Converting the garage to living space

garage side door
garage side door

Reader Question: Hello, my house has the garage in the lower level basement. We would like to transform that space in a family room with bathroom and a bedroom but some people tell us if we do, the house loses value if we sell in the future. Is it true, or not?  Michael S.

Monty’s Answer: Hello Michael, and thanks for your question. I will assume your home contains a walkout basement on a lot sloping to the side or rear. The answer to the question is; it may be correct, but it may not be correct. Information must be uncovered and analyzed to provide the answers needed to decide if it is practical.

The 6-question answer

1. Is the ability present to either attach a garage to the house or build a detached garage?

2. What price are similar homes selling for in similar neighborhoods that have the additional features already present in the lower level?

3. What will it cost to make the remodeling additions?

4. How much money are similar homes selling for in similar neighborhoods with the extra features present except the garage?

5. Will you have over-invested in the home by converting the garage into living space and building a new garage?  Will the home and garage “look out-of-place” with the other houses in the neighborhood? As an example, the average square footage of neighborhood homes is 1350 square feet and the remodel takes you over 2000 square feet.

6. Will the conversion create a floor plan that does not flow well nor meet building code requirements?

Access the local multiple listing system to gather pertinent information. The best way to do this is to ask a real estate agent to help gather the information. Caution: not all real estate agents are qualified (or inclined) to help. It may not take an agent much time to answer many of these questions, and if the answers do not support the economics of the addition, the agent may have a new prospect.

Every little bit helps

There are potential limitations to conducting the research. The exercise and the economics may not support your decision. If the community is too small, there may not be enough housing stock to find comparable properties or the results may offer inconclusive evidence. Even partial information along these lines trumps making no effort at all. Every tidbit of information provides clues to intelligent guidance.

Converting the garage to living space may impact your home’s value positively or negatively, but there are other pitfalls to be considered before going ahead.

Who will do the actual work involved in planning, buying material and constructing the space? Some of the mistakes people often make creating undesirable living spaces is by not building to code, building with materials that do not “fit” the home’s existing materials and performing substandard workmanship in completing the job. Does your furnace have the proper capacity? The last issue with do-it-yourself homeowners is the project consumes more time than they have to spend and languishes for months, sometimes years before completion.

It may be beneficial to ask a contractor for advice on the layout of your remodel floor plan and an estimate of the material and labor cost of the project. Here is an article that may help in choosing a contractor or two to gather opinions.

It helps to have options

There is a likelihood gathering the information and thinking through the pitfalls will be similar to creating a painting. Each answer is like a brushstroke, and at the end a vision like one of the following options has taken shape.

  • Gather and digest the information you need and decide to do nothing.
  • Go ahead with the project regardless of the economics.
  • Sell your current home and buy another home where the improvements already exist.
  • Build a new home with the necessary features.

Remodeling is a large part of America’s economy. Many of the merchants and businesses do not have the mindset or the incentive to share information that may dissuade consumers from their plans. It is just a sale, or a job to them. I have included links below to different articles dealing with similar questions that may be helpful. Ask Monty if there are other questions.


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