What Home Buyers Want

What Home Buyers Want is Clean and Move-In Ready Property

What Home Buyers Want

What homebuyers want is a clean and move-in ready house

It was a sunny Saturday morning in August 2007, and I was house hunting with some friends when I really realized what home buyers want in their new homes. If you're thinking of selling your existing home, read on, because I think this story might surprise you.

The Viewing

We had spent most of the morning looking at properties when we pulled up to our last property before lunch. It was a fully renovated 1990’s home in Fife, and I just knew they would love it. 

The outside was a deep green, there was rockery all around the landscape, and the door was a warm rust red. There was freshly laid bark, and the lawn must have just been cut because we could smell the grass clippings right when we got out of the car. It was the picture of inviting curb appeal.

The inside was just as great. We walked in and everything was brand new. New oak floors with matching trim, cabinets, and the list just went on from there. 

I could see my friend was excited, and I was pretty sure that I'd just found them their new house.

The Choosing

After that showing, we went to lunch to discuss next actions. We first reviewed their top 5 needs and wants. But I didn't think we'd really need that list, because I was pretty sure that they wanted that freshly remodeled home that oozed curb appeal. To be sure, though, we flipped through the houses that we had seen.

There were some great contenders, but I would have bet money on that remodeled home. And I would have lost.

To my surprise they quickly passed on the remodel! Instead, they went with another house that was less polished but was a great value. At the time I was really taken off guard because come on, who doesn't want a remodeled house!? I was shocked! Wasn't I supposed to know what home buyers want?

The Reasoning

It turned out that although they loved the shiny remodeled home, they were very nervous about the big price tag that went along with the beautiful upgrades. I asked more questions, and it turned out that they didn’t really like the brand new oak cabinets. Plus, it had only 2 of their top 5 needs and wants. The brand new floor, as beautiful as it was, was also a problem for them because they wanted carpet. 

I asked my friend why her reaction had been so positive when we had toured the house, despite it not really meeting their needs. She said that she was taken in not just by all of the new finishes, but really by how clean and move-in ready the house was. She knew that those two factors meant that they could move in right away.

At the end of the day, they choose to go with another clean and move-in ready property. It wasn't completely remodeled, but it did have 4 of their 5 needs and wants. They lived happily in that home for about 7 years. 

The Lesson

I have seen this situation happen over and over in the years since that day. I have concluded that willing and able buyers who are approved to pay fair market value for your property want two things: 

  1. CLEAN
  2. MOVE-IN READY

Notice that I didn't say freshly remodeled with a brand new kitchen and all new flooring. Nope. Most buyers will take "used" as long as it is clean and move-in ready. Of course, you can remodel your property and list it for a higher price…but what will your net return be? Will the headache of renovating be worth the return on investment? 

Generally, the answers to those two questions will be 1. not enough, and 2. no.

If a buyer wants brand new, they'll buy new construction. If they're looking at existing places, though, chances are they are willing and ready to take on some of the hassle to give the place a face lift after they purchase. Honestly, a lot of buyers prefer that. They can pick out the finishes and personalize the home for themselves. That's often part of the fun of buying an existing house!

So my advice to sellers is this: give your property a thorough cleaning and make sure that it is move-in ready. Do this and you'll be posed for a quick sale because you will be offering exactly what home buyers want.

Remember: move-in ready doesn't mean remodeled. It means completely functional and free of major defects. So yes, fix that broken drawer in the kitchen or replace that broken window pane in the bedroom. But don't buy into the myth that you have to gut the place.

As far as cleaning, I love a good checklist! Don't you?! Here is a simple cleaning checklist that should help you whether you're planning on selling next month, or next year. 

Oh, and don't forget to give me a call, too. I can give you an idea of how to prep your property to be listed. Work smarter, not harder! Before you do the heavy lifting, let me help you lighten your load! After years and years of doing this, I do know what home buyers want, and I can help you offer it to them.

All the best,

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How Covid-19 is Impacting Real Estate

How is Covid-19 impacting real estate?

