The COVID-19 pandemic responses gave many workers a taste for doing their jobs at home. Without commutes and confrontations, the workday became much more civilized and much less stressful. Of course, many workers did not have the luxury of this transition. Self-employed people -- working outside of the home -- had to adjust to a customer base that was more reticent about going out at all. Small retailers, for instance, paying rents on spaces that were now seldom visited, considered selling out of the house as an alternative. What is involved in remodeling the residence to accommodate a small store?

Expanding a House to Include a Store

There are several considerations to address when creating retail space at your residential property.

1. Zoning
2. Permitting
3. Design
4. Living at home during construction
5. Effect on home value
6. Re-sale

Modest home additions are generally effective for specialty stores that sell a limited category of products:  clothing of a particular designer or style; specialty foods prepared in the household kitchen; artist creations and crafty items; or musical instruments assembled on site. These are examples of retailers whose customers would rather purchase directly rather than order online (though these businesses might have online options).

Getting Permission

When you add a business component to your residential structure, you change the property from a legal standpoint. County and municipal governments authorize certain uses for certain locations. When usages change, owners need to ask for the consent of their local zoning or planning board. The exact procedures will differ from town to city to village to borough. Chances are quite high that the house you live in is in an area zoned as residential. To double as a place to move products requires the lot to receive a variance from the authorities. A variance is essentially an exception to the rule -- i.e. your house can be used as a store but the neighborhood zoning rules remain unchanged.

The plethora of zoning regulations among the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of local jurisdictions in the United States makes it difficult to convey a step-by-step process with which to obtain a variance or similar allowance. Still, there are elements common to most. Classifications include residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, historical etc. Variances come in two flavors. An operational variance allows the homeowner to use the property as both home and retail establishment. On the other hand, a dimensional variance pertains to the structure exceeding the size limits imposed by zoning regulations. The latter may or may not be needed depending on how big the retail extension would be.

Your town will also place limits on the construction of the project so the contractor must submit plans to the responsible government body in order to obtain the necessary permits to build. Moreover, it will evaluate expected traffic, noise levels and other disruptions before issuing the variance.

Designing Your Home-Based Store

Your specialty store might require extensive infrastructure -- e.g. storage space, pantries, refrigeration units or dressing rooms, e.g. Alternatively, the house itself can provide some of these functions. Such considerations determine floor plans and design. Equipment, display cases, transactional areas and branding will also affect the design of the addition. Because this is a walk-in establishment, the owner and contractor must consider adequate parking as well.

What to Do at Re-Sale Time

The retail or commercial variance does not nullify the house's status as a residence. Owners can highlight the retail addition or simply market the house with extra square footage. This alone improves home value.