Whether you’re a Realtor who has been working from home for years, or whether you’re just setting up your home office for the first time, check out Land Title's top 10 tips for officing from home. (And when you’ve read through ours, post your own on the Land Title Facebook page!)
- As much as possible, set regular hours and do your best to separate work from family time. Unless you are on deadline for a specific project, always leave the home office at the end of your scheduled time. This will help your family know that work time doesn’t go on forever, and they will be more likely to respect the time you have set aside for work.If you have trouble staying on task, set a timer for each job as you begin it. For example, allow 45–50 minutes to work on a specific job, then give yourself 10 minutes to take a break, stretch, throw in a load of laundry. A timer can also help your family — kids can learn to wait for your breaks to ask questions, for example, so may interrupt less while you're working.
- Use your home office for work-related tasks only. Not only will the IRS require this for your home office deduction, but it will help you be in the mindset of doing only tasks that are income-generating when you are in your work space.
- Be ready to work when you sit down at your desk. Organize and file your work at the end of each day, then write your to-do list for the next morning and place pertinent documents front and center.Some organizers recommend writing down your 3 most important tasks you must accomplish, then having a second tier of 3 nice-to-accomplish tasks, which you don’t work on until the priority tasks are out of the way.
- Minimize distractions by closing your door, if you can. If your office is a desk in a shared room, consider using headphones or a white noise machine to help you stay focused.
- Set up a table and chairs in your office for meeting with clients. Or, if your home office space is too small, designate a separate area (a living room or dining room table, for example) that is always inviting and clutter-free in case guests stop by unannounced.
- Keep paper under control. Keep your most important files close by, then set up a color-coded filing system so other paperwork is well-organized and easy to find when you need it. Consider using a one-touch system for paper: every item that comes through your office gets touched one time, when you decide immediately whether to file it, act on it, delegate or toss it.
- Use Google Docs or other similar websites to store documents online. This means not having to worry about computer crashes, and it provides easy access to documents from the road. Best of all, it helps eliminate clutter!
- Don’t let social networking get out of control. Rather than keeping Facebook or LinkedIn open in browser tabs at all times, set aside a certain amount of time for social media, answering emails, and doing other online tasks.Consider using a timer if you find yourself losing track of time when you’re on the Internet. Social media and email are powerful tools when wielded with precision. If you let them control your time, though, you’ll sacrifice productivity and time better spent elsewhere.
Have a social media plan, then stick to it. Consider using time-saving tools like HootSuite to schedule and manage all your posts so you can get back to in-person contacts with your prospects, clients, family, and friends.
- Regardless of whether you own or rent, and whether you work full or part time, Realtors who work from home should be able to take the home office deduction on their taxes.You’ll want to check with your tax advisor as well, but the IRS requires that in order to claim a business deduction for your home, you must use a portion of your home “exclusively and regularly” as your “principal place of business.”
Generally, deductions are based on the percentage of the home devoted to business use, whether it’s a room or well-defined portion of a room. For more information, see IRS Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home, available at IRS.gov.
- Often-overlooked deductions include a percentage of utilities, Internet costs, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, and property taxes; costs related to a dedicated phone line; depreciation of home office equipment; mileage; professional training not reimbursed by your employer; and a portion of qualifying travel and meal expenses.If you are remodeling your home office, it is not generally considered a deduction, but it is depreciable. Check with your accountant for more information.
Be sure to check with your tax advisor to find out which deductions apply to your specific business and how to claim them.
Finally, your business partners may have tools in place that help work-at-home clients specifically. Land Title, for example, provides a variety of tools for the benefit of Realtors who office at home:
- Online ordering, real-time order status tracking 24 hours a day, eContracts, and linked commitment delivery make it easy to access your entire transaction online from your home office.
- Land Title has over 40 offices statewide, which makes it convenient for agents who work at home to drop off earnest money or pick up checks. Even if you choose to schedule a closing at an office near the buyer or seller, you can use any Land Title office to leave or receive checks or other items that can't be sent electronically.
- All of Land Title's office have free and secure Wi-Fi, so you can check emails and access documents electronically before, during, and after your closing. Oh, and don't forget to post to your Facebook page immediately after you close: "Sold! And Land Title closers are the best!"
- Sales reps and closers are experienced and local experts for your transaction. You can count on Land Title to know the people and know the properties, because we know Colorado!
When it comes to working from home, Land Title is your best business partner and biggest supporter.