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Rent or Own? Eyecare Pros Chime in with Cases for Each

Owners have more autonomy in running their practice, but renters don’t pay for roof repairs.

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Rent or Own? Eyecare Pros Chime in with Cases for Each

DR. TEXAS L. SMITH bought a building in 1969.

He paid $12,000 for it.

His optometry practice, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, has been in that same Sacramento, CA, metro area location ever since.

That’s consistency for you! Staying power isn’t easily attained in any industry. Optometry is no exception.

In this month’s Brain Squad survey, we asked our members if they rent or own the building their practice is in. We also asked them to elaborate on their respective situations. That’s how we learned about Dr. Smith’s setup.

“It was the best investment I’ve ever made,” says Dr. Smith.

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No doubt.

We make a big deal of the new and the flashy. And for good reason. Did you see the winners of the latest America’s Finest Optical Retailers competition? Those are some drool-worthy spaces. Seriously, that winner from Fort Worth looks more like an art gallery than an optometry business. And the second place out of Oklahoma City literally is part art gallery!

Dr. Smith’s practice may not be an America’s Finest but his building is a landmark of function more than form, nestled along what seems a typical American suburban retail corridor. And there is certainly room in this industry for the tried-and-true. And that earns Dr. Smith a special tip of the cap this week. The same goes for all the other practices out there like his.

Now, if we could all just go out and buy a nice building for $12,000…

Survey update

Want to share your real estate stories? The August Brain Squad survey is live. Fill it out if you have yet to do so. And, hey, here’s a handy link!

So far, it’s been a fairly even split between responses to the rent or own question, with a slight edge in numbers going to the renters. However, owners have been much more inclined to comment on their circumstances.

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Let’s dive into what our Brain Squad friends have had to say:

Love to Own

  • “The best benefit so far is if the business wishes to do something, we can proceed without going around multiple people for an answer.” – Colby Spivey, Vision Center South, Dothan, AL
  • “No rent saves me thousands of dollars monthly. When we had to close for three months in 2020 due to COVID concerns, I wasn’t concerned about rent.” – Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA
  • “To be able to have full control of your business from the parking lot to landscaping, interior design and medical setup, building our own space was important. It also allowed us to set the bar for new buildings in our city and elevate expectations for small business owners across the town.” – A. Blake Hutto, OD, Family Vision Care, Alma, GA

“It is a sound financial move! Great investment. No ‘landlord’ issues!”

Mark Perry, OD, Vision Health Institute, Orlando, FL

  • “Our doctor owns the building that houses (ours and) two other businesses. She did that for many reasons, but one was so that when we were ready to expand, we would not have to move again.” – Ann-Marie Weaver, Optimal Eye Care, Lewis Center, OH
  • “The previous doctor owned the building so it was an easy choice to make. The mortgage is super low and other than the fact it is old (like over a 100 years old) and that comes with repairs, the price is right.” – Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates, Girard, PA
  • “(We) never worry about rent payment.” – Jeff Rabbitt, Rabbitt Family Vision Center, North Sioux City, SD
  • “Why pay rent when you can own? I can do what I want with the space without asking someone else’s permission. Plus, when I have had enough, the rental income will be good retirement money.” – Annette Prevaux, The Visionary Inc., Allen Park, MI
  • “We bought as soon as we could. Now we get to own anything we remodel! Otherwise, it’s far too tempting to let things degrade to the dingy point.” – Jen Heller, Pend Oreille Vision Care, Sandpoint, ID
  • “It made more sense to invest in a building than it did to rent. Renovations for an optical shop are unique and it didn’t seem smart to make those adjustments in someone else’s building. We also have an AirBNB above our shop that helps pay for improvements to the building.” – Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

RELATED: How They Got Here: ECPs Share Their Origin Stories

  • “The decision to build and own was made to accommodate growth and to provide a financial investment in property and the building that was constructed.” – Melanie Jenkins, Spring Hill Eyecare, Spring Hill, TN
  • “We outgrew our last location, which we also owned, and had the opportunity to double our space by purchasing a bank across the street. The advantage was that we were able to have the entire staff take part in the design and build out of each area.” – John Bruening, Geauga Vision Group, Middlefield, OH
  • “When they retire, they can lease out the building or have another doctor come in to practice.” – Emily Choate, F.Y. Eye Care Associates, Charlotte, NC
  • In 2001, I bought the land, did the plans and built an office that accommodates my needs to be the best I can be. As a solo practitioner, I enjoy three exam rooms, a pretesting room, a diagnostics room, a contact lens teaching area, a good size optical and plenty of staff room. It’s my second home and the value has increased over the years.” – Robert Easton, Jr. OD, FAAO, Easton Eyecare, Oakland Park, FL

Love to Rent

  • “It would be difficult to own in many major cities in an area with prime real estate. We are at the base of a 21-story building with our glass storefront wrapping around a prime corner. The location is slightly more than an office complex but the difference in cost more than pays for itself in advertising.” – Jason Klepfisz, OD, Urban Eye Care, Phoenix, AZ
  • “Leasing creates challenges that ownership would certainly eliminate like those pesky CAM charge overages that seem to pop up at the end of the year in the thousands. However, I don’t think that anyone should enter into large real estate purchases without seriously thinking through the responsibilities involved.” – Nikki Griffin, EyeStyles Optical and Boutique, Oakdale, MN
  • “It would be nice to own the building and not deal with the lease. It’s also nice (that) when the roof leaked this year, I didn’t have to pay to fix it. Or maintain the parking lot. Or the landscaping.” – Cynthia Sayers, OD, EyeShop Optical Center, Lewis Center, OH
  • “No maintenance.” – Richard Frankel, OD, Atlantic Cape Eyecare, Wildwood, NJ
  • “The place we rent is a great location.” – Pablo E. Mercado, Highlands Eye Boutique, Alpharetta, GA
  • “I’ve only been in business for a year, so it made sense to lease and test the waters. I’d like to say that leasing eliminates maintenance issues, but my landlord isn’t very responsive. So we end up fixing most everything.” – Kyla Skinner, Specs by Kyla, Atascadero, CA
  • “We have a great relationship with our current landlord and a fair lease.” – Jordan Flitter, Paris West Optical, Baltimore, MD

RELATED: Rising Inflation Costs Squeezing Eyecare Industry

Let It All Out

  • “I would like to own. I just never found the right opportunity. I blame myself!!” – Douglas Holle, OD, Sunset Eye Care, San Angelo, TX
  • “Our doctor sold his half of the building a couple years ago. It seems to have worked out okay for him, but it’s hard to get things fixed or taken care of now that we have to go through the owner of the building. We can’t even get him to hire a cleaning person for the building.” – Judy Scheuerell, Fox Valley Family Eye Care, Little Chute, WI
  • “Everything is good about owning your own property unless you find out that you have been paying sewer for 20 years (even though) you are on a septic system and then have to pay 12 grand to hook up to township sewer when your septic becomes crappy and then the township only credits you for five years of payments.” – Marc Ullman, OD, Academy Vision, Pine Beach, NJ

We encourage all current Brain Squad community members to keep up with those survey responses. We are so very thankful to our dedicated core. We couldn’t provide this information without you. But we greedily – and unapologetically – want to hear from more voices.

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What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. eyecare business serving the public, you’re invited to join the INVISION Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free T-shirt, be featured prominently in our magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting eyecare professionals. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

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