Many chiropractors have found that a home-based practice fits their lifestyle and their wallet. If you are considering a home-based practice, there are some factors you should consider and some specific tasks you will need to include in your startup projects:
* Location, location, location. As with all real estate, finding the right location for a home-based practice is your first task. Most home practices are in small- to medium-sized towns, where people are comfortable with the idea of going to someone’s home for services. For example, beauty salons in small towns are often run out of people’s homes, and funeral directors may live upstairs from their businesses. If you are lucky, you may find an existing practice to buy, but this is unlikely. Be prepared to think “out of the box” as you look for a home for your practice.
* Lenders. You may find that a small-town bank likes the idea of helping you buy a home and office combo; on the other hand, some lenders may be concerned about property values, depending on the area you have selected. Be prepared to talk to several lenders until you find one who understands how to appraise a home-based practice.
* Zoning and City Ordinances. The most formidable obstacle to a home-based practice is often the city where the practice is located. City officials have zoning rules that may prohibit retail or service businesses from locating in residential areas. You may also find that the city limits the percentage of space in the home that can be devoted to the business, or they might want a separate entrance to the office.
* Neighbors. Some residents don’t like the increased traffic and the parking problems that result from a business. You may be required to poll the neighbors and address their concerns before they will agree to allow your business in their neighborhood.
* Compliance Issues. Homes aren’t exempt from compliance issues, like the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you renovate a home to include a practice, you might find that you are required to install ramps, handicapped rest rooms, and other disability access features, at additional cost. You may also need to provide handicapped parking, even if your parking is already limited. You also need to comply with HIPAA privacy and security requirements, limiting the access of your family to the office, for example.
* Lifestyle Issues. Think carefully about the effect on your family of a home-based practice. While it might sound convenient to go upstairs for lunch, it may also bring your family into more direct contact with patients than you are comfortable with. You may also find that patients take advantage of your accessibility to stop in unannounced on your child’s birthday party.
* Tax Issues. You will need a good tax advisor to walk you through the tax issues involved with having a home office. The home office deduction, for example, is complicated and, if not calculated correctly, it can leave you vulnerable to an IRS audit. Be prepared to spend money on advisors.
While a home-based office can be a convenient way to practice in a small town, take the time to understand all the possible issues and be prepared to deal with them on the way to your home-based practice.