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Remodeling? Don't Convert The Garage!

Written by on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 11:56 am
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One of the biggest reasons that people buy homes instead of continuing to rent is to have more space.

But the cost of buying with little money down or to move up to a better neighborhood could mean a compromise on space.

Many older homes, particularly those built before the 1990s, average less square footage than newer homes. One way homeowners get more space is by converting the garage.

The average garage is approximately 20 by 20 feet. Converting it gives you approximately 400 more square feet of living area.

The location of the garage is ideal. It's already under the roof and walled on three sides, making it relatively inexpensive to remodel as a den or a guest suite.

And that's where your plans can go wrong.

Unless you remodel the garage from the outside, it will always look like a conversion. The driveway will lead to,,, a wall, so it will have to be remodeled, too.

You'll have problems on the interior, too. The floor will be lower than the rest of the house because it's a concrete slab. It isn't insulated like the rest of the house, so there will be a noticeable difference in sound absorption and temperature.

Where you'll encounter the most difficulty is in determining your home's value. When you purchased the home, you paid so much per square foot. Only living space is counted, which doesn't include the garage, porch or patio, even if they are under the roof.

You'll get more living space for less per square foot, but when it comes time to sell your converted home, get ready for mixed reactions from buyers. Many will refuse to even look at your home. They want the security, storage, and utility of a garage.

Others will consider your home but they will punish the lack of a garage with a low offer. Some will refuse to count the square footage of the garage as equal to the rest of the house. Others will deduct the cost of reconversion or building a new garage in their offer.

No matter how you count it, square footage added at the cost of a garage isn't worth it.

Garage Remodel

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  About the author, Blanche Evans

4 comments

  • Comment Link Caldwell Valuation Services Monday, 17 February 2014 1:52 pm posted by Caldwell Valuation Services

    Always check with your local code enforcement office to see if conversions are legal. Sometimes older houses with converted garages are grandfathered in, other times they are clearly illegal.

    I've read of at least one buyer who sued the seller after code enforcement made the buyer convert the area back to a garage. They buyer purchased the house specifically to use the converted garage as an office, but when local officials found out about the garage conversion it had to be restored to a garage. So much for that large office...

    As far as appraisers including the garage conversion in the living area, Fannie Mae does allow this if it is common in the neighborhood, and the appraiser can clearly demonstrate that conversions are acceptable to the market by supplying comparables with garage conversions. But again, it may be illegal and/or unsafe. Caveat emptor!

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  • Comment Link Diana Marshall Friday, 14 February 2014 8:46 am posted by Diana Marshall

    Most houses with attached garages are designed for service entry via the garage rather than the front door. Enclosing the garage can really create havoc with the flow of the house. We once looked at a house and thought about buying it until we realized one would have to go in and out a really impressive front door to do the laundry.

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  • Comment Link brian coombs Thursday, 13 February 2014 10:23 pm posted by brian coombs

    A few more things to consider. A garage to bedroom converion requires an egress window and smoke alarm. Gas appliances must not share the same space and an extra bedroom may exceed the approved septic design.

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  • Comment Link EJ Parker Thursday, 13 February 2014 1:30 pm posted by EJ Parker

    Most appraisers will not count converted garage space unless it was done legally with permits.

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