When a House Is More Than a Home


Is the trend toward home offices overblown?

In its first-ever look at home-based businesses, the Labor Department has found that about 6% of all households--6.1 million, to be exact--operated businesses out of their residences last year.

But running a business out of your house is one thing; working at home is something else.

For example, the Labor Department said the workweek of self-employed people averages only about 23 hours.

And what about those folks who are employed outside the home but are allowed to work where they live? Their numbers have been variously estimated at between 9 million and 42 million, the latter figure probably encompassing those who bring work home in the evening or work once or twice a week at home.

But Leanne Lachman of Schroeder Real Estate Associates, a New York advisory firm, said that even the lower number is way too high. "The truth is that millions of people have offices in their houses that are used fitfully," she says.

Fewer than 5 million is more like it, Lachman said. Her evidence: An AT&T; report that says that, on average, its workers who telecommute spend just six days a month out of the office.

Also, a statement by the Olsten Corp., a temporary employment service, says that although 42% of its clients offer some kind of telecommuting arrangement, only 7% of their workers actually use it.

Television may have taken over as the focus of America's family rooms, but fireplaces remain an icon.

Even in warmer climates. Even in those parts of the country where air quality is closely monitored. Even when the fireplace is a pricey option, it's not really an option for most people: They just have to have one--or more.


According to the Census Bureau, three of every five new homes built last year had a fireplace, and 4% had two or more.

In Texas, Ryland Homes reports that a fireplace is the first-choice option of more than 60% of its buyers. And in California, half of Ryland's buyers choose to add a second fireplace.

Most existing-home sales include a so-called "warranty," but buyers shouldn't confuse those insurance policies with guarantees provided by home builders on new houses.

They are different animals.

New-home warranties typically protect buyers against cosmetic defects for a year, problems with operating systems for up to two years and structural defects for up to 10 years.

Resale warranties, on the other hand, have absolutely nothing to do with how well the place is built. They are service contracts that cover the repair or replacement of mechanical systems and most built-in appliances that are in good working order when the house is acquired. What's more, service calls usually involve a deductible.

That's not to say they aren't worth the money, especially since it's the seller who foots the bill, not the buyer. But they are service contracts; nothing more.

Distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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