What is the difference between a property listed as commercial and residential? Can one do commercial business in a residential property?

Asked by Njhem203, New York, NY Sat Dec 17, 2011

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Jngram, Home Buyer, New York, NY
Mon May 23, 2016
commerical business on residental street Is this legal?
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Lindsey Newm…, Agent, New York, NY
Wed Jan 11, 2012
The best way for me to answer this question is by my own personal experience. While most Real Estate Agents are able to work from home because of the computer age we live in, I do the vast majority of work from my apartment. This never presents a problem for anyone because it doesn't cause any intrusion on anyone else who lives in the building. However I have worked with apartment buyers who had this similar question as you do, and I advised them in the following way..., if you plan to buy a condominium with the goal of having a home office, this will not present a problem. If you plan to run a small business with several employees, then you will more than likely run into a challenge, especially considering that there are building rules that you will most likely be breaking, let alone city zoning laws. It would be considerably more challenging to run a small home business in a co-op building, as they tend to have many more rules for their residents to abide by, but a home office would go under the radar.

A funny story having to do with this same question: I am friends with someone who works from his upper east side apartment, and makes his living by producing music. He has a recording studio in his apartment, with no sound-proofing. The reason he has never run into a problem is because he only plays the music loud during the day, when he knows most of the neighbors are at work.

Lindsey Newman
Senior Real Estate Sales Associate
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What about the condo insurance policy? For example, the owner downstairs rents to a woman who runs a property management business out of the condo. She has a few employees come in and out. I am concerned that if there is a liability issue, fire or some other disaster, which isn't unlikely in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the insurance company could deny payment because the property wasn't operated according to the use specified on the policy. This is in addition to two that are illegally operated as short-term rentals.
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Annette Levi…, , New York, NY
Mon Dec 19, 2011
You cannot live in a commercial zoned property, but you can do business in a residental property. It also depends upon the business and the percentage of the living space you would be using for business. If it is a SFR then no more then 25% of the interior space can be used for business. Depending upon the zoning, will determine if you can have clients come to the office. Parking is also an issue.
If you are looking to purcahse a co-op or a condo. You will need to purchase an unit that the association says can be used also as an office. It again will be determined by the type of office. If you do not see clients in your office, then they are more lenient.
Speak to your realtor about your needs for guidance.
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Jenet Levy, Agent, New York, NY
Sun Dec 18, 2011
What determines whether a building is commercial or residential is the zoning. Residential buildings may have ground floor commercial spaces. Similarly, residential buildings may have certain units that are professional space, which may only be used for doctors/medical professionals. Then there is the category of live/work, where a unit is able to legally used for both living space and commercial space. Then there is formerly commercial space, rezoned for residential, which is what most true loft buildings are. That answers the first part of your question. As to whether you can do commercial business from a residential property, generally, no. But it doesn't mean you can't locate a live/work location. To further clarify, you certainly can work from your computer at home doing whatever you like, but as to a flow of customers in and out in a residentail co-op or condo, you will run into serious trouble with the board.

Hope this helps.

Jenet Levy
Halstead Property, LLC
212 381-4268
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Ed Morgan, , New York, NY
Sun Dec 18, 2011
Properties are residential or commercial. That being said, there are many exceptions. For instance, a building may called mixed-use, which means that there are some units that are residential and some that are commercial. The most typical example is an apartment building with residences above ground level stores. As far as how it is listed, the description usually indicates what is allowed in the building. Some buildings are either all residential, or all commercial. As far as doing business in a residential property, this you would have to speak to an attorney, as to what is allowed and what is not allowed. Please feel free to e-mail me with any additional questions. Ed Morgan emorgan@fkrealestate.com
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Martina Ryan, Agent, Bayside, NY
Sat Dec 17, 2011
Residential & commercial properties are dependent on the zoning laws of the neighborhood they are located in. Some areas are residential only & some are commercial; & there are also areas that have mixed use where there are commercial & residential properties. The Department of City Planning usually takes on the role of zoning each district. Unfortunately you can not run a commercial business in a residential neighborhood although there are sometimes exceptions made for doctors & other services. If you do run a business in a residential area, the city will ticket you continuously until you cease.
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Joan Kagan, Agent, New York, NY
Sat Dec 17, 2011
For an Upper West Side property that can be used for both residential and commercial (pending board approval), please see my listing below"
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Armen Meschi…, Agent, New York, NY
Sat Dec 17, 2011
It speaks to the property's zoning.
Key difference between a commercial and residential zoning is USE. Goes without saying that "Residential" use is meant for living. SOME businesses can of course be operated out of a home, but such use is very limited. Commercial zoned properties often carry limitations of commercial use also based on the business type (foot traffic, occupancy limits, environmental concerns etc...)

Key to making the right decision is to define all the ways you tend to use a property, check the zoning limitations. If you find restrictions, find out if you can apply to change the zoning.

Let me know if you have more questions.


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Anna M Brocco, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Sat Dec 17, 2011
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