Before buying a property, make sure you consider the zoning in the area. Never assume you can just use the property as you please, simply because you own it. Zoning governs land use and must be followed.
For instance, if you buy a house to use as a business, you need to make sure it is in a place that is zoned for commercial use. If it is in a residential zone, you cannot run a business out of it.
However, cities do sometimes give out variances. Zoning laws stay the same, but one specific property with a variance does not have to follow that zoning perfectly. You may be able to get a variance to make your business an exception and allow you to run it out of a house.
The key to zoning is basically just to make sure that the value of all the properties in the city stay high. A mansion from 1912 on a street lined with similar homes is worth a lot. That price plummets if a gas station goes in on one side and a pizza parlor goes in on the other. Zoning makes sure that homes stay in the area and everyone’s property is worth more.
The reason for variances, then, is to allow people who would not lower the property values to use properties in innovative new ways. If you want a variance, you need to show that you will have a positive impact — or, at least, not a detrimental impact — on the values near the property you own.
When real estate transactions grow complex, it is crucial to understand your rights.