How COVID-19 is Impacting Real Estate

How is COVID-19 impacting real estate

2020 started out as a prosperous and hopeful year in so many ways, particularly in the real estate industry. The spring market arrived early, and real estate was hot! Now, though, we are forced to pivot to the big question of the moment: how is Covid-19 impacting real estate?

It’s presence impacts every single person on the planet. First of all, regardless of how this stinker is affecting you, I am sorry. I am especially sorry if you’ve lost a loved one, or have had to nurse someone through this sometimes aggressive illness. I’m sorry if your business is hanging on by a thread, or you have had to file for unemployment. I'm just sorry. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix it all. I really do.

However, I also want to offer some hope and encouragement to you, specifically regarding your real estate investments. The future of the market is uncertain, but there are some positive signs. And even when the questions are hard, there are options and I am here to help.

Here are the answers to three questions that have been asked of me a lot in recent days, with some links for further reading if you’d like to learn more. 

1. How has the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order impacted the real estate sales process?

Real Estate services are considered essential in Washington State. What this means is that although open houses and overlapping showings are suspended for the time being, all other real estate services are still permitted in accordance with the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service has put out a very informative release with more details on specific actions that can and cannot occur during the shut down, and you can view that here.

The bottom line is that real estate transactions are still moving, with just a few adjustments and accommodations to the ways we show houses and handle in-person contact.

2. How is the market reacting to the pandemic and the Stay Home Orders?

I'm not going to lie: it's a mixed bag.

Nationally, new listings are down 27% compared to the first week of April of last year. However, in the Seattle region listings are up 2.6%. In our area, people are continuing to sell homes!

Yet, the signs are there that the market is slowing down. Averaged over the past couple of years, when the local market has been HOT, only about 1 out of 5 homes sat on the market more than a month. But right now, it's closer to 2 out of 5 homes. So sellers should expect to wait a few weeks longer to sell their houses. So far, though, with over 60% of homes selling within a month of listing, the market is still moving along. That's not too shabby.

I don't have a crystal ball, though. There are still so many unknowns about not just the virus itself, but about how Covid-19 is impacting real estate and the economy at large. So my advice to someone asking me if it's a good time to sell, or a good time to buy, remains the same as it always is: the right time to buy/sell real estate is when it's the right time for YOU to buy/sell real estate.

It is such a personal decision, and I won't give a one-size-fits-all answer. That's not honest or authentic to who I am. So if you have a question specific to your situation, please reach out to me. I don't sell real estate—I help people through real estate transactions. So if it's not going to help you to buy or sell right now, I'll totally say that. But if you're positioned well for it, let's do it!

3. I am having trouble paying my bills right now. What should I do about my mortgage?

Okay, this is a heavy question, but it is reality for a lot of people right now. If this is you, first take a breath. I know this seems scary. You may or may not know that my husband and I lost our first home to foreclosure due to the 2008 crash. So I mean it when I say that I know what you're feeling, and I also know that this too shall pass.

Now that you've taken a breath here's what I would do: I'd Immediately call the bank that holds my mortgage and ask about forbearance option. The silver lining right now is that more than one out of twenty mortgage borrowers have been granted a pause on their monthly mortgage payments.

You should consider talking to your attorney about what's best for you.

Bonus Question: I don't feel well, but still need to view homes because we're on a time crunch to move. What do I do?

Please take care of yourself and stay home. We can figure out a way to get this done without you risking your health or that of others. Virtual tools and walk-throughs are a great option. I’ve taken a few clients on walk-throughs of houses using video calling. While Covid-19 is impacting real estate for sure, nearly every aspect of real estate transactions can be conducted virtually, if need be. And for those that can't, such as the inspection, if you can't be there I will be.

So, if you are not feeling well you should assess your symptoms, then call your doctors office to consult about next steps. The CDC has a helpful page about what to do if you are sick.  Once we all come out on the other side of this virus we will need to hit the ground running to keep our economy strong, but first things first… stay home, stay healthy.

Final Thoughts...

