It's amazing the garage isn't accorded the value premium it's worthy of. And it's also often overlooked as potential space that expands useable square footage for many households. It can be used for storage, a workshop, band practice, a studio or loads of other things, well beyond parking your car! If you configure the garage to meet your needs, you can effectively improve your quality of life within the limitations of your property!
The age and condition of a lot of the housing stock that you would likely be looking at might make it challenging to secure a ready-to-use garage, but that shouldn’t necessarily deter you from keeping that 'dream garage' on your house hunting list. And if the property you acquire doesn't meet your grarage needs, perhaps it's time to create your own ancillary space!
Toronto Real Estate, On-Site Parking And A Property With A Garage
First, I want to share an insight which almost always surprises Buyers. Over my 25 years of selling real estate in the central core of the city, I've come to learn that a property with onsite parking - whether it's a city licensed front pad parking space (with an annual fee of just under $300 payable to the City), a spot at the end of a shared mutual drive, or an onsite spot off a laneway, most Buyers value a parking spot pretty much the same. What's an additional surprise, is that if a house has one or two car parking, Buyers only add a slight premium for the second space even when most everyone knows parking spaces in Toronto condominiums sell for $25,000 to $50,000 each! And what's even more surprising on top of this reality, is that if the property has a dilapidated garage, a mid-aged open carport, or the grandaddy of them all - a newer concrete block garage - most Buyers don't appropriate a specific value or premium based on the varying degrees or condition of the parking structure. Essentially, so much focus is directed at the location of the property, the condition and space plan of the dwelling, or even the cost benefit of a secondary unit which can generate income (regardless of whether it is legal, or not), most Buyers see on site covered or uncovered parking as am equal-value benefit. In other words, a house with a crappy one or two-car garage will sell for a similar price as one with a concrete block one or two-car garage on the same street, as Buyers tend to place higher priorities on other aspects of the dwelling. Strange, but true!
It's amazing the garage isn't accorded the value premium it's worthy of. And it's also often overlooked as potential space that expands usable square footage for many households, until you come to own one. It can be used for storage, a workshop, band practice, a studio or loads of other things, well beyond parking your car! If you configure the garage to meet your needs, you can effectively improve your quality of life within the limitations of your property. Here is a post with loads of garage conversion ideas.
Photo courtesy of HomeEdit
Time To Go Custom?
With a scarcity of stock and skyrockething values, there has been a movement in Toronto lately for homeowners to rebuild or refurbish garages. For homeowners who seek more space, but don’t want the expense or the hassle of moving, or who find the high costs of climbing the property ladder is keeping them in place, a garage can really expand living space. For some homeowners, rebuilding a garage is the optimal way to help accomodate their household's needs.
According to the stats in this recent Globe and Mail article, “The Garage: Bland Doesn't Play Here”, there has been an increase of about $30 million on garage projects from Toronto homeowners since 2014 - and this number doesn’t take into account the garage work that is going on that hasn’t been permitted. The vast majority of projects have been focused on repurposing or fortifying the space, rather than for residential use which, in 2014, was before this year's as-of-right laneway housing policy was introduced.
Wrestling With Renovation
Given the age of the housing stock in Toronto is at least 100 years old, it isn’t uncommon to find most garages in the city are in need of substantial repair or even rebuilding. Depending on the state of the garage and how the individual intends to use the space, the cost to retrofit it can vary widely. To serve the purpose of a workshop, you'll want to assess whether it has a solid concrete pad for a foundation, adequate ventilation, insulation for use all seasons, and a suitable electrical service for your specific requirements. Interestingly, lately when showing income properties to one of my clients in the downtown west area, I've been finding the concrete block double and triple 3 car garages fitted with electrical service including baseboard heaters are being rented independent of the dwellings for sums ranging from $300 to $600 per month. It signal the demand for workshops and quality storage for cars is strong.
If you're considering a property with a laneway garage that is a bit of a fixer-upper, you might want to ensure the upgrades you do can accommodate both your specific needs as a workshop but, in the future, be home to a new accessory dwelling. Recently, the City of Toronto has introduced as-of-right laneway housing in the central part of the downtown core. Here's my post About Laneway Housing In Toronto, By Sustainable And Urbaneer that explores the opportunities and constraints of this new housing option.
Regardless of whether you were to go this route, the existence of a garage offers huge potential.
Many buyers decide they decided that you have a very specific purpose in mind for your garage: a workshop. In reality, based on what your objectives are the different types of garages we'll likely find in the downtown area, it might help to really define what your wants and needs as they pertain to a workshop/garage. When you seek an amenity or home feature that is very specific, like this criteria, you should be prepared for the fact that there may be a greater degree of compromise on some aspect of your home search, especially when you are house hunting in high-demand urban areas.
Regardless of what you intend to use your garage for, it is a good idea to establish is what your base criteria is. From that point you can determine if the amount of work and available budget would make sense.
Ideally, for a garage to be a truly useable and enjoyable workshop (or other high-traffic space like a studio, gym etc.) it should probably be concrete block with double thermopane doors/windows on the garden side and an automatic steel garage door system with remote for security. And should it have electricity with abundant outlets and lighting (perhaps with its own sub-panel), good ceiling height (potentially extra high ceilings), clever storage, depending on your intending use and the ability for counter space or ample storage cabinets and worktop counters with shelving in addition to space for cars/projects. Don’t forget about comfort. It would need to be sufficiently insulated and air-tight to make the workspace comfortable year-round.
Before you decide fully on your change in tack, here is some information about building a new garage in Toronto. It’s a process that can potentially be costly and/or cumbersome, so to ensure that this strategy will result in a smart buy for you today and tomorrow, it is a good idea to do this research pre-purchase.
Here is a post about constructing a new garage in Toronto, and the process it entails “Must-Know Facts about Toronto’s Garage Building Regulations, Laws, & Permits”.
Considering a garage renovation? You may enjoy these:
If you, or someone you love, has specific real estate needs, wishes and desires, and would enjoy the personalized service of someone Celebrating Twenty-Five Years As A Top-Producing Toronto Realtor who subscribes to a pressure-free approach - and a specialty in unique and charming urban homes - please know my team and I are here to help!
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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