Garage Conversions – Safety and Value Issues for Real Estate


Occasionally a garage conversion will be carefully done so that the exterior of the conversion closely matches and harmonizes with the rest of the home. The only giveaway is the presence of the driveway leading right up to the home. The quality conversion interior will be on par with the rest of the home, be adequately insulated, heated and cooled and will feature adequate windows and an exterior door to allow natural light, access and ventilation. By contrast, the cheap conversion will have few or none of these amenities.

Safety is a prime concern due to the possibility of fire. A garage conversion with no windows or exterior doors is a fire hazard since anyone caught in that area when a fire blocks their way into the rest of the home can be killed. And since garages are very often adjacent to the kitchen where most fires begin, the potential for disaster is very real and every second counts. Each room in a home must have a way to escape a fire. At a minimum, there must be a window that can be easily opened and is large enough for an adult to slip through in a hurry. A door opening to the exterior is a prudent addition.

An additional consideration is the quality of wiring and the type of heating in the garage conversion. Faulty wiring and/or unsafe use of appliances can start a fire. Free-standing unvented “space” heaters pose a threat from carbon monoxide poisoning.

A garage conversion creates a lack of covered parking space and usually results in decreased storage space. Only when the site is large enough, and building setback lines do not interfere, can additional covered parking be physically and legally provided.

Value Considerations Stemming from the Above

It stands to reason that a good quality garage conversion will bring more value to a home than a cheap one will. The very cheap conversion where the overhead doors have been blocked off and some inexpensive floor coverings added is probably best converted back to garage space, since the cost should be minimal to once again offer a garage. This minimal restoration cost can be offered as a price concession if the owner is unwilling to make the restoration prior to closing. But even the good quality conversion poses the problem of a lack of covered parking if a separate garage structure or at least a carport is not present. The owner and agent should anticipate a reduction in value for this factor. How much reduction to expect is a matter of patient research.

A garage conversion should always be inspected carefully by a qualified real estate inspector, and this will normally be included as part of the whole-house inspection process. In Texas, such inspectors are required to be state licensed. Such an inspection should reveal health, safety or structural problems and the cost to do the repairs can also be offered as a price concession unless they become a lender requirement as a condition of making the loan.

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