Garage Trends and Garage Remodels

Home Buyers Want a Real Garage! So Think Before You Remodel.

Curb appeal
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You'd better think twice before you remodel your garage into that extra bedroom you've been dreaming about. Home buyers are increasingly turning up their noses at homes that do not have a garage — or a garage that no longer functions as a garage. 

Even investors hesitate to buy homes without a working garage. If you've turned your garage into a bedroom, family room or studio, your home might linger on the market and possibly sell for less than surrounding homes with functional garages.

Moreover, most homeowner associations do not allow parking in the driveway for more than a few hours. In some ways, that kind of policy seems eerie and reminds me of The Stepford Wives. But I've had buyers refuse to buy a home in an area where everybody parked in the street, much less in the driveway. It seems that nobody wants to look at your car.

Garage Trends

  • The two-car garage is outdated. Families are growing. People own "summer" and "winter" cars. Teenagers own cars. Some home buyers base their entire home-buying decision on the type of garage that comes with the house. One home buyer specifically decided to purchase a certain home because it had a four-car garage. He ran a landscaping business and needed to park four cars, plus have RV access. One house in Sacramento fit those needs, so he bought it.
  • Auto elevators boost your garage's capacity. For less than it costs to buy a used Honda, you can hire a company to install an auto elevator in your garage. It works like this: You drive into the garage, get out of the car, push a button and your car rises. Then you can park another car underneath. Or you can dig out the ground below to provide subterranean parking. The lift and your car will be completely concealed.

    Garages Are Getting Bigger

    Back in the '80s and '90s, a standard-sized garage measured about 21 feet by 21 feet and was 7 feet high. I remember this because I once single-handedly (OK, I let my husband help) built a garage about that size.

    Consider the length of an H2 Hummer, about 15 feet long, which doesn't leave a lot of room for typical garage items such as a lawnmower, gardening tools or workbench.

    A 17-foot Bayliner boat, with trailer and hitch, won't fit in a smaller garage, either. To accommodate our larger vehicles, garages need to be at minimum 22 feet by 22 feet. To fit an SUV, the height should be at least 9 feet.

    Garages Moving to Rear of Home

    To increase the number of homes on lots, builders are moving garages to the back of the home. The garage is accessible by side entry or from an alley, just like the 1950s. Although some are attached at the rear, the trend is moving toward detached garages. Rear garages, builders say, emphasize the fronts of the homes and encourage interaction between sidewalk strollers and porch sitters.

    Don't Go Overboard

    Some homeowners build very expensive garages. A garage in Land Park cost the owner more than $160,000. It held two cars and had built-in storage cabinets against the far wall, plus exterior access to several other storage units. These owners built a workshop/game room over the garage, involving a multidirectional ceiling to follow code, because code specified that garage roofs must not be higher than the house. But the room was useless; it did not have a bathroom, and buyers did not see the value in the expensive oak woodwork or built-in closets.

    Another client built a $70,000 garage on the rear of his property with vaulted ceilings. Half of the garage is a studio, without a barrier wall, and the other half houses two cars. When he sells, it is unlikely he will see a return on that investment. But it adds an interesting element to the home.

    Garages That Sell

    Estimates for organizational products run, on the low end, from around $1,000 up to about $10,000. Garages, while still housing cars, are now an extension of living space and have moved away from a total utilitarian function.

    • Many buyers want a garage that offers organizational systems featuring bins, pull-out drawers, baskets, shelving, cabinets, workbenches and closets.
    • Wall hooks for hanging up garden tools and bicycles keep clutter off the floor and eliminate the need to stack things in a corner.
    • Extra space in the garage that can be used as a workshop or hobby room is a delightful bonus for those seeking more space.
    • Some want an auxiliary playroom for children, especially if the home has no attic or basement.
    • Buyers want enough room to park three cars.
    • Painted and sealed or polypropylene-tiled floors, finished walls and ceilings give garages a clean look.

    While an upgraded garage might not return your entire investment — especially if it's on the high side — the amenities will make your home more attractive to buyers and, thus, easier to sell.

    At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.