By Phil Karp
Among the many perks of working from home, flexibility is paramount. If you’re a business owner, this option also saves the overhead cost of a dedicated office. Of course, there are drawbacks to working out of your own home, but with the right conditions, you can minimize or eliminate most of them. If you’re shopping for a home, here are several considerations to be sure that your living space supports your work.
1. Dedicated Office Space
The most important thing you need is work space. Some people get away with working casually from the couch or kitchen table, but I firmly believe that there needs to be an actual physical separation between your living space and your work space. This not only protects your productivity, but also preserves your work-life balance.
Look for a home with existing office space, or an extra room that you can convert into a home office. A finished basement might work, but make sure it has enough windows to let in plenty of natural light. According to a study by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, exposure to natural light at the office leads to better sleep and greater overall health in workers.
2. Peace and Quiet
If you plan to work from home regularly, then you’re going to want a work space that is free of distracting noise. Whether you’re looking at connected townhomes and condos, a house in a busy city, or a home that backs up to an Interstate, listen carefully to the noise level in the home. If the floors, walls and windows are well-insulated, then it shouldn’t be noisy. If they’re not, then you probably don’t want to live there anyway.
3. Wired Ethernet and Phone Service
With free WiFi offered just about anywhere you go, internet access is something most of us take for granted. But so are slow connections and service interruptions. The strength and speed of your wireless internet can depend on a number of different factors, including the number of devices on the network, your device’s proximity to the access point, and surrounding hardware that can interfere with signal.
When you work from home, you can’t afford for your internet not to work. Clients may have little patience if a subcontractor or freelancer is having connectivity issues. You might be fine with a wireless network, but if wired Ethernet is an option, use it. A house that’s already wired with Cat5 means that you can have the benefit of a faster, more reliable internet connection—without having to run wires through the walls yourself.
Likewise, you’ll need a reliable phone connection. When looking at homes, be sure to bring your phone and check the signal you’re getting throughout the building. Make sure that any home you’re considering is wired for a landline phone, so that you have the option if you need it.
5. A Secondary Work Space
Face it—working from home can make you stir-crazy from time to time. It’s easy to find yourself still in your pajamas at the end of your work day. That’s convenient sometimes, but most people need some kind of interaction with the outside world. When you’re considering a new home, look carefully at the surrounding area. Is there a coffee shop or communal work space nearby that you can escape to every now and then?
6. A Dedicated Second Entrance
If you’re running a home-based business, it may not be ideal to have clients enter through the front door of your home, especially if you have children (and their accompanying messes). A second entrance with easy access to your work space maintains a professional appearance for your home office. The door doesn’t have to connect directly to the office, as long as it’s out of high-traffic and clutter-prone areas of the house.
Even if you don’t anticipate seeing clients or hosting meetings at your home office, a second entrance can help separate your work day from the goings on of the rest of the home, allowing you access to come and go without distraction.
Working from home can lead to greater productivity and significant savings for small business owners and their employees, but not every home is a good candidate. If you’re considering running your business from your living space, seek out a home that’s ideal for both living and working.
Phil Karp is a 25-year real estate industry expert and head of Brokerage Services at Owners.com, where you can save money on your next home. Phil enjoys providing homebuyers with tips on how to shop for a new home with your business in mind. In his free time, he chases his passion for auto racing in the Greater Atlanta area that he calls home.