As we all continue to walk through this surreal time, I urge you to look outward and find ways to encourage those around you, whatever that may look like. In recent days, I am drawn to this John Wesley quote now more than ever:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

If you have any other questions about how Covid-19 is impacting real estate, just general real estate questions, or questions specific to your situation, I am available! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

All the best,

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Work at Home Series: Dealing with Distractions

A hand holds a magnifying glass, bringing focus to what's most important, to help the viewer in dealing with distractions

Work at Home Series: Dealing with Distractions

This is the third post in our “Work at Home Series.” If you missed the first two, I’d encourage you to check them out: Work Zones and Managing Communication. And don't forget to download the Work from Anywhere Workbook at the bottom of this post!

Distractions. We’ve all got ‘em. I have to tell you that even after years of working from home, dealing with distractions is still the biggest challenge for me.

I also have to tell you that the solutions are not rocket science. They’re common sense, and mostly come down to that dreaded phrase: will power. 

And I admit that after I wrote that last sentence I got lost in my Facebook feed for 15 minutes…

So, if you want to hear from someone about dealing with distractions, I’m your gal! Read on for my hard earned tips and tricks for staying on task and producing at home when there are so. many. other. things. vying for your attention.

Note: If you have kids, you’re likely juggling some level of homeschooling them right now, right? That’s a big distraction when you also need to work. It’s also an extenuating circumstance, and one that we all have to work through right now as best we can. I’ll address some of my thoughts on that process as we move through the steps.

1. Name Your Distractions

Mine might be named something like Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3. Oh, and my phone. Gardening. The notification tones coming from my phone for each message I receive on every single email and social media platform I use. The dog. Netflix. The laundry. The dishes. 

Take a hard look and figure out what pulls you away from working the most. Then move onto the next steps with those specific distractions in mind.

2. Design Your Work Zones to Mitigate Distractions

We’ve already gone in depth on the various types of work spaces in our first post of this series, so you can read that here if you’ve missed it. But no matter what work zone you use, you can be mindful of your distractions as you set it up.

If the kids are a distraction, and if they are old enough, be brutally honest with them about not interrupting you during your work hours. Set up a sign on your door or even on the back of your computer, which lets them know when you are off limits. My assistant has the “blood, barf, and broken bones rule” when she is working. Her kids, ages 10-17, know that they interrupt her at their own risk if their interruption does not relate to blood, barf, broken bones, or anything else related to a grave safety matter. This doesn’t stop them all the time, of course, but it does cut down on the interruptions.

If your kids are younger, then it’s definitely harder. You will likely have to set them up with snacks and Netflix and work in short spurts during the day. And if they need help with schoolwork, you may have to shift some of your work hours to the late evening when they are asleep, if possible. Stay strong, Parents! You can do this.

For other distractions, like the dishes and social media, my biggest advice is this: out of sight, out of mind. Clean the kitchen before you start working, and turn off all phone notifications. Work where you physically cannot see the kitchen (or whatever cluttered space drives you crazy and calls you to clean it!). Setting aside time in my day to catch up on my phone, email, and house chores give me peace of mind when I am focusing on the task at hand. Setting timers and sticking to the time blocks I've set for myself helps me go from one task to another without guilt or frustration because I know what to expect and how much time different tasks may take. 

Good ol’ will power. It takes more when you’re not in an office with the boss around or other coworkers to keep you motivated. Dig deep. You’ve got this!

3. Find Your Sweet Spot

Nope, I don’t mean work with a candy dish next to you. 

One of the biggest lessons my team and I have each learned is that we all have a sweet spot when it comes to productivity throughout the day. Now, if your position requires you to be logged on during set hours, then this won’t work for you, and you’ll have to rely on the other ways to handle distractions. But if you have flexibility about when you work, then finding your sweet spot can take you far!

Maybe you’re a morning person. You work best as soon as you’re out of bed. Or you’re a slow riser but you are most in tune with your workflow starting about 10 a.m. until you break for a late lunch. Or perhaps you are a night owl, and either don’t have kids to drag you out of bed or your kids are old enough to fend for themselves while you sleep in after logging your work hours into the wee hours of the morning.

