This once neglected, disregarded and, dare I say, abused space is among the largest rooms in the house. For decades it has slid into cluttered oblivion, too jam-packed with “stuff” to even park a car inside. But things are changing. Homeowners are expanding their organizing and remodeling zeal to the garage, which has become an extension of living space that has moved beyond its utilitarian origins. The garage plays an increasingly important role and can be a help or a hindrance when selling your home.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, Americans spent $2.5 billion on garage remodels in 2005. The number one garage rule: turn it into a garage. Buyers aren’t interested in garage conversions. If they needed an extra bedroom or family room, they’d look for a bigger house.
You don’t have to turn it into a show garage, but a finished garage will help sell your house. The garage is simply too big and too valuable to let its space go to waste. Function and organization are the key elements of a garage that will be an asset when you sell.
1. Capacity. The two-car garage is outdated. The trend for three-car garages began around 1992 and these days, four-car garages aren’t uncommon. Many home buyers have project cars, classic cars, RVs or boats to store. Some have teenagers who are driving. Others just want the extra storage space. Whatever the need, the added square footage is as important in a garage as it is inside the house.
2. Size. A standard-sized garage measured about 21 ft. x 21 ft. and was about 7 ft. high in the 1980s. Today’s SUVs, oversized pickup trucks, RVs, boats and trailers demand a larger garage. To accommodate bigger vehicles, the dimensions should be at least 22 ft. x 22 ft. by 9 ft. high.
3. Space. When it comes to garages, it’s all about size and space. Extra space is a bonus that can be used for storage, as a workroom or even as a playroom for the kids, especially if the home doesn’t have a basement.
4. Location. The trend for placement has come full-circle, with many garages now being located at the back of the house and even detached garages on an alley. While that creates better curb appeal out front, many home owners don’t want to sacrifice backyard living space. If the lot is wide enough, the side-load garage is still popular and can be easily disguised to look like a wing of the house.
5. Storage. Because storage is always at a premium, the garage offers another opportunity for stashing seldom-used items or tools and items for outdoor use. Organizational products can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000, but are well worth the investment. At the minimum, add wall hooks or pegboard for hanging up garden tools and bicycles. Shelves keep clutter from accumulating on the floor. Closets are great for hiding coats and boots. Cabinets and workbenches are bonus features that can close a sale.
6. Lighting. Replace that single center bulb with an 8-ft. fluorescent light strip. If you have a workbench or bonus space, additional lighting will be necessary and can include LED task lighting, spot lights or more fluorescent strips. Don’t forget outside lighting. Place two fixtures on either side of the garage door and additional fixtures by every outside access door.
7. Flooring. The garage floor should stand up to dirt, oil, salt, paint and other debris. Flooring not only upgrades the look, but also increases resiliency to stains and tires marks and hides imperfections. Choices range from epoxy resin-based paints to rubber mats and tiles. Paints and coatings come in a limitless range of colors and are now available with a gritty element for more grip, less slip. Mats and tiles provide a vapor barrier and cushion your feet. They also reduce the amount of dirt tracked inside and act as insulation and noise reduction.
8. Access. Oversized garages benefit from a walk-through door to the back or side yard, which also increase air circulation or reduce heat loss, depending on the season. Drive-thru garage designs are convenient for moving lawn tractors, trailers and other equipment out of the garage and for families with multiple cars.
9. Doors. Particularly if the garage faces the front of the house, the door should be an attractive complement to the house’s style. Design, color and materials can make this a stylish aspect of the home’s exterior. Doors should be lightweight, secure, functional and should enhance your home’s appearance. The first automatic garage door opener became commercial in 1954. These days, the door opener is practically a must and often considered a standard feature.
10. Finished walls and ceilings. Finishing a garage makes it look clean and “complete” and prepares the space for customization. It’s one less thing a buyer will have to do. Make sure the garage is insulated before you finish it off; that will save on heating and cooling bills. Don’t expect to get 100 percent return on investment with all these garage upgrades, but these amenities are sure to make your home more appealing to buyers.