Garage vs Basement

January 23rd, 2017

Helping homebuyers with the eternal debate: garage versus basement

It is a question as old as time - or, at least, as old as the automobile. What advice can you offer when your buyer's decision comes down to two homes and has to choose between the one with a garage and the one with a basement? While you can always steer the discussion to resale value, perhaps the more important questions revolve around intrinsic value: What is more important to you, Mr. and Ms. Homebuyer, and why?

Garage pro: SUV or stuff?
The garage is, first and foremost, the place to store a vehicle or vehicles, which is why some are insulated and some are not - making the latter option less attractive to a buyer who wants to store items that can be damaged by extreme heat or cold. For the buyer who doesn't require storage for anything more than their car(s), lawn equipment, maybe a snow blower and other items at the mercy of the temperature (holiday decorations, etc.), then a garage is a good option. This is when you need to ask the buyer just how much stuff they have and, if not overwhelming, can it be stored outdoors?

Garage pro: workspace or living space?
Is the buyer someone who likes to work on their cars or other machines? Are they the carpenter type who needs space to set up shop for all of their DIY home projects or run a similar business? A garage is a good choice for someone who needs extra space for those and other hobbies or businesses that may not be well-suited for a basement (especially if running a band saw can wake up the baby asleep upstairs).

Basement pro: stuff or SUV?
If your buyers admit (reluctantly or otherwise) that their excess items exceed the space taken up by their necessities (furniture, etc.) in the moving truck, then a basement might be a better choice, especially if what they need to store is at risk from outside storage in an uninsulated garage. Also, having immediate access to whatever ("Where is that French cookbook Joe gave me? I know it's in one of these boxes") makes having a basement more convenient, as it doesn't necessitate trudging outside (if the garage is detached) or shimmying around a parked car to get at things.

Basement pro: living space or workspace?
Aside from being a place for storage, a basement offers additional square footage that can be used for many purposes. Even a moderate-sized basement gives a buyer the option to section it off for a laundry room, storage, den/office, entertainment, etc. A basement also lends itself to being finished, which not only increases the actual living space but can add value to the house. And if the basement is large enough, there can also be space for the aforementioned handyman to set up shop (and hide when the baby wakes up).

But what about the attic?
Ah, you thought we might not talk about this. So, that house with a garage but no basement has an attic? Consider this a hybrid of the basement-garage question. A roomy, well-insulated attic with a floor offers not only additional storage space, but the opportunity for finishing. On the other hand, an attic that is poorly or not insulated at all, that is cramped and only has joists with no true flooring doesn't offer much in the way of storage beyond what is available in the garage.

Buyer, know thyself
Your greatest gift to buyers is your experience with having worked with many like them. You know the questions to ask and how to guide them to answers they probably already know but haven't had anyone to point them in the right direction. Helping them to better understand their storage needs, for both cars and other items, can greatly aid them as they make one of life's most important decisions.

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