Yet, not everyone thinks it's here to stay. Ralph Zucker of New Jersey-based Sumerset Development is betting that the "new urbanist" movement, born in the 1980s, will continue bringing detached garages back. Detached garages in the rear of a house accommodate cars while "offering the opportunity to provide aesthetically pleasing neighborhood streetscapes," argues Zucker. Detached garages can be more energy efficient and protect homeowners from breathing in toxins like carbon monoxide and stored pesticides.
2. Start from scratch if necessary.The least-desirable-garage test is an easier one to score.
Take the garage on John McElhenny's Gloucester, Mass., property. "It's falling apart," he sums up. "Every time there's even a moderate wind, we find shingles in the backyard. Anything we keep in there we have to position strategically because there are big holes in the roof. The lawnmower needs to be covered with tarp."
Friends and family can't glance over without passing a comment like, "Geez, what are you going to do with that garage?" adds McElhenny, who bought the house in 2005 with his wife, Aria. They hope to either rebuild or simply raze the garage before their young son is old enough to play around in the yard. "We have an older house, a list of things that need to be done. Redoing the garage is always near the top of the list."
If they decide to sell in a few years, a consideration, McElhenny realizes the garage will be a value detriment. It doesn't help that the "beat-up eyesore of a garage is pretty visible from the street."
He also realizes a raze-and-replace plan means facing local zoning officials.
Yet, points out Rissel, typically a garage can be rebuilt without zoning issues -- "as long as a part or parts are left standing before and after the renovations. Once the structure is removed, all bets are off."
West says chances are, a homeowner will want to make the new garage bigger than the old one. He advises making sure -- before demolition -- a permit for the larger garage won't be a problem.
3. If you're selling, make an impression.Cost-effective improvements should be the main goal of a seller.
Some elbow grease is one cost. "Clear out and clean out" is the top recommendation from West, also a partner and broker associate of The Group, Inc. Real Estate in Fort Collins, Colo.
"Make sure there is room to park the cars," adds Marsha Sell, a Coldwell Banker Realtor in the Atlanta area with 34 years of experience. If need be, "Get a temporary storage unit to eliminate the clutter in the garage." Nash advises parking cars elsewhere so the garage appears bigger.
Get rid of oil spills and other stains (a pressure clean or painting does the trick) and make sure the garage door is in good working order.
Why not just focus on the house and let the garage be a garage? Because buyers will take note. Ninety-one percent of people surveyed by Thompson's say they're more likely to buy a home if the garage is well maintained. And 70 percent think a garage's organization reflects the owner. Buyers get the impression that owners with organized garages are likely "as diligent and meticulous with home maintenance," Marguleas says.