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Don’t assume all commercial zones are the same

When you first learned about zoning laws, it was probably explained to you that land tends to get broken up into commercial zones and residential zones. This keeps housing in one area and puts businesses in a separate area. Not only is this convenient for landowners, but it also helps with city planning, keeps property values high and much more.

Now, the above information is not inaccurate, but there is a slight problem: It just does not go far enough. It does not tell you everything you need to know. The simplicity can be a bit misleading.

In reality, even commercial zones are often broken down even farther into various subtypes. Examples include office buildings, recreational businesses, retail businesses and entertainment businesses.

So, just because an area is zoned for commercial opportunities does not mean it will definitely work for you. Maybe you want to start a gym, but the area is just zoned for warehouses and industrial plants. Maybe you want to put in a local grocery store, but the area is zoned for office buildings and other white-collar jobs.

You need to do your research up front to make sure that you can actually use the building you buy as intended. If you cannot, you need to know what options you may have, such as seeking a variance to start a different type of business than is typically allowed in the area.

As you can see, this process is often a bit more complex than people realize, which is why it’s so crucial to know what steps to take.

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