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Ways to find the perfect property to start an escape room business

Ways to find the perfect property to start an escape room business

Deciding to take the plunge and create your own escape room is an exciting time. Plans and possibilities for your room will be running through your head but before you can finalise them you need one crucial piece of your own puzzle – a venue. We decided to make finding the perfect property for your escape room business easier by writing this guide.

Finding your location

Before finding the perfect building you have to decide where you want your escape room business to be. That could be through market research to see if there is an appetite for an escape room in a likely area, or whether somewhere is ‘buzzing’ and perfect for your idea. It’s also important to consider how many other escape rooms there are in the vicinity

Too many neighbouring escape rooms could lead to a point of oversaturation, where finding customers will become super competitive or the locals are apathetic to ‘yet another’ room opening up. For instance, Manchester has over 50 escape rooms so finding a gap in that market could prove difficult.

Consider whether you wish to start your escape room in a city or whether somewhere rural would be a better choice. You may find larger properties further outside of urban areas but this must be balanced with the availability of potential customers. If you’re not in a city, what about your escape room is going to drive your customers to you?

Survey the local area

Survey the local area

Another essential consideration is to avoid establishing your escape room in a residential area. Many councils will need convincing that an entertainment service in a residential area will provide any value to those living there. Or, they may simply oppose the idea altogether.

When you are looking for locations it’s also worth figuring out what amenities are close by. You may be able to create package deals with these venues for customers to enjoy multiple activities and make a day of things. For instance, teaming up with nearby cinemas, restaurants and shopping facilities can bring more customers to your door.

Even if you don’t team up with any amenities, their proximity to your escape room will increase passing traffic and interest from passersby. Where the nearest parking is to your venue is another important aspect to ponder over. Ideally, some customer parking will be made available for those who are coming from further afield.

The scale of the property

Once you have settled on a location for your business, the next important step is finding the perfect building. The first thing about a building you will have to decide is the scale. Are you planning on hosting just one escape room or would you like multiple rooms? Perhaps to accommodate various themes or secret unlockable areas.

It’s not just the number of rooms that you need to consider but also how many players you want in a given space at a time. Do you want your room to have a maximum capacity of six people for a more intimate challenge or are you open to larger groups?

Other space issues include:

  • Room for a lobby
  • Toilet facilities
  • Control room
  • Wheelchair access

All of the above are essential for the smooth running of your escape room and must be accounted for when looking for a location. When looking for your property, bear the future in mind.

If your escape room proves to be a hit, will you have enough space to expand and add further rooms? Splitting your escape room business across multiple sites may be something worth considering from the beginning if no large venues present themselves.

Commercial property surveys

Commercial property surveys for escape rooms

The process of finding the perfect escape room property goes beyond location and building. You must also consider the quality of the building you choose. For this, it’s best to consider a property survey through a recognised surveyor.

“Property surveys can actually save you money”, says chartered surveyors Peter Barry. “If problems are highlighted that you could not have been aware of when your offer was agreed, you should be able to re-negotiate the sale price to reflect the cost of necessary repairs”.

Their expertise in commercial property surveys will underline any problems or potential problems there are with the building. This can range from highlighting any necessary repairs, the building’s suitability for commercial activity and any structural problems.

Hiring a legal professional to take a closer look at the fine print of any lease agreement will also highlight what you can and cannot do inside the building. Given that your escape room will require assembly, and many alterations to keep things fresh, you must understand what you’re allowed to do inside the building.

Not all leases allow you to make internal, non-structural changes but it’s something worth fighting for. Without this agreement in place, you are going to find it incredibly difficult to upgrade and improve upon your experience.

Renting your premises

Something worth thinking about is the type of lease you want. If renting, the fees change based on a property’s prestige and earning potential. For instance, malls and shopping districts typically charge more rent than units found further away from the main hub.

There are also negotiations to consider with landlords when opting to rent a space for an escape room. One of the main concerns will be the length of your lease agreement, which is typically between three and five years.

Negotiations with landlords aren’t always easy so it’s worth considering a property professional to handle these negotiations. With more restrictions typically in place for rental properties, sometimes it can make life easier to buy the property you need.

Buying your commercial property

Buying your commercial property for an Escape Room

If you own the property then, other than local planning permission, there are fewer obstacles to consider. If you think buying is your best option then it’s important to consider the market and the timing of your purchase. It’s best to find a time to buy when market prices are low, so keeping abreast of local and national commercial market trends is essential.

Just like renting, it’s important to consider what, if any alterations you may be able to make to this property. Most of the time you can make interior alterations without the need for planning permission as long as no structural work is required. However, this isn’t always the case and it’s better to check beforehand rather than being stuck with a property you can’t do anything with.

Running costs and rent: is your business financially viable?

Ultimately, your new escape room business needs to make money. The final major consideration for finding the right property for your escape room is to compare the running costs and rent with your potential earnings.

Typical costs you can expect to pay for your escape room business include:

  • Rent
  • Business rates
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Staff costs
  • Maintenance
  • Marketing
  • Building and renovations

Naturally, finding out as many of these costs as possible before entering any long-term agreement is wise. Knowing your outgoings, especially those related to your building, will go a long way to the success of your escape room business.