Now more than ever, the line between work time and your home life has become blurred.
Freelancers and entrepreneurs have long needed to work from home, but today's technological advances make it easy for just about anyone to take advantage of some flex time and take care of tasks from their home with their own computers.
Even if you don't work from home, you might find yourself doing so in the near future — even if it's just a few days per year when the weather is bad.
To accommodate these major changes in how workers are getting their jobs done, you should consider creating a home office or similar work room in your next house. As you stroll through open houses and flip through listings, make sure some office space is on your wish list. Here's what you should be on the lookout for:
A Spare Room
In an ideal world, your new house would have an extra bedroom or small den that you could claim as your own for a dedicated home office. You should be able to close the door to the outside world for increased concentration; ideally, this room will be far from the high-traffic areas of the house to avoid distractions.
If you have a competing need for a guest bedroom, consider combining a desk and shelf area with a sleeper sofa or Murphy bed to kill two birds with one stone. Shopping for a house with one more bedroom than you strictly need will give you flexibility to work from home in comfort.
For most people, working from home requires the internet, so make sure that the local utilities provide reliable, high-speed broadband service to support your work. You'll also want to make sure the electrical outlets are up to code and provide three-prong receptacles — some older homes only have two-prong outlets. Finally, ask about insulation or other forms of soundproofing to make sure your new work space will be a quiet one.
If your work requires reference materials, access to files or other basic office supplies, be sure that any potential home office has the space required to add filing cabinets and storage shelves to house these items. If you run any other type of business, be sure that you can store whatever it is you need: Construction materials and inventory items need to be kept secure from theft and any weather damage.
If you're considering adding an outbuilding to serve as a workshop, check the permitting and zoning requirements before you buy.
If you need to invite clients into your home office, look for separate access to the street to avoid having strangers walking through your private residence on a regular basis. You'll also need to make sure that you have additional parking spaces and accessible pathways to create a useful and inviting storefront for your customers. Ask your real estate agent about any local ordinances to make sure all your plans for a home business are legal.
Whether you just need a quiet spot to answer emails on a snow day or a dedicated showroom for your homemade products, keeping your business needs in mind while house hunting will ensure that you get the most out of your investment in a new home. Working from home is a trend that's here to stay, so it pays to be prepared for it!