Whatever your rhythm is, lean into it if you can. Fighting with yourself about when you should be at your desk is not going to help. So find the sweet spot in your day when you are most productive, and prioritize giving that window of time to your work. You will get so much more done in a shorter amount of time!

This also applies to juggling all sorts of routines... even with kids.. Unless your not-a-morning person kid is required to be logged on to their virtual classroom bright and early, let them sleep in and start their day a little later. Pick your battles and all that. 

4. Stick to a Routine

Some of us are more suited to routines than others. However, even if it is loose, give your days some kind of structure. That way when all you really want to do is binge watch that new show on Netflix, you have already set up boundaries for yourself to honor.  So when you find that your brain has started wandering away from work, take a look at the clock and see where you’re at in your routine. 

That doesn’t mean your work day must be rigidly set. Again, work in your sweet spot if you can. Build in time away from your desk, too. If you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, you have been given a gift. Don’t waste it. Use the time you’d normally spend on a commute to take a daily walk, play a game with your child, or meditate. When you’d normally gather at the coffee pot in the office, instead take a few minutes to check in with a friend or neighbor. Schedule in those times, and when you return to your desk you’ll be more focused and less prone to distraction. 

5. Know When to Give In

This goes hand in hand with scheduling time for breaks, but it refers more to those unscheduled breaks. Nothing about our lives is normal right now. Some days, we’re just not with it. And some times the best approach to dealing with distractions is to give into them.

Again, your job may require more structure in your day, but if you need a break, take one when and if you can. If your child is struggling with an assignment, or is feeling a wave of sadness at missing their friends at school, give yourself some grace to ignore the routine, step away from work, and deal with life. Much like attempting to be productive outside of your sweet spot, pushing through with work when more important things--and people--truly need your attention (and that includes yourself!) only sets you up for frustration. Take a few moments to address what needs to be addressed. Breathe, and then regroup.

Tomorrow’s a new day.

Remember to check out the Work from Anywhere Workbook available below, and get on your way to becoming a Work at Home (or anywhere) Pro!

Oh, and if you do actually need a funny distraction right now, check out this Workin' at Home parody video (based on Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer). We're all in this crazy thing together!

All the best,

How to Work from Anywhere

Whether you’re a remote work pro or you’re new to this crazy club, our guide will help you work smarter not harder!

  • Design a Productive Workspace
  • Manage Communication
  • Deal with Distractions

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CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

7 Steps To A Stress Free Sale

Learn the 7 Steps to a Stress Free Sale in this post.

7 Steps to a Stress Free Sale

 

You are planning to sell your real estate investment, now or at some point in the future. Most everyone sells eventually. But when it comes down to it, the idea of selling can be so overwhelming!  Where should you start to prepare? I'm going to answer that question for you with my 7 Steps to a Stress Free Sale.

Well, I say seven steps, but in reality it’s more like three very specific categories that are broken down and laid out as clearly as possible. 

Let’s jump in: 

Pre-inspect

99.5% of buyers will want to pay an inspector to take a closer look at the property, so conducting a pre-inspection prior to listing will help you get ahead of the curve and address any potential issues before your house ever lists. Pre-inspecting has the potential to save you money in the long run, and will go far in meeting your goal for a stress free sale. In this category you will address Steps 1 through 3.

1. Walk around the outside of the home and outbuildings.

Make sure all of the exterior light fixtures work, check the siding for damage, and consider painting if there is any exposed wood. Tidy up landscaping while you are out there, too. Curb appeal matters, but paying attention to landscaping also allows you to ward off any potential pests, too. Fix broken gates and latches, too.

2. Look closely at the roof and gutters.

Clear debris and moss, and if there is any sign of damage or leaks, address it. To get a full picture of the roof condition, you will also need to move to step 3.

3. Check out the crawl spaces.

Attic and basement spaces, either full or crawl spaces, are good places to look for signs of problems before they become big. Look for signs of water damage and/or the presence of critters, and take care of it if you find either.

Declutter

The first impression may be the only impression buyers get of your property. If you really want to stand out you need to declutter every single area of the property, including the garage and yard. This category consists of Steps 4 though 6.

