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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

7 comments

  • Comment Link Frank Furter Sunday, 06 July 2014 9:02 pm posted by Frank Furter

    Illegal aliens live in garages. When they are deported, the garage is empty because no one is living there anymore. This causes extra effort to be needed to keep the sidewalk clean.

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  • Comment Link Caldwell Valuation Services Sunday, 22 June 2014 3:30 pm posted by Caldwell Valuation Services

    There are too many unknowns for someone on this forum to give advice since markets vary so much. Here are some general questions to start with though:

    1. What is the total cost of repairs to make the house livable? Do the repair costs exceed what you could sell it for once repaired? Are the repairs so extensive that the house would have to be brought up to current building codes?

    2. What would it cost to remove the house and build a replacement?

    3. Would the city/county allow you to convert the garage to a house? Talk to you local building officials to make sure this would be legal.

    4. What is the cost to convert the garage to a house if allowed? Would the garage conform to the neighborhood and market once converted? Would buyers pay less for a converted garage in your location if you decided to sell?

    Local realtors may have information on similar houses in your area that have been recently renovated, and can be a good source of information on neighborhood values and trends. Local contractors can give estimates on the repair costs as well as the cost to replace the house or convert the garage if legal. Talk to your local building officials about the legal aspects of repairing your house or converting the garage (zoning, setbacks, elevation etc.)

    An appraiser can give you a breakdown on the value of the land and improvements (house) as-is and as repaired. This will help you decide if it is feasible to repair the house, replace it, or convert the garage if allowed.

    You need much more information and local help before you can make an informed decision on how to proceed. Consult with licensed professionals with referrals. Good luck.

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  • Comment Link Marthaj77 Sunday, 22 June 2014 1:58 pm posted by Marthaj77

    I read the above comments and have some questions. I currently live in a run down house which is going to have to have major work done on it etc.new electrical wiring, wood is rotting on the outside so I'm gonna have to replace that with probably vinyl siding, its not insulated well, have termite problems, the whole inside of the house needs renovating. I have problems with mold. I have a brand new concrete garage that is not attached to the house. People have told me that I should renovate that into a home instead of putting the money into this old house.. I'm so confused as to what to do and more importantly my funds are limited. Thanks for any advise.

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  • 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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