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Beware of the potential pitfalls when buying a house if you are intending to work from home

The current need for flexible working hours, the increasingly informal style of many businesses, and rapidly advancing technology are making it easier for more people to work from home.

And they can do this as part of a larger organisation or as a small enterprise, according to Leon Breytenbach, national manager of the Rawson Property Group’s commercial division.
Those deciding that 2019 is going to be the year that they start their own business from home should take the following tips into account, he advises. 
Affordability: When starting a small new enterprise, it is necessary to minimise the outlay on nonessential expenses. So, turn the study, spare bedroom or outbuildings into an office. “After all, rentals are costly and you are not 100% sure how long the enterprise will take to become successful. Working from home also allows hands-on parenting, while not having to commute reduces the monthly spend on transport.” A home-based office can also provide tax advantages. 
Foresight: Anticipating potential problems will make it easier to deal with them if they materialise, before they can become critical. Even the nature of your business could be a stumbling block, Breytenbach says.
Questions to ask include:

  • Do you need to make alterations to the property?
  • Will that cause you to over-capitalise on your investment? 
  • Do you anticipate many cars coming and going, as with a hairdresser, beauty salon or children’s play group?
  • Will this extra traffic impact on the noise levels or available parking in the neighbourhood? 
How will your neighbours feel about it? “Working from home will probably save you money, but be sure to consider all aspects of the business and its impact on the neighbourhood before investing too much capital,” Breytenbach warns.
Be aware of the impact: Sitting quietly at your computer all day dealing with clients via phone or email should pose no problem for anyone. However, neighbours are fairly well informed about their rights, so an increase in traffic, noise, unattractive signage, unpleasant odours, parking problems and other factors could mean a complaint is registered against you with the city planning department.
“To avoid any unpleasantness, be sure you have sufficient parking spaces for clients and employees, be aware of the noise the business will generate, keep signage to an acceptable size, and check on the legal ramifications associated with a home-run business.”
Zoning: Some properties advertised as “work-from-home opportunities” might not be zoned for a particular business use. Breytenbach says zoning can be a maze of different rulings in different cities and even different suburbs. There is a move to standardise and simplify zoning regulations, but this has not yet happened.
“Agents selling work-from-home properties may not be informed regarding zoning regulations applicable to a home-run business. Discovering after purchasing a property that it is not appropriately zoned for your intended purpose will lead to an expensive fix.”
Single Residential Zone 1 properties allow restricted business opportunities. While a B&B, small childcare facility or small home industry might be allowed, all carry specific limitations, as do any other enterprises that require special zoning.
“Rezoning can be costly and cause serious delays, but can also significantly increase the value of a property. Applying for a temporary departure is a simpler option but is of limited duration and non-transferable, so it is not always the best solution,” says Breytenbach. 
Amicable relations: Consent from your neighbours is important, he says, so it is wise to maintain amicable relations with them at all times and try to give them as little cause for complaint as possible.
However, working from home is a popular and viable option “if you go about it in the right way”. “With careful forethought and consideration, it can fulfil your office requirements while not causing dissension in the neighbourhood.” 

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