My husband and I have started, owned, and grown four businesses in our 24 years of marriage and are starting a fifth. In that time, we have owned four homes. Although the majority of our business has been conducted outside the home, most were started at home or involved the use of our home in numerous ways. If you are a business owner or ever think you’ll be one, here are 27 home features to think about when buying a home.
1) Is there potential “regular and exclusive” office space? Home-based business tax deductions are based on the square footage area or ratio of rooms used, but must meet the regular and exclusive test set by the IRS. While I do not do taxes and this is not tax advice, the amount and size of your home office deduction can be a huge money saver at tax time for small business owners.
2) Is the house suitable for client visits? Will any clients who come to this house feel comfortable? Even if you have another place where your business is located, it is not uncommon for clients or vendors to meet at your home to drop off or pick up papers, supplies, products, etc.
3) Is the client meeting space separate from the kitchen? My husband cooks and likes to make spicy food; let’s not impose that on sensitive clients.
4) Is there a separate entrance for clients and vendors? If clients are coming for a meeting, I don’t want them coming through my kitchen or other common areas, otherwise I would have to clean up every time. No way!
5) If employees need to work in my home, can they reasonably stay separated from my family space? This is connected to the separate entrance question – and don’t forget about the bathroom they will need access to. When dealing with my children, I needed space away from “the office.”
6) Is it a potential source of diversified income? Even if your current business does not need any home office space, does it offer potential if you create a new business? Can part of it be rented? My current house has an upstairs apartment; this feature is the main reason I agreed to buy our Coventry Cottage “fixer-upper.”
7) Is there a quiet place to work, a separable space away from the TV, traffic noise, and family? I started my first business when my son was four months old; I was glad for an office away from the noise.
8) Is there a place to leave work materials out safely? I do not want to clean up my home office area mid-project at the end of every day. Nor do I want the kids or my husband stirring my papers so I can’t restart quickly tomorrow.
9) Is there potential for two offices? My husband has always had his own office (see note above). His filing system has always been to find things where he left them and have multiple projects with multiple piles. Two offices definitely helped us stay married for 24 years.
10) Can the work area be locked? If you work with medical or financial information, the space should have its own locked door. My Bernville house had lockable French doors with a keypad lock.
11) Can noise from children, pets, the television, etc., be eliminated when on the phone with a client? Does the office space have soundproof doors or is it far enough away from the household bustle?
12) Can this house be run cheaply? Sometimes, every extra dollar is funneled into growing the business. If your heating bill is $800 a month, you won’t be happy while investing to expand your business expansion.
13) Will cleaning be fast and cheap? I want a small, easy-to-clean house. Hardwood floors are my favorite. If I have a housekeeper come in regularly, I want the bill to be small.
14) Will yard work be fast, cheap, or unnecessary? Just as in the previous question, it should be simple.
15) Is maintenance low so as to focus on business and family? If my house needs a lot of maintenance, it can detract from running my business. By the way, these questions are not hard and fast; sometimes you need to make compromises. I agreed to buy a fixer-upper so my husband could build the kitchen he wanted.
16) When will “needed” renovations actually be completed? (Related to previous question.)
17) Is there space to “shut off” the business? In my current home, the “home office” is upstairs, away from the couch, the TV, and the kitchen. I definitely have a sense of being at home when I’m in these other areas instead of being reminded of business stuff I could be doing.
18) What “lab” space is there for another new business? We are currently starting a new business in our garage. We are thinking about adding a second garage vs. renting offsite space.
19) Is it good for entertaining? At our Bernville, pa house, we had client parties for 150 people…and we had parking for all of them!
20) Is there enough parking (see above)? Even if you’re not the type to throw big parties, you may at least need parking for five or six vehicles to hold a meeting at your house.
21) What storage options exist for keeping supplies, tools, products, files, party items, etc.?
22) Is it close to my “real” business office? When you’re the owner, you might have to make midnight runs to the office to get stuff for an early morning meeting or let an employee in who forgot their keys.
23) Is the zoning okay for what I want to do? You’ll need to ask your real estate agent to help you find out.
24) What about technology? Does it have high speed Internet, the ability to have two phone lines, etc.? When we first moved to Bernville, there was no DSL; it’s hard to believe that was only 12 years ago. If you want to live out near farms or in the woods, be sure to ask the right questions.
25) Can people find it? The post office tells me I live on “Upper Fricks Lock Road,” but the road sign says “Fricks Lock Road.” Thankfully, there are other landmarks to use. My real office is confusing enough – we are at 711 Spring Street, Wyomissing. There is also a 711 Spring Street in Reading and most GPSs don’t know the difference.
26) Does the style of home match the business style? My current home is very tiny; it’s not currently a good place for meeting clients. Trade-offs sometimes have to be made with a list like this. By the way, my Wyomissing office is awesomely beautiful! Stop by.
27) Can you get pizza and Chinese food delivered? On weekends I help my husband in his business. Even though he’s the cook, he doesn’t have time. At our house in Bernville there was no delivery, but at our houses in California, we could get anything delivered!
You may have your own list and some of these questions may not apply to your personality or family situation. But after 24 years of marriage, four houses, and running five businesses, I’ve seen it all!