home equity

Raise the door on the value of your garage

Do you leave a $35,000 car out all night, exposed to the elements, falling limbs, vandals and thieves while a collection of junk rests safely inside your garage?

Congratulations! You're a typical American homeowner.

You not only endanger the well-being of your $35,000 car, you also use a portion of your home that's worth about that much to store a bunch of generally useless stuff.

A study at Florida State University in 2003 found that the existence of a regular-sized garage had approximately a 13-percent effect on a home's price (compared to no garage) among Philadelphia-area homes sold. An oversized garage affected home price by 14 percent. That means if your home is worth the median price today of $210,000, your garage is worth $27,300 (210,000 X 13 percent).

"It's historically been a place to park your car -- if you can get around all the clutter," notes Bill West, author of the " Your Garagenous Zone" books.

And Todd Rissel, CEO of e2Value and a property valuation expert to insurance companies, says people place so little value on their garages that when providing their insurance agents with information on their homes many people simply forget to include information about their garages.

The value of home characteristics

Consider, too, that garages add square footage to the household. Organizing and otherwise improving the area so that it's better utilized (particularly in places where land values are high) directly affects the total value of a property, experts say.

Garage value
Homeowners sold on the idea of improving their garages -- whether it's to enjoy the space or for resale -- have multiple options. Here's some advice:
Utilize the space
  1. Understand what you're working with.
  2. Start from scratch if necessary.
  3. If you're selling, make an impression.
  4. If you're staying, make it a usable space.
  5. Consider customizing.

1. Understand what you're working with.

In some respects, the "ideal" garage is based on preference and perspective. For example, local weather conditions can dictate that ideal, says Anthony Marguleas, owner of Amalfi Estates, a Los Angeles-area independent real estate company. With Midwest winters, a double-sized garage "is probably vital, whereas in Southern California it is less of an issue." As Jo Ellen Nash, owner of a real estate firm serving resort markets in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colo., puts it, "No one wants to shovel snow and ice off their cars in the winter." Many garages in her area are heated and can accommodate cars and also toys like golf carts and snowmobiles.

If averages dictate ideal size, consider this: Census data collected since 1991 indicate that the percentage of homes built with garages for three or more cars has doubled, from 10 percent in that year to 20 percent in 2005. And if keeping up with the Jones's drives your thinking, know that 52 percent of homeowners want garages their neighbors envy, according to research from The Thompson's Company, makers of Thompson's Water Seal products.


Most real estate experts agree an attached garage is preferred today. The one-car detached garage, which was once the norm (original cars had a tendency to catch fire), fell out of favor as cars improved and building codes required a fire wall between the house and the garage, explains West. Convenience and security factors drove the attached-garage trend.


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