Property shopping for a home office – know your business zoning rights

With the traditional office space becoming passé, running a business from home seems like a modern and appealing option and entrepreneurs are embracing remote work and distributed work forces during the pandemic.

offices are certainly taking off in popularity says Craig Mott, Cape Town
Regional Sales Manager for the Rawson Property Group. However, there are some
legal restrictions that business owners need to be aware of.

you are shopping for a property to live in and to work from you need to know
your business zoning requirements.

says that zoning is the number one hurdle for home businesses. “Most town
planning schemes will make provision, without zoning from the municipality, for
conducting of a profession or an occupation from a dwelling house as a primary
right, sometimes referred to as a ‘home enterprise’” he says. However, this is if
you meet certain criteria. Micro businesses such as attorneys, GPs, accountants,
or dentists working from a study or consulting room at home may fall under this

While there is a chance that your business may not need commercial zoning, it is essential to check with a well-informed property profession before taking these legalities for granted. You do not want to get caught out when your home office is up and running, he says.

larger businesses with a greater potential impact on the neighbourhood, business
zoning needs to be in place to comply.

Unfortunately, zoning in South Africa can be a bit of a minefield, varying from city to city and suburb to suburb,” he says. “This can be further complicated by the fact that a lot of home office properties are sold by residential real estate agents who don’t always have the commercial knowledge to advise buyers on zoning. It’s best to get in touch with a commercial property advisor if possible or use a real estate agent from a brand like Rawson, which has a commercial component and facilitates knowledge-sharing between different franchises and specialties.”

Pro tip: Properties can be rezoned on application, but this isn’t always an easy process and is not guaranteed to succeed. It’s better to purchase (or rent) property with the right zoning in place already, but if you’ve fallen in love with a specific property, a good real estate broker or Town Planner will be able to advise you on the likelihood of getting it rezoned.

your physical needs

is not the only requirement a property will need to meet to make a good home
office. Running a business from home will require some specific spatial
elements as well.

you need an appropriate space within the home for an office
,” says Mott. “What
that means will vary depending on your operation. If you have staff or clients
coming in every day, you will probably want a separate entrance, dedicated
kitchenette and bathroom facilities. If it is just you, you can probably make
do with a comfortable study in the main house

Do not forget those fewer tangible needs like high-speed internet or three-phase electricity supply. Mott recommends creating a list of requirements to take with you when viewing potential properties.

conscious of your potential impact on neighbours

also urges business owners to consider facilities like parking, which could be
a source of bad blood between you and your neighbours.

neighbourhoods where parking is limited, it’s best to make sure you have enough
off-street parking for any staff or clients
,” he says. “Nothing gets
neighbours’ backs up like having their driveways constantly blocked by
visitors. Angry neighbours can cause big problems for home businesses,
particularly those taking advantage of grey areas in zoning

Signage, noise, odours, and waste disposal can also be a source of aggravation for neighbours. Mott encourages business owners to think through their business processes to flag any potential irritations, and make sure the properties they view have the right layouts and facilities to minimise their impact.

not forget about security

of the benefits of working from a traditional office space is the shared
security of large commercial buildings. Working from home means setting up your
security to keep that expensive business equipment and proprietary information

is vital for home businesses, so keep this in mind when viewing properties. A
home that is easy to secure, or already has a top-tier security system in place
is going to be a better option than one with a high-risk profile
,” says Mott.
Properties within security complexes may be ideal for this reason, but
don’t always meet the other requirements of a home business premises

South African homeowners have been catching on to the home-office trend, and a
lot of renovated properties accommodate a work-from-home situation. 

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