"Since buyers buy homes based on emotion, a really dirty, cluttered and overloaded garage will certainly affect a buyer's decision," adds Sell.
4. If you're staying, make it a usable space.The best way to raise a garage's value is to create a space that'll get used, experts say.
For traditionalists, that may simply mean creating storage places and parking spaces. Thompson's research indicates that more than half of homeowners use their garage for storage and about one-third for car repairs.
Those with more imagination may want to transform the space into a game room, movie theater, sound studio or office, which Marguleas says are popular conversions.
West's garage -- take your own visual tour -- is more of a multipurpose room. There's plenty of storage, but also a home gym with fold-up treadmill that can be socked away and a TV. The space has functioned as an overflow party area on New Year's Eve and as the venue for a 32-person wine tasting dinner for his son's school.
Some garage improvements might include adding:
- A new, self-closing door to the house.
- Skid-free, slip-free flooring.
- Electrical power for a workshop.
- Bright lighting.
- A heating/cooling system.
5. Consider customizing.Not sure how you'll make room for all those improvements? A good de-cluttering is key. West advises organizing what's left by category -- sporting goods, lawn/garden, automotive, kids' stuff, etc.
Then decide how you'll store all that stuff. A variety of cabinet and other storage systems, many of them that get stuff off the floor and onto the walls, are available at home improvement stores. In the past several years, as garage reorganizations have become more popular, product lines have expanded.
Expect a professional, customized system to cost $10 to $14 a square foot and to get a 40 percent to 60 percent return on investment, West estimates.
Systems are available from Garage Envy, GarageTek, HouseWall Garage System, PremierGarage Systems and others.
Just be sure to "understand what's out there before rushing out and buying anything," says West. "A little education goes a long way."
Melissa Ezarik is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.