Developers are waking up to those ditching office life.
COMMUTING IS a nightmare. It takes three hours out of your day, costs the earth whether you drive or take the train and your quality of life suffers through stress and wasted time. There is, however, a way out - if you are lucky enough to do a job which is heavily reliant on a computer, phone, fax and e-mail. Work from home.

This course of action is not for everyone. You need to be single-minded enough not to be distracted by home demands and you have to be happy working on your own. If this is the case, the best option is to create a dedicated office space, which can be either in your home or even in the garden shed.

Check your insurance, as most home policies do not cover business items, although that is beginning to change. And if you are working in a room dedicated solely to your business you could be liable to pay business rates on that space. These, however, can be offset against tax.

As more people take up the home-working option, houses are beginning to be designed to include a dedicated work space.

When a development of loft apartments in Tabernacle Street, London, EC2, was launched at the end of last year with 15 units out of 23 being available for both residential and business purposes, they sold very quickly. "Everybody was a bit nervous of the idea at first, but people have absolutely loved it and they have identified live/work units as a good investment," says Paul Williams from Holden Matthews, the estate agent. "This sort of property has to be in the right position - these were only 200 metres from Broadgate in the City - and they have been bought mainly by people involved in City-type businesses such as financial services and consultancy."

At Butlers & Colonial Wharf, a development of loft apartments and town houses in Shad Thames, London, SE1, nine live/work apartments are being created by Nicholson Estates, of which six have already been sold - to an architect, solicitor and IT professional among others.

These one-bedroom apartments have a large separate room, with its own cloakroom, which can be accessed from the flat or from the communal area outside the flat. Prices range from pounds 280,000 to pounds 365,000.

In Magdalen Mews, London SE1, Bellway Homes has realised the need to provide homes from where people can work, and 13 out of 54 warehouse- style apartments will have self-contained studios. Eleven of these will have one-bedroom, two have two bedrooms. The development is due to be launched at the beginning of September. Prices are yet to be announced.

Laing Homes is building The Blue House, a new structure with 22 one- and two-bedroom flats, just around the corner from Spitalfields in east London. Nine of these apartments are live/work units. There are four different designs to choose from, all with ISDN links. Stirling Ackroyd is selling these from pounds 220,000.

Live/work properties are not confined to London. In Lincoln, Stamford Homes is building six town houses with five bedrooms. They will have a fully fitted integrated communication system. This will mean that each house will have access to digital, interactive television, ISDN computer lines and CCTV security systems. FPDSavills is selling these from pounds 157,000.

Mullion Homes is converting the Bibury Stud in Bibury, Gloucestershire. Each of these conversions has a multifunctional home office/studio, known as The Smartspace. This has a built-in wall bed, pull-out architect's drawing board, office space with built-in units for a computer, filing cabinet and an area with a sink for craft work. Four properties, including the showhome, are for sale from pounds 450,000 to pounds 595,000.

Up in Allerton Bywater, where a 57-acre former colliery site near Leeds is to be regenerated by the Aire Regeneration Partnership, there will be selection of workspace villas, which will be on three floors, with the workspace on the ground floor and a spiral staircase leading to living accommodation above. "The objective of these is to help people set up small businesses - ideally something which will be useful to the new community - a laundry, dry cleaners, jewellers, for example. Because the costs of building an extra floor are relatively low, the workspace will come almost free," says Clive Wilding, managing director of Gleeson Homes, one of the firms in the partnership.

Work is due to start at the end of the year. Anyone interested in these live/work units can contact Gleeson City Living. Prices are expected to range from pounds 55,000 to pounds 70,000.

In Crickhowell, Powys, you could buy a home at a "televillage". "It is the first one of its kind in the world, built so that people can work remotely but without isolation," says Ashley Dobbs, director of Acorn Televillages. Thirty-nine homes, ranging from a mews cottage to a large detached house are set around a telecentre in a converted Welsh barn, to which each home is linked by fibre optics. The owners can work from home, using the facilities of the centre, or rent space there. "We have a enormous range of ages, from early-20s to mid-70s," says Mr Dobbs. "And all sorts of uses from telecommunication consultants and translators to an alternative medical practitioner, a record producer and a pharmacist." Twelve homes are still available priced from pounds 195,000 for a three/four- bedroom house to pounds 369,000 for a six-bedroom house.

Holden Matthews, 0171-226 1313; Bellway Homes, 01737 646304; Nicholson Estates, 07000 426566; Stirling Ackroyd, 0171-549 0600; FPDSavills, 01522 551100; Mullion Homes, 01285 740111; Gleeson City Living, 0161-428 4299; Acorn Televillages, 0800 378848.

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