It can be a brave decision to go it alone, says Philip Macdonald, managing director of Abbotts.
During any recession, there are inevitably redundancies, leaving many people determined to be masters of their own destiny in future, by joining the ranks of the 5 million self-employed. It can be a very brave decision, because you need to be self-disciplined by keeping ‘office hours’ and it can sometimes be a bit lonely with no-one to talk to over the ‘water cooler’.
With today’s sophisticated communications systems, even some businesses are now encouraging people to work from home one or more days a week, allowing them to save huge sums on overheads. Once the decision has been made, however, the home-workers need to decide not only what they intend to do to earn a crust, but where are they going to do it from! Taking on office premises is an expensive option, yet working from a small family home, with constant interruptions from friends, family and pets, can make life impossible.
A shed in the garden is one alternative, whilst another is to extend (to create a home-working space) or to move… and this is what a lot of people are choosing to do, investing redundancy payments or inheritances (which aren’t earning any interest) in bricks and mortar. How can your estate agent help? Rather than telling them that you’re looking for a bigger property (i.e. 4 bedrooms instead of 3) explain precisely why, and do keep an open mind. This enables your agent to explore different opportunities for you: it may involve refurbishment, or building work. If you specify a small garden, for example, because you hate gardening, you miss the potential for creating a fabulous garden pavilion, which can be erected and fitted out in days by specialist companies at very reasonable cost.
So what makes a
good home-working space? Depending on your budget, lofts, garages and outbuildings all offer good conversion potential, subject to the usual planning or building regulations consents, depending on how it is to be used, and the type of business. Properties with an annexe are also ideal, or you can use the 4th bedroom! Writers, artists, IT consultants, dressmakers, garden designers, architects, tattoo artists are just some of the trades taking the plunge into a new, and hopefully more fulfilling, lifestyle. People who have never previously met a chicken are launching ‘happy hens’ eggs’ businesses, keeping bees or goats, and running all sorts of innovative enterprises to beat the downturn.
So, use your agent wisely to guide you to the right home-working solution, but also take advice on any potential tax implications, insurance requirements or planning restrictions.