Find Out The Zoning Before You Buy Property If You Intend To Run A Business From Your Home

You've found a beautiful piece of property and you want to buy it and build your dream home and a small, private studio for your home-based business off to the side. Or, you might have just found a beautiful old home that has more than enough room for your family and your home business.

If you buy without understanding the zoning restrictions on the property, you could find your home business dreams quickly crushed. Here's what you should know.

Zoning regulations can be difficult to understand.

The exact wording used to describe a particular type of zoning can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you aren't 100% familiar with the zoning terms used in the area, make sure that you talk with someone who is, like a real estate agent or an attorney. 

In general, places that are zoned single-family residential are going to have the most stringent rules about what you can and cannot do on a piece of property. In some cases, the "cannot" part will exclude any business activity. Places that are zoned transitional, mixed use, or residential-plus-commercial will be more accommodating if you plan on operating a business from your home.

However, be careful about buying property that has been granted a special use permit for a home business in an area that's zoned residential. Use permits are often granted to existing home business owners when the zoning in an area is changed from business to residential. The use permit probably won't transfer with the sale of the property.

Zoning restrictions aren't always clear about home businesses.

Once you find out how a property is zoned, you have to find out exactly how the zoning classification will affect your plans for a home business. That may be even harder to do without involving a professional because there are often exceptions hidden in the rules.

A place that is zoned residential may allow for "customary home-based occupations" but have vague wording. That vague wording can sometimes be a huge problem, depending on the type of home business that you intend to operate. If you're a seamstress, for example, you might have no problem getting the city authorities to allow you to operate out of your home. If you are a licensed massotherapist, however, and someone on the zoning board equates "massage therapy" with seedy massage parlors and illicit activity, you could find yourself fighting over the issue.

Zoning variances and exceptions can be difficult to obtain.

If you really want a certain piece of property for your home business, but the zoning doesn't permit it, you can always request a zoning variance. A variance is a legal exception that can allow you to use the property for your home business despite existing regulations.

Keep in mind that one of the reasons for zoning restrictions is to keep residential areas quiet and comfortable for the people who live there. Some people equate that with keeping away the strangers and traffic that a home business might attract. That can make it difficult to get a variance approved.

If you're going to ask for a variance for your home business, you absolutely need the services of a real estate attorney. Real estate attorneys know how to navigate the complex processes involved in asking for a variance and are often aware of any local politics that might come into play when dealing with the zoning board.