When scouting out homes to buy or lots to build on, it's easy to overlook or underestimate a key component of the property: the garage.
The next owner may desire the convenience of an attached garage. Or, future occupants could value the flexibility and plentiful perks of a detached garage. Each type has its pros and cons. Investors and flippers, as well as those building a home they plan to live in, need to consider these points carefully.
A one- to two-car or larger garage that's connected to the home has a lot going for it.
"It uses the same roof and foundation, which makes maintenance simpler," says Noah Brinker, owner of Cash Homes NWA, a home-flipping firm in Fayetteville, Arkansas. "And it offers easy access for the owner."
That latter feature is coveted by buyers today.
"Direct access is convenient in cold and wet climates when the owner doesn't want to brave the elements," says Marc Anthony, a real estate agent with Beverly Hills, California-based Coldwell Banker Realty.
Connie Heintz, president of DIYoffer, a homebuying and selling directory in Toronto, notes that if yard space is a priority on an empty lot, an attached garage is the way to go.
"It's also easier and generally less expensive to build one, as you already have one or two walls set up. You can easily extend your heating and air conditioning system from the main house to the garage, too," says Heintz.
But attached garages have their disadvantages.
"It may be taking up space under your roof that could be used as living space for the home," explains Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta-based Realtor and property attorney. "That's why you often see people convert attached garages to dens as their living space needs grow."
Attached garages can allow exhaust, fumes, and noise to infiltrate your home, as well.
"For this reason, it's usually recommended that doors between the garage and home have door-closing mechanisms installed," recommends Anthony.
What's more, these connected structures could make it easier for intruders to access the main house.
Why separate may be best
A detached garage, on the other hand, "provides a barrier between your residence and any noise, hazardous fumes, or vibrations. That results in a healthier environment for your residence," Anthony notes.
Considering that fires often start in garages, having it removed from your main structure provides peace of mind.
"A detached garage is a great option for setting up a workshop, DIY room, or man cave, too," Heintz adds, "because you have more privacy."
Suzanne Hollander, a Florida International University real estate faculty member in Miami, points out another underappreciated plus.
"Not having an attached garage means your home may have more natural light thanks to more window space available," says Hollander.
Walking outdoors between your garage and home during a downpour, snowstorm, or blustery or frigid day can be a real drag. And lugging heavy groceries or goods between those points is no picnic, either.
"The biggest disadvantage of a detached garage is that it's generally more expensive to build and maintain," Brinker says. "Overall, a detached garage is less favorable among buyers than an attached garage."
When it's time for a new garage
Any of these factors could persuade you that it's time to tear down a garage -- especially one in need of expensive repair or updates -- and build a new structure. Maybe razing a detached garage and constructing an attached version is your best bet.
"If you want your older garage to match the overall architecture of the home, or you want an expanded space, tearing it down may be wise," suggests Heintz.
Brinker says most investors typically price an attached garage around $50 per square foot; your price may vary widely depending on location and other factors.
HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI) estimates the national average cost to build a garage ranges from $16,810 to $38,781.
What to consider carefully
Give thought to how the next owner will use the garage.
"In urban areas, an attached garage may provide privacy and be seen as more desirable. But in rural areas, a detached garage may be preferred," Anthony says.
For help in factoring the impact of the garage on your investment property, "talk to real estate agents in your area," recommends Brinker. "Drive around and take note of which type is more popular in your market. And think about which type will make the most sense to own in 10 to 15 years."