4. Address exterior clutter.

Pare down on lawn furniture, and toss some fertilizer and mulch on your freshly manicured plants. Sweep the porch of leaves and debris, and make sure that the exterior entry way is clean and inviting.

5. Take stock of what is in each space, including the attic and the garage.

Don't get bogged down here just yet. I'm going to give you some tips for purging the clutter below. Right now, just walk through and get a feel for what you have, grab any obvious garbage, and get it out.

6. Use the 3-Pile Method to inventory, sort, and clear out the excess.

Work room by room to put EVERYTHING you own, across your entire house, into three piles:

Pile 1: Donate. Think about your floor space as if you were paying price per square foot, because guess what: YOU ARE!

Pile 2: Toss. Be real with yourself here. Think of me saying this in my Mom Voice: “If you treat it like garbage, then it IS garbage.”

Pile 3: Keep. Keep only what you really use or what really matters to you. And if you keep it, it has to have a home. A place for everything and everything in its place, if you will. If it doesn't have a home then I encourage you to make a home for it OR...find its home in pile 1 or 2.

Re-inspect

Once the items in Pile 3 are back in their homes, and the rooms are thoroughly emptied, you’ll want to focus your attention on the finishing touches. This brings us to our final step to prepare you for a stress free sale.

7. Thoroughly assess the condition of interior walls, doors, and fixtures.

Sometimes we spend so much time living in our space that we become blind to the chip in the sheet rock or the door hinge that needs to be re-tightened. The point here is to make the existing features as tidy and functional as possible. 

There you have it, folks: My 7 Steps to a Stress Free Sale. It's all about the preparation. Do the work before you list to minimize surprises and headaches during the sales process. Trust me, it works!

And to help you work the steps, I've put all of this into a handy checklist, along with some of the most common FAQs I get asked. Complete the form below to receive your checklist!

FREE SELLER'S CHECKLIST

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Contrary to popular belief you do NOT need to remodel or spend money on consultants or services to sell your property. You simply want to know the condition of what it is you’re wanting to sell.

In fact, spending money on new floors or even paint may not give you the highest return on your investment. Follow these simple and FREE task’s and you’ll be set to cash in on your investment.

I can hear that sigh of relief from my desk!

All the best,

Work at Home Series: Managing Communication

Managing communication can be a challenge, a bit like it is for this little girl speaking into a tin can on a string

Work at Home Series: Managing Communication

Managing communication can be a challenge, a bit like it is for this little girl speaking into a tin can on a stringThis is the second post in our “Work at Home Series.” Today we’ll discuss tips and tricks for managing communication with your team while working remotely. Check out the first post in the series, Work Zones, and watch for the last in the series coming later this week, all about Dealing with Distractions!

Once you have decided where in your home you will be working, the next thing to think about is how you and your team will keep in touch. Your employer may already have tools and resources set-up to help you work at home. Or maybe this task falls to you, to determine how to manage communication and share files.

First, I have to tell you that this can get messy very quickly if you’re not careful, so some of these tips might seem basic. Trust me when I tell you, as complicated as the tools available for remote communication can be, if we stick to the basics it goes so much more smoothly.

Read on for some best practices to follow to make sure that your virtual communication is professional, seamless, and does not annoy your coworkers.

Managing Email Communication

Know when to use “Reply All” on group emails.

Be careful not to drop pertinent people out of your conversation, or you risk creating confusing side conversations, unnecessary repetition, or instances of avoidable miscommunication. However, you can over use that Reply All function. Don't use it if the information the email conveys is not pertinent to the entire group. Or better yet, if you need to make sure a group of people are kept in the loop, consider using other tools such as Slack, where conversations can be shared with a group, but segmented threads can be created within that group, too, so that those who need to know, know, and those that don't really need it aren't inundated with messages. 

Respond to emails from your team members in a timely manner.

A good rule of thumb is to reply within 24 hours of receipt, even if it is just a “Hey, got your message, and I will get back to you on (insert day/time frame).” Since you aren't face to face with your team on a regular basis, responding to email at regular intervals is a key component to successfully managing communication when working remotely.

