Land use and zoning laws are in place to make sure public and private real estate both have their place in a neighborhood, city or society. Zoning is a common form of land-use regulation designed to control property development. It signals out areas where housing or businesses can be built, dividing a city into sections such as commercial areas, industrial zones and residential neighborhoods.

Once this is done, each area is optimized for its purpose. For example, residential areas will only have homes and likely no retail outlets built within a certain distance from the properties. Commercial zones will have multiple businesses to encourage footfall. There may also be restrictions in place to prevent tall buildings from blocking views or from neighbors parking up and down an entire street.

What does zoning have to do with you?

It depends on what you plan to do with the property you’re purchasing. If you want to run a retail outlet, you don’t want to buy a property in an industrial or residential zone, because you wouldn’t be able to open the business in most cases. Similarly, you don’t want to buy a building to use for a home if it’s not zoned as residential, because you won’t be able to live there.

The good news is that zoning can be changed in some instances, and in others, a building might be zoned for two purposes. It’s a good idea to speak with your attorney about a property you wish to buy so that you know which zone it falls into before you enter into a contract.