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How to Pick the Right Location for Your Bail Bond Business


Location, location, location!

This age old real estate advice still holds true. Especially if your opening a small business. Depending on which industry your new venture will compete, having a great location can give you a leg up on your competition and greatly improve your chance of success.

Five years ago I completely up-rooted and sold my very successful Orlando, Florida bail bond business and moved to the west coast of Florida. My dream was to start a new bail bond business and live minutes from the beach. Location was a real concern for me. I had a few requirements, #1 - my business needed to be near the jail, and #2 I personally needed to live near the beach. Without compromising too much and having the best of both worlds I decided on Clearwater, Florida to live and set up my new bail office.

To get to this point of having the best of both worlds I had to go through a series of steps and thought processes. The first thing I did was to assess my business model. I asked myself the who, what, where, when and how questions. For instance, which location will serve the vast majority of my potential customers, and, how far am I willing to drive to work every day? Opening up a bail bond business will pose its own unique strategy for success. Local and state governments regulate bonding office locations and how they are run.

A typical landlord or real estate agent will most likely not be aware of such regulations. This is the part where you will need to do some homework to better understand the local rules so you don’t spin your wheels. Once you are aware of the regulations you can move to the next steps.

Let’s take a quick view of what you might expect in deciding on a good location. First you will need to check zoning and occupational licensing regulations in the City or County where you are looking to establish your business. I have seen many small cities (municipalities) refuse to allow a bail bond office to open in a specific spot. If you’re anxious to sign the lease prior to governmental approval, I would recommend adding a “subject to:” clause in the contract that allows you to void the lease if the county or city will not permit you to open a business in your desired location.

Some companies choose to have their office close to the jail. This provides a very short commute to deliver the bond paperwork. However, most jails are located in an industrial area and are far from any population centers. Other companies believe that the office location should be close to where their client base is located. This will allow a short drive and easy access for the customer to “walk in.” This philosophy is more of a personal one. Be convenient for the “walk in” customers or be near the jails for ease of job tasks, that’s for you to decide.

As of 2016, most counties in Florida still require a bond agent to personally hand deliver all appropriate paperwork to the jail for the release of an inmate. With the advent of electronic signatures, a bail bond agent in the future may be able to email the paperwork to the jail. If this ever happens, offices near a jail may be less than advantageous.

Another consideration is your visibility from the road. Do you have good signage? Can people easily pull into your parking lot across a 2, 3 or 4 lane highway? Are there any landmarks near your proposed new location that can benefit you when giving directions? The hardest part of my process is giving new clients directions to my office. I have found that most people are directionally challenged so best advice is to make your directions simple so your office is easy to find.

Other factors to help guide your location decision should be: What is the travel cost from home? How much space do you need? How much is the rent? Can you sub-lease the space with someone to lower your rental costs? How long of a lease should you sign to lock up the location? Is the new landlord easy to work with?

You may also consider looking at the long term growth of the area and the 5, 10 and 15-year county plans for road expansion. Is your desired location eventually going to have a proposed highway running through it? What is the population growth expectation for the area? Are there plans for building new jails or correctional facilities in the area?

To do it right and pick a prime location for your new business you really need to put your detective hat on and do some serious research. There is so much time and money spent in setting up a new business that it would be a real crime if you didn’t do the proper research from the beginning. Shutting down one business to start all over again because you didn’t do your homework would be both costly and exhausting and not to mention embarassing.

As I enter my sixth year in my Clearwater, Florida location I wish you the best of luck if you are considering re-locating or adding an additional business location. It takes careful planning, creativity and some patience to find just the right location with the hope that “if you build it, they will come!”

About the Author

Joe Von Waldner

Author, Joe Von Waldner is a second generation bail bondsmen. He was licensed a few months after turning 18 and has been an full time bail agent for 32 years. He has owned several bail agencies and managed dozens of agents throughout his career along with active participation in the multiple local bonding associations. His Clearwater, Florida bail bonds agency, 49th Street Bail Bonds, is active in the community and participates in the Pinellas County Adopt A Mile program.

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