Stay on topic.

Use clear and concise subject lines in your email so that receivers can quickly understand the purpose of your message, and are able to locate it again if they need to return to it at a later time.

Consider if email is really the best way to communicate your topic.

As mentioned above, business communication messaging tools like Slack might be better suited for your purposes, as they allow you to segment conversations and create threads to keep ideas together. Take a look at your options. For more conversational interactions, email might not be the best choice.

Managing Communication with Video and Conference Calls

Be on time and be prepared.

Treat virtual meetings just as you in-person meetings. Have your necessary documents and files open and close by before the call starts.

Be aware of what is visible on your screen when participating in video calls.

Most of us are doing our best to juggle work and family at home, so there is some room for grace here, but...don’t be that person that carries their screen around with them while they do household chores, attends to personal grooming in the middle of the video chat, or worse. It’s distracting, and can quickly derail the conversation. (Yes, people do these kinds of things…). And if you will be screen-sharing, have only the relevant tabs and files open on your screen to avoid showing the entire audience sensitive or personal information.

Mute your microphone if not speaking.

This is especially important if you must have a side conversation—say your kid interrupts you and needs your attention. Have those conversations off screen if on a video call. Just remember to unmute yourself when you need to speak!

Reduce audible distractions.

This goes hand-in-hand with muting your microphone, but it applies to those times when your microphone needs to be on. Turn off your phone ringer and mute other notification tones on your computer that might occur during the meeting.

Consider the level of security needed for video or conference calls.

Recent news stories about hacks into providers like Zoom must be considered. Password protected calls are best, but do your research before selecting a provider, and set up your account properly to minimize hacking or uninvited participants.

Data Management Best Practices

Pick your communication platforms with care.

Decide what types of communication will be conveyed with email, what will you use tools like Slack for, and how you will hold video or conference calls. Once designated platforms are set up, stick with them consistently so that your team knows what kind of information will be shared through each channel.

Follow protocol when sharing and saving electronic files.

Design an organizational system for storing electronic files, and create standards for using it. Then be sure to save files accordingly, and follow labeling guidelines. If your team has not outlined protocols for where files are to be stored and shared, start that conversation with the relevant decision makers. Nothing can derail a team faster than disorganized files. It wastes time, and creates sink holes in which important information can be lost.

Don't be afraid to use free/inexpensive online platforms for file management.

Google Docs and Dropbox are two common free/inexpensive platforms. Keeping documents organized and accessible can be a chore. Google Docs is great for documents that multiple people need to be able to edit, but Dropbox is better for storing final drafts, records, templates and reports. Think of it like a virtual file cabinet. Create clearly labeled drawers and folders just like you would in a real cabinet, and file documents accordingly.

Managing Your Workflow & Time

Don’t be annoying.

Remember that working remotely often means that people are working at different times of the day. That does not mean it is okay to blow up your team’s Slack or What’sApp message thread at 2 a.m. Jot down items you want to discuss with the team, and consider sending a daily digest of sorts, or utilize remote workflow tools to keep ideas shared and organized (see more below). On the flip side, turn off or mute your notifications for at least a few hours a day and overnight. It is easy to stay in work mode much longer than needed when your house is also your office. Set up times to give yourself mental space to be off the clock.

Create a schedule and follow it.

Set boundaries for the times of day you are working, and when you are off (and don't forget to check out our next post in this series, Dealing with Distraction,s for more about this point!). Not only is it good for your mental health, it is also how you can streamline your productivity, while protecting your precious time with your family or for yourself.

Use workflow and project management tools.

Shared online workflow tools like Trello or Asana are free or inexpensive, depending on the features you need to use. These tools allow teams to share progress on projects, tasks, and deadlines. Some even allow for team calendar integration, and have messaging/chat features.

Keep your shared calendars up to date.

Your team can't see if you're at your desk or peek over the cubicle wall to ask if next Tuesday at 10 a.m. works for you for that pitch meeting, so let them know when you are available by keeping your calendar up to date. Also important: update your availability status icons on tools like Outlook, Slack, and Skype, so your team knows if you are “in” or “out” of the office in real time.

