Before you buy a home, you probably think about a million things you want to check out like the condition of the utilities, appliances and the layout of the home. You might even think about things like the heating system and plumbing units, although these items are usually left up to the professional inspector. What many people overlook, however, is the zoning for the area. If you are not careful, you could really end up disappointed with your home purchase based on how you are limited in what you want to do with the home or what gets built around you. The more informed you are about the area your home resides, the fewer headaches you will have down the road.
What are Zoning Requirements?
Zoning requirements are what allow you to do certain things with your home. They are also what govern the types of buildings developers put around you. If you unknowingly build a home that backs up to commercial zoning, you could find that you have a shopping center in your back yard in a few years. This might not seem like a big deal now, but once you hear the noise and deal with the traffic, you will think otherwise. These requirements could also prevent you from doing certain things with your own home – do you want to raise chickens or run your business out of your home? The zoning governs whether or not you are able to do these things. You might have to gain approval or you might be restricted from activities such as these altogether.
Figuring out the Home’s Zone
The best thing for you to do is to figure out a home’s zone. You should do this even if you do not have any crazy plans for your home just yet. How do you know if down the road you might want to add a swimming pool or start a business in your garage? The more information you have about your home’s zoning, the more informed decisions you can make down the road.
You can start with the survey, which most home purchases require. This will let you know the property lines as well as what you can or cannot build near them. For example, if you plan to put a swimming pool in your yard, you need to ensure that the property is big enough for it without encroaching on other properties. The same is true for any additions you wish to put on or any activities you plan to start in the backyard (such as raising chickens).
Aside from the survey, however, you should also contact the local municipal planning unit in the area. They will be able to give you in-depth answers regarding what requirements exist in the area as of right now. You might find that certain types of fencing are restricted or pools are not allowed, for example. Knowing these restrictions up front can help you make the right decision for your family and your future plans.
Understanding the Subcategories
A home can fall under 5 categories:
Even within residential zoning, however, there are subcategories. You might find one area is zoned for multi-family properties so even if you bought a single-family home, your neighbors may be able to add an apartment and rent it out to others. The same is true for areas that are residential and commercial mixed zones. You might have homeowners that run a business from their home that creates traffic, noise and always has obnoxious signage out on their front lawn. This might not be what you envisioned when you purchased your home, but it could be perfectly legal for those business owners depending on the zone.
It is not enough to find out the general zone for the area; you must ask about the subcategories to see what you might be subjected to. If you want a quiet neighborhood without a lot of traffic, you should avoid mixed use zones to avoid the hassle they can cause.
Zoning your Land
Zoning also pertains to the land that surrounds your property. Depending on the area, you might find that boats or RVs are not acceptable on your driveway or in the street. If you own any large vehicles or plan to purchase one in the future, you need to know the land’s zone requirements.
Anytime you purchase a home, you should be as informed as possible. This means looking into the zoning, whether you see yourself making any large changes or not in the future. There are many reasons the zone can affect your happiness with a home purchase. It is a simple thing that your lawyer or real estate agent can help you find out and it could save you many headaches in the long run.
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