There’s no Place Like Home                                                                                   2020 has been an odd year to say the least. In March, when large-scale stay-at-home orders were beginning to be implemented, businesses were closing their doors and opening Zoom meetings. This left many office-dwellers facing the new reality of working remotely. When this shift to an all-but constant homebound existence took place, some were lucky enough to take up residence in a home office.  However, not everyone was quite so fortunate.  Many found themselves working at their kitchen counters, dining room tables or couches.  While this may not have felt entirely ideal, there was still something intriguing about this new way of life.  At first, the thought of being able to roll out of bed, brush teeth (we hope) and then commute the fifteen feet from bed to desk felt a bit novel, exciting even.  Let’s face it, we all know someone (not naming names) who attended a remote meeting without pants.  As time stretched on, and schools, as well as more and more businesses moved to this model, many Americans found themselves sharing their new workspace (however small to begin with) with a spouse and maybe a kid or two (kindergarten Zoom meetings are a joy).  And just like that, the novelty of such an arrangement quickly wore off.    

Home-ish Office                                                                                                       With many continuing to work from home throughout the entirety of the year, and with the possibility of another lockdown looming as we settle into the colder months, more and more homeowners are looking outside the box, and the walls of their homes, for solutions.  For many, the long timeline and potentially ballooning budget of a home addition is simply not feasible. What is a homeowner, driven to keep his/her sanity and family to do?  Perhaps the solution has been right outside the back door this whole time.  As the news of the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States hit the mainstream media, Google searches for office sheds began to increase drastically.  Companies like the Colorado based Studio Shed saw their business boom.  They reportedly sold five times as many backyard office units in the summer months, as they had in the previous year and, compared to the same time last year, expected to sell ten times as many units this fall, according to CNN Business. Could this be the very thing to solve all of your problems?  Well, before you get your little heart set on your new venture, if you live in a community with a homeowners association, you will need to do a bit of homework first.

It’s all in Black and White                                                                                 Consult your community’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). These documents will outline the specific regulations for the building a structure on your property.  You will have to submit an application to your HOA, much like you would with any other major project, like painting your home, or adding a porch, etc.  You may also need to include diagrams, drawings, or actual product photos of what you plan to build/install.  This request will then be put to your board’s architectural review committee for review.

Some things that the committee will consider:

Placement - You’ll need to be mindful of where, exactly, you will place your shiny new office.  Your association may require that the placement of your structure be a certain distance from your property line or fence.  They may require that the building not be visible from the front of the house, or the street.  

Total footprint - Nearly all HOAs will have stipulations regarding the overall footprint of sheds.  For some, they will give a maximum amount of square footage, 8 feet by 10 feet, for example.  Others, however, will take into consideration the overall size of your lot and put forth regulations based on that.  For example, Some HOAs will only allow an outbuilding to cover 1% of your overall lot.  

Height - This is something to be particularly aware of, because many HOAs will have strict regulations in regards to the height of the structure walls, as well as the maximum height of the roof.  Also, you will need to factor into your measurements the height of the concrete pad that some associations require be placed under  permanent structures such as these.  

Look and Materials - The materials that you use to construct your home-ish office will also be important to your association.  You may be required to use wood, or vinyl siding, rather than the all metal sheds of yester-year.  It is also likely that your HOA will require that the color of your shed mirror that of your home, including trim and roof colors.  If you plan on purchasing a prefabricated unit, be sure that the materials that the company uses jive with the requirements.

One more Thing...                                                                                                   Before you begin, It is also incredibly important that you check with your local building and city zoning department in order to verify whether or not your structure will be allowed and if it will require a permit.  Even if your HOA approves your structure, it is important to check with your city as well.  There are times when the association may approve a request, but the city will not allow it.  

I’m the Boss                                                                                                                     If you own your own business, there are a few additional items to be aware of.  Your HOA’s governing documents will also include rules regarding the running of a business out of your residence.  Typically, these mandates will focus on how your business impacts the neighborhood.  Many associations will deem that the operation of your business is not detectable from outside your property.  This would include any type of signage, or noise that can be heard from the street or over a fence.  Also, if you are expecting clients, employees, or anyone else to visit you in your backyard business, you will need to be cognizant of how this could impact your neighbors.  Your association will surely have included information about the level of impact your business can have on traffic in the area, as well as an influx of parking.  

A little Bit of Good                                                                                                     With the short commute, and some much needed separation from those who we love so dear, the idea of adding an office shed feels like a silver bullet when facing the rabid werewolf that has been this year.  Perhaps, with the addition of just a few short walls and roof, we will be able to keep our distance, productivity, and sanity.  Fingers crossed.