Imagine no commute to work, no expensive office clothes and good coffee always at your fingertips. That’s possible for the almost 15 million Americans who work from home full- and part-time.
Ideally, you’ll want a space that is separated from the rest of the house, to make it easier to kick into work mode. Start by considering the least expensive conversion options:
- a spare room, such as the dining room or extra bedroom, is usually the best bet. These spaces tend to require minimal remodeling and often have a phone jack. In fact, your only costs may be your computer and telecommunications equipment, desk and chair
- some newer homes have workspaces built into the kitchen. Even if yours doesn’t, putting one in is a relatively small renovation that could cost as little as $2,000, not including office equipment and supplies. All that’s required is a separate counter about 30 inches from the floor, with 24 inches underneath for a chair. Good lighting and a phone jack and electrical outlet for your computer, Internet access, phone and fax are also necessary. Make sure your electronics are not exposed to heat and humidity.
You can also create a home office by remodeling an attached garage, a basement or an attic space.
- if you remodel an attached garage, you’ll likely need to drywall and insulate it, install wiring, raise the floor to the same height as that of the house (which may require a permit), add trim and paint and carpet it. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimated the average cost of a garage remodel in 2001 at about $8,500.
- a basement remodel typically costs $15 to $25 per square foot, which includes framing, plumbing, wiring, insulating, drywall and trim, painting and carpet. The total cost will vary depending on whether or not you add a bathroom. You’ll have to pay extra attention to lighting, since most basements have little natural light.
- an attic renovation has special considerations. You’ll likely have to install a staircase, and even then, moving office furniture in may be difficult. If the ceiling is too low, you can install dormers. In many cases, you’ll have to install a floor and you may also have to add joists if the floor’s structural support can’t handle the weight of you and your office equipment. The cost of remodeling will likely be similar to that for a basement office, since the work involved is similar. Attics have it all over basements when it comes to natural light, however.
Whatever location you decide on, you’ll probably have to upgrade the wiring. The hottest trend is structured wiring, which allows you to combine high-speed Internet, multiple phone lines, video feeds and home networking. A Consumer Electronics Association survey found that almost 60 percent of new-construction homes have structured wiring. Installing structured wiring in a new home averages $2,000 to $3,000; upgrading existing wiring may cost more. Consult an electrician ($45 to $65 an hour) for an estimate.
Converting part of your house into an office so you can telecommute means extra expenses, but a home equity line of credit is a low-interest method of refinancing your new works space, and can help you spread the funds you’ll need over the renovation and furnishing of your home office.
Some lenders will let you borrow as much as 125 percent the appraised value of your home, less your mortgage balance.