Bringing your work home is a good idea, if the live-work space craze has anything to say about it. The only trouble is finding one of these hot, new homes.
A live-work unit combines your living quarters with your workspace. Often the business occupies the ground level and the “home” part takes up the second floor. Sometimes the residential area exists behind the commercial space or beside it, or in the case of an artist’s studio, the living space might just be a lofted bedroom above a studio. Then again, a different live-work space might stack a lavish three-story townhouse on top of a ground-floor yoga studio.
Demand for Live-Work Spaces
Who wants these homes? Artists, for one, and small business owners who host things like classes or photoshoots or anything else that requires a good amount of space. People who work from home but need a professional place to meet with clients want them, too—such as accountants, startup owners, and traveling salepersons who need a home base.
Live-work spaces see demand from all sorts of others who don’t work in a typical office, as well: real estate agents, contractors, freelancers, writers, etc. You could do those jobs in a normal condo or house, sure, but a live-work space makes it easier. You get a clear divide between your work space and your home space, which can be invaluable for anyone who struggles with workaholism. The organizational benefits add up, too. But the perhaps the most important benefit? Taxes. As any small business owner knows, claiming that home office deduction requires a completely dedicated work space, and if you say you have one, your chance of an audit goes up, up, up. A live-work space makes the burden of proof ridiculously easy.
History of the Live-Work Craze
Live-work spaces are a hot new trend in today’s real estate, but if you look at things with a historical perspective, they’re a revitalization of an old standard. Walk down any street in Europe and you’ll see old stores with the shopkeeper’s home right above it. Back in the day (think English villages), a doctor’s office used to be a room in his house. Parsonages were similar, too. On our side of the pond, zoning restrictions didn’t exist in many American cities during the 19th and early 20th centuries, so commercial and residential properties mixed freely. So what happened?
Along with indoor lighting and building codes, the 1900s brought zoning laws. A block zoned for residential use could no longer be used for commercial purposes, and vice-versa. This did give certain benefits, like creating quiet bedroom communities and making taxes simpler (commercial properties are normally taxed at a higher rate than residential properties). Safety regulations vary, too, depending on whether a property is commercial or residential, so zoning restrictions made it easier to inspect and enforce those standards. Those zoning laws still exist, which makes live-work spaces few and far between. Creating new ones gets tricky legally, and cities are reluctant to put in the effort.
When they do appear, the right sort of buyers love them. If you think you’d benefit from a live-work home, shoot us an email! We keep track of which ones are on the Seattle market at any point in time, and we’d love to help you beat the competition and move into a new/old way of thinking about home.