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Do we need that garage?

Posted by Rona Fischman October 6, 2011 02:00 PM

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I got a phone call from a client of mine. He wanted to know what to do about his garage, which was destroyed by a tree on the day Irene blew through. Is it better to replace it with a garage or, instead, put up a shed for the bicycles and enjoy more yard space? Does removing the garage put a ding on the property value for potential resale?

Here is the information he told me:

The property had a metal pre-fab garage that was rusty and in poor condition since before they bought it, nearly ten years ago.
They have a three-car wide driveway in front of it.

Additional information:
The house is a two-family building located in Somerville, north of Porter Square. Their lot is about 6000 square feet. The back yard is tiny. The house is long and thin and sits to one side of the lot, making most of the potential yard on the side of the house where the garage is.

Here is what I answered:

You called about the question of what is the best economic decision to make about the garage. I have to give you a non-answer answer, unfortunately. There is not clear economic advantage either way. Hereís why:

An appraiser may calculate the value of the house based on the garage being there or not, but the buying public is likely to see the garage as equal value to the bigger yard. In my experience with buyers in towns near Boston, I frequently hear buyers wish the garage was not there, since it ruins the yard space. Some people do want garages, but just as many want a good yard.

A garage in your part of Somerville is a bonus item. A lot of houses near you donít have them. Therefore, there is only a small pool of buyers who are expecting and requiring a garage there. So, few will rule the place out because there is no garage.

Your lot is just under 6000 square feet and would be a great yard if you tore down the garage and gave less space to parking. In general you should keep two spaces per unit. If you tear down and donít rebuild, youíre ahead the cost of the new garage. But you will incur the cost of re-establishing green space and purchasing a shed. Whatever you choose is an economic neutral.

Other considerations:
If you tear down the garage, you may be restricted from putting another one up in the future. You have to check with the permit guys about that.

If you tear down the garage, you have more yard to take care of. Do you want more yard to take care of? Which is worse, taking care of a yard or shoveling a lot of driveway?


So, readers, which is more important to you, a nice yard and a garage?

In the residential urban areas in and around Boston, this is a common question. I see it with my buyers in Boston, Brookline, Somerville, Cambridge, Arlington or Watertown all the time. When I work further into the suburbs, the lot sizes get big enough to support a garage without ruining the yard.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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