 

Above all else, be flexible. Even though my team and I do this day in and day out, we still run into miscommunication, misplaced files, and forgotten details. It happens. We’re all human, and especially right now—we are all dealing with a lot.

If you work at home, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for managing communication. Leave a comment to share lessons you’ve learned or questions you have for my team! 

Stay well! 

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

Work at Home Series: Work Zones

To work at home, a woman sits at her desk in a detached shed converted to an office

Work at Home Series: Work Zones

To work at home, a woman sits at her desk in a detached shed converted to an office
This is where the real estate magic happens when I work from home.

This is the first post in our “Work at Home Series.” Today we’ll discuss the foundation of  working from home successfully: work spaces, aka Work Zones. Stay tuned for the next two posts in the series coming later this week: Managing Communication and Dealing with Distractions!

With most of the US population under orders to stay home as I type this, pretty much everyone not in healthcare, public safety, logistics, grocery retail, or select food service finds themselves at home right now. However, many of us still need to be able to do our work at home. 

This might be the first time you’ve had to work from home on a consistent basis, and perhaps you're unsure how to manage your days. Or maybe you've got time management down, but you're dealing with a whole new experience while working from home: juggling your job with havin’ your kids and significant other there, too.

Here’s the thing, working from home takes a lot more self discipline and structure than most people realize. My team and I work  remotely from our own homes 100% of the time, not just now. So let us give you some advice based on the lessons we’ve learned.

The first thing to consider about working from home is WHERE you will work. Enter: The Work Zone.

Only you can decide what type of at-home work zone suits your needs. You may decide to have more than one! With the kids out of school indefinitely, they likely need to have their own spaces for school work, as well, so these options should be considered for them, too. 

The three most common types of work at home work zones are Portable, Designated, and Separate. Each has its pros and cons, so you’ll want to honestly assess what works best for you.

Portable Zone

This is exactly what it sounds like: a work space that you can pick up and move around.

Works best for:

  • Projects that require very few physical supplies, such as writing, editing, developing web content, or managing teams and projects with software. 

Pros: 

  • Flexible enough to adapt to any given environment. You can take it with you when you move from place to place around your home--or even your yard if the weather would cooperate--and it is very adaptable if you have a small home that cannot accommodate a more permanent work zone.
  • Great solution if the primary spaces suitable to working in your home are in shared areas, like the kitchen or living room, since you’ll want to be able to clear those areas easily for other purposes.

Cons: 

  • Has to be set up and torn down to some extent each time it is used, which can be inefficient. 
  • People who deal with a lot of paper, produce physical products, or who are easily distracted by their surroundings would be better suited for another style of work zone.

Requirements: 

Single container or cart to be pulled out, used, then put away in a corner or closet; laptop; Wifi;. chargers; headphones; pens and notepads; wifi capable printer, and additional supplies stored somewhere else in the home if needed.

A rolling cart serves as a portable office, a great solution to work at home wiithout a lot of space.

Examples: 

My portable workstation is a rolling cart that is fully stocked with all of my necessary tools, so all I need to add is my laptop, journal, and needed files. 

My assistant has a portable lap desk, a folio for her old-school planner, and a bag to carry her laptop, hard copy file folders for open projects, a computer charger, mouse and pad, and pens, and is able to work anywhere in her home or outside with this set-up. 

However, for both of us our portable work zones are not our primary work spaces. We both find that with kids around so much we need the flexibility of having both a portable and a more permanent work area.

Action: Think about what you use nearly every time you work, and those are the items you will want to have with you as you move from work space to work space. Find a rolling cart, or designate an old briefcase or sturdy tote to easily keep supplies together.

Designated Zone

A designated zone is a space set aside that does not have to be put away at the end of the day, However, it is located in a room that serves another primary purpose—i.e. the kitchen, bedroom, or family room—and it does not have a physical separation between it and the rest of the room.

Works best for:

  • Projects or personality styles that are suited to leaving work out to return to quickly as time allows or when working in split time blocks suited.
  • Spaces that need to accommodate multiple people or purposes simultaneously, such as working while keeping an eye on children as they play or also work on their school work.

