Home offices are hot in Boise

Cady McGovern//February 28, 2014

Home offices are hot in Boise

Cady McGovern//February 28, 2014

Beth Markley, sfwefwf, has a home office but prefers to take advantage of wireless technology to work from her favorite armchair, where she can be involved in household activities. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.
Beth Markley, of Markley LLC, has a home office but prefers to take advantage of wireless technology to work from her favorite armchair, where she can be involved in household activities. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

The home office has become a must-have feature for Ada County homebuyers, local real estate agents say, as people with out-of-the area jobs move to Boise for its open spaces and safe schools.

“They’re getting out of the big city, and working from home is huge,” said Mike Turner, owner and agent at Front Street Brokers in Boise. “They’re actually bringing their jobs with them.”

“I think there’s a lot of people who live here for the lifestyle and are able to (work) remotely,” said Judith Balis, owner and principal designer at Judith Balis Interiors.

Trent Dyrsmid, founder of BrightIdeas.co, an Internet media company, is one of those people.

“As long as you have a good Internet connection, a couple of computers and plenty of space, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t do,” he said.

Dyrsmid and his wife work out of two home offices in Boise, with a spare bedroom dedicated for use as a video studio. The couple moved from San Diego in fall 2013 for the lifestyle, Dyrsmid said. Their home in San Diego was smaller; Dyrsmid had to set up and take down the video studio in his living room each time he used it. And the couple knew they wanted to have children, but wouldn’t be able to afford a larger home in San Diego.

They had been to Boise before, Dyrsmid said, and knew real estate was more affordable. He said a home office was a huge consideration.

“Having a quiet space is absolutely critical,” he said, because he records interviews for a podcast he produces. Space was the other major consideration.

Finding a home with dedicated office space can be tough without actually looking at the home. The local multiple listing service allows real estate agents to indicate whether a property has a den or office, but “in many cases, technically if a room has a closet and a window, it can be classified as a bedroom,” said Kit Fitzgerald, director of sales at Red Barn Real Estate in Boise.

“Most people will make sure they have the bedrooms they need plus one more,” Turner said. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for, he said, many homebuyers just build.

Fitzgerald said it’s rare to find a buyer who doesn’t appear to need a home office, whether they are working from home or not. Most of the homes built in Boise since the early 1990s include an office space, she said. Those homes make up a large proportion of Fitzgerald’s inventory and are easy to find, she said.

In older homes, designers are seeing people repurpose auxiliary spaces that aren’t typically used any more, such as formal dining and living rooms, said Jordan Yankovich, an interior designer at Cornerstone Design in Boise.

“We usually get to be involved in the early stages and the planning and the design,” said Suzie Hall, president and principal designer at Cornerstone. “But we do also work on spaces where it’s already there, and how can we make it better?”

“It’s in your home … so it needs to look beautiful and hide the guts,” Balis said. “But it needs to be extremely functional at the same time.”

Custom cabinetry that hides printers, scanners and cords is one way to achieve that, Yankovich said.

Technological changes, such as mobile devices and tablets, are making home office spaces more flexible. That allows homeowners some choice in whether their home offices are part of a multiuse room or occupy a completely separate area in the house.

“When there are kids involved, the computers usually need to be more in public spaces,” Balis said, because parents want to monitor their online activities and their schoolwork.

Beth Markley, principal consultant at fundraising consulting firm Markley LLC in Boise, has an office space in her home, but she prefers to work in the living room.

“Honestly, I just like sitting in my armchair by the window,” she said. “It’s just my favorite spot.”

The office gives her a place to retreat when the house gets noisy, but she said part of the reason she works from home is so she can be present for her family, and when she works from the living room she’s able to manage both home and work from that spot, she said. She has also converted as much work documentation as possible to digital-only, which reduces clutter and allows for easier access and sharing.

Mostly, though, the real estate agents and designers said buyers and clients prefer a separate room, not only to keep work-related clutter away from communal areas of the home, but also to avoid the distraction of household chores.

“My little area by my chair at the end of the week looks like a hurricane hit it,” Markley said. The temptation to tidy up around the house is hard to ignore, she said, but on the other hand, she feels recharged for work after taking a break to tidy up the house. “When I had my own office to shut the door on, the clutter never went away. I never had to face it.”

When there’s no separate space for an office, designers can convert a closet to a small office space, or even arrange furniture in a way that divides a room.

“We look at the small things we can do first without building walls,” Hall said.

For people who work solely or primarily from home, that separation is crucial, said Balis, who recently moved her business from her in-home office to its location in Bown Crossing. She said that while people who work from home face the challenge of ignoring in-home obligations such as housework, they also face the pull of work after they’ve put in an eight-hour day.

“The guilt I would have for not working more was really tough,” she said. “It becomes compulsive, because it’s right there in front of you all the time.”

“The downside is it’s really difficult to turn (work) off when I should be spending time with (my husband) or the kids,” Markley said. She said it would probably be easier to step away from work if she worked solely from her dedicated office space. “I just like having the flexibility of doing what I want when I want.”