Converting commercial property into residential space—like turning a parking garage into condos—has been popular recently. But what about rezoning property from residential to commercial?

Commercial real estate is lucrative. Nearly $90 billion is spent building it each year.

If you have a residential property, it could be well worth your time to convert it to commercial. Especially if you live in an already busy area, near downtown, or on a crowded street that acts as the main thoroughfare for your neighborhood.

You might even be familiar with other buildings that have already gone through the rezoning process and have been changed from a residential property to a commercial property.

But where do you start?

There are several things to consider and many things to do before you get the zoning change you need for your property. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about changing zoning from residential to commercial.


Assessing Your Residential Property

When changing the zoning designation of residential property from residential to commercial, you have many of the same considerations as you do when building a commercial property from the ground up. You have to get the right permits, select an office layout, fill out a change of address form, etc.

But with residential properties, zoning rules are a bit different.

modern apartment building

Changing zoning from residential to commercial involves more than just sticking a sign out front and putting in a wheelchair ramp. You’re changing the entire purpose of the structure, which means the structure itself may have to change as well.

Here are a few things to assess before you actually start the formal process of getting a zoning change:

  • Impact on the community: If the property isn’t already zoned for commercial use, think about how the noise or traffic caused by your business will negatively affect schools, families, and other parts of the community. Try to anticipate any objections or concerns that the local zoning board, planning commission, or members of the community might naturally have.
  • Costs: Property owners often have to pay a fee at some point during the rezoning process. Find out how much it costs to rezone a property. Make sure to get quotes for converting the property. Depending on what you’re working with, it can be easy to go over budget.
  • Access: Even if a property is zoned commercial, there may be physical limitations that make it difficult for clients and employees to get in and out.

Regardless of the land or building you pick, a commercial building inspection is critical to your assessment of the property.

A reliable and experienced building inspector can provide you with insight and information that you wouldn’t otherwise have, such as expected operating costs, potential future repairs, the existence of any unpermitted work, and ADA compliance. They also will be able to help you understand local zoning laws, zoning ordinances, and the issues that are especially important to the city council or local planning agency.

This is not the place to cut corners. You can’t make good decisions with bad information. The more experienced and thorough a building inspector is, the more accurate the report will be, which means you’ll know exactly what you are getting into.

After you have assessed your residential property to determine whether or not it is worth going through the process of changing zoning from residential to commercial, there’s one more thing to consider: the rezoning process.


Rezoning Property From Residential to Commercial

Even the most turnkey property in the world wouldn’t make a good office space if it isn’t zoned for commercial use. And if the structure was originally designed for residential use, there’s a good chance it has to be rezoned before you can make it your new headquarters.

Here’s how to rezone a property from residential to commercial.

Meet Your Neighbors

You’ll have to get approval from both the government and your community before you can move forward with your plans. Having the community on your side could make dealing with the local government a little easier. Going to your neighborhood association can help you build a rapport with your community.

Listen to their concerns regarding traffic, pollution, and other impacts to the area. Show that you’re willing to work towards solutions so that both of you can be happy. If you’ve already anticipated and planned against these objections, even better.

tiny house under construction sitting on top of blueprints

Go to Zoning Board Meetings

Just like you want to meet those in the neighborhood who will make decisions impacting your property, you should go to zoning board meetings. You’ll gain valuable insight into zoning regulations and laws and get to know those who can say yes or no to your rezoning requests.

Learn About Local Zoning

Zoning board meetings are a great place to start, but if you want to know how to change the zoning of a residential zoned property, you’ll still have to do your homework. The rezoning process oftentimes relies on politics and local trends.

Has there been a prior property that made the switch? Find out how and why they were successful.

Do a deep dive into demographics, benefits to the community, zoning regulations and history, and more. Anything you can find that strengthens your case will help.

Make Your Request

Once you’ve had your property inspected, it’s time to formally make your request to have the zoning regulations updated. File the paperwork with your proposal and wait to hear back from the zoning commission and the community.

You’ll likely get requests from both the local community and the government to make changes to your proposal. Look into what it would take to implement those changes, and make any adjustments you can. Sometimes, the requests are impossible for you to actually achieve. Have a “Plan B” if adjustments aren’t possible.

If you’ve done everything right, the final vote should be in your favor!


How to Change Zoning the Right Way

There are a lot of details to keep in mind when going through the rezoning process and getting a zoning designation changed from residential to commercial. Our guide will help you keep track of everything you need for the rezoning process to make the switch successfully.

But before you go to a single meeting, make sure you get an inspection from a qualified commercial building inspector.

Not all inspectors are created equal. And when you’re about to rest your entire livelihood on a piece of real estate, it’s important to look before you leap. There are no lemon laws when it comes to real estate, and you will be 100% financially responsible for the property once it’s in your hands.

Reach out to us today and make sure your property inspection is done right!