Pros: 

  • Always ready for someone to get productive quickly, since you don’t necessarily have to put away what you are working on if you’re in the middle of something and have to step away to make dinner.
  • Fits into how you use your spaces. It can be a corner of your family room or bedroom, a built-in desk in the kitchen, or the table in the formal dining room that you never actually use for dining.
  • Creates boundaries between areas in a room, and helps to avoid jockeying with the kids or your partner for elbow room since you would ideally each have your own designated spaces.
  • All of your supplies, such as envelopes or your printer, can be stored at or near your designated space.   

Cons:

  • Not isolated away from the rest of the household, so they do take up valuable real estate within the home.
  • Can also contribute to a feeling of clutter and chaos if they are not kept tidy.
  • May be attractive spaces for the rest of the family to decide to use for their own projects, so boundaries need to be communicated regarding by whom and how these work zones are to be used.
  • If you need to participate in many phone calls or online meetings, designated spaces can be difficult if your children, partner, or pets are not cooperative with your need for them to stay quiet, calm, and out of the way.

Requirements:

Desk and chair; storage for files and supplies; computer or laptop docking station; Wifi; chargers; headphones; pens and notepads; printer; other supplies like envelopes, files folders, etc. 

A designated portion of a family room allows several people to work at home at a time.

Examples:

My assistant's designated work zone, with multiple work stations, serves as an office for her, her children, and her spouse to all work at home. Primarily located in the open area of the second story of their home that they refer to as “the loft,” the space also serves as a reading nook, guest room, and family entertainment area for video games, board games, sewing/craft projects, and watching movies. Not shown is the clean laundry that also usually piles up while it waits to be folded from the laundry room that is just off screen in the images. This is real life right here! 

Action: Look around your home and see what niches are available to carve out for work zones. Keep in mind the types of projects and the amount of surface space you require, as well as your own habits when it comes to keeping your work zone tidy or cluttered. If you’re the cluttered type, and this might cause an issue with your family or your sanity, a separate zone might be a better solution for you, if you can spare the space.

Separate Zone

A separate zone is a space solely dedicated to working, fully separated from the rest of the house by a door, or maybe even in a detached building on the property. It does not have a dual purpose, or if it does, the work space is the primary purpose. 

Works best for:

  • Tasks that require a lot of space for equipment or supplies.
  • Those who recognize that they work best with complete detachment from the goings-on of the family home.
  • When privacy and fewer distractions and interruptions are important.

Pros:

  • Provides an intentional and controllable environment (usually..but even those walls can’t separate you from the chaos sometimes, as this expert learned the hard way while being interviewed on live television!).
  • You can be as tidy or messy as you want. No need to tidy up if it's not your style or is not efficient for your task.
  • When you need to walk away, close the door behind you and leave your work for a while. Easy peasy!

Cons:

  • Literally removes you from the rest of what's going on in the home (this could be a pro or a con, depending on what works for you!).
  • Requires considerable space, and not everyone has the room in their house to dedicate to a separate zone.

Examples:

A great work at home option if you have the space, a concerted detached building on your property is hard to beat.

I am blessed enough to have a separate work space to call my own. My sweet husband converted a storage shed in our backyard into an office for me. I get the best of both worlds! I have the physical separation from my family, which allows me to be way more productive, but I also have the best commute ever: I can walk to work—usually in my pjs, of course!

Action: If you have a long term need to work at home, and you have the room, take a look at your home, inside and out. Is there a room that is really not being used much? How about the garage? Do you actually park in it or is it just used for storage that can be cleared or better organized to open up the space? Or maybe you need to look in the yard. Do you have the space and funds to add a converted shed with power? If you have the space and the budget, the sky is the limit for a separate work at home zone.

 

So there you have it: our run down of the three types of work zones we use to work at home efficiently and comfortably. What option works best for you?

Be sure to check back for our next post in this series, when was share some of the ups and downs of managing communication when we are rarely in the same room as a team. Can't wait to share more with you!

All the best,

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

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