The most overlooked and an under-appreciated room under our roofs is the garage. Garages are either too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer. They are dark and cluttered with all manner of junk. Garages have cobwebs on the ceilings, oil and transmission fluid on the floor, sharp instruments and half-filled liquid containers of various substances crowded around large vehicles, boats and other motorized machinery. A garage can also be a temporary home to many critters. While showing this unsightly home appendage, I have been surprised by snarling dogs, scampering mice and once stepped on a rather large slithering reptile.
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Most garages are the largest room under roof but they never get the respect that the size should warrant. Listing agents, when describing a home, will write a novel about every room and its features but never mention anything about the garage. Garages are noticeably absent from all the interior pictures and virtual tours.
While homebuyers don’t usually base their decision about a home because of the garage, they will not usually buy a home that doesn’t have one either. Ninety percent of all homes selling in the county have at least a two-car garage and with our growing propensity for collecting and storage larger garages are becoming more popular. Three-car garages were attached to 22 percent of all county home sales last month and 12 percent had a four-car or larger garage.
Most sellers, prior to putting their home on the market, will pack up boxes and otherwise de-clutter their home to appear more spacious. So … where do all the boxes and decluttering end up? Right, in the garage, along with everything else that doesn’t deserve more prominent placement.
When previewing homes with clients, my last stop is reluctantly showing the garage. If at all possible I try to avoid opening a stranger’s interior garage door for fear that something will jump or crawl out of the darkness. I have developed the “point and switch” technique for effective avoidance. This is how it works: When I have clients engaged in more interesting features of the home, I only point at the garage door hoping that will satisfy my buyers’ exploratory curiosity. Smiling and pointing, “Oh here is the garage door.” Then pointing in the opposite direction. “Now are those kitchen cabinets cherry or maple?” If that avoidance technique doesn’t work and my clients still want to preview the garage I imagine myself as Harrison Ford entering the Temple of Doom in Raiders of the Lost Ark, gently cracking open the garage door, peeking inside to discover what surprises await my entry.
Finding the light switch is the first garage hazard. I’m not leaving the security of a lighted hallway or laundry room to enter the black abyss of a garage until I find a light. Keeping my clients at a safe distance, I will slowly open the garage door just enough to prevent whatever is in there from getting out. Then, reaching my arm through the door opening, I will attempt to locate the light switch. Feeling blindly over and under hanging clothing, brooms, behind water-heaters and washing machines, I might be fortunate enough to find the correct switch. Not all switches, however, are for the garage lights. In addition to switching on lights I have inadvertently energized garage door openers, exterior lights, hot tub jets and once a whole-house generator.
Homebuyers can be divided into two groups: those who think that the garage is important and those who think it is only a place to park something with wheels. Most women don’t spend a lot of time looking at the features in a garage. It’s a guy thing. But when I am working with a client who appreciates a nice garage and we find one completely finished with 220 outlets, a workbench, cabinets, shop lights, a window, a sub electrical panel, storage racks and maybe a shop sink, wow! I know I have made a sale.
Many sellers, when preparing their home for sale, will forget about the garage. Their landscaping may be meticulous, the home appears to be decorated by Martha Stewart, the aroma of fresh flowers fills the air and while the buyers are drooling, I open the garage door only to discover a liter-box, smelling trash cans and oil stains on the floor.
Most of us go through life collecting things. That’s OK, until one day we decide to sell our home. In order to highlight the home’s features and spaciousness, we box up all our precious treasures and stack them in the garage along with all the stuff that’s already collecting dust. Here’s a better solution: rent a storage facility. Don’t move all the stuff to a neighbor or another family member; rent space in mini-storage.
Most garages are in such cluttered condition that when buyers find a really nice one that is clean and organized, it makes an impression. Sellers often will spend time and money remodeling other areas of the home and never think of spending a few bucks to paint and clean the garage. The holidays will likely add additional boxes of decorations and presents and Santa will need help navigating through that disorder. So please leave a light on.
Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his Website at kencalhoon.com.