they have declined elsewhere,” Kujanpää points out.

Piironen does not consider the demand situation worrying.

“It is true that the average size of the premises we find tenants for is smaller these days. However, we do not underestimate small premises and finding tenants for them. We strive to fulfil all customer needs with the same quality. Our agility has kept us successful throughout our history”.

DTZ Finland is a partner-owned property consultancy that operates under a franchising agreement with DTZ International. Leases signed with Sponda accounted for a substantial proportion of DTZ Finland’s annual lease volume last year.

Text: Marita Kokko