National Post (Latest Edition) - - Fp Weekend - GARRY MARR

Fam­ily Man

At least he didn’t cry — or worse — when he saw my garage. That’s the good news. I of­ten feel nau­se­ated when I look at all my ac­cu­mu­lated junk. But Frank Spano, one of the founders of Vaughan, Ont.-based Garage Liv­ing, has seen it all. When he stepped into my garage lined with in­fant toys, old tires, dis­carded paint cans and news­pa­per clip­pings that track my ca­reer, he calmly told me he could or­ga­nize all the trea­sures — and fit my car in the garage.

“The worst garage I’ve ever seen? I once opened the door and I got this whiff of a musty smell so bad I felt like I was go­ing to throw up,” says Mr. Spano. “The garage was filled right to the top with boxes.”

My new-found in­ter­est in the garage was spurred by a stor­age bill that has been grow­ing at about triple the rate of in­fla­tion. A cou­ple of years ago, over­whelmed by the clut­ter in our house, I in­ves­ti­gated self-stor­age fa­cil­i­ties.

That so­lu­tion made sense for us at the time. My wife and I are both pack rats and why buy a big­ger house when all we needed was a place to store the junk? At the time, a 5-foot x 10-foot locker was about $80 a month. The logic was, get the junk out of the house and slowly work at chip­ping away at it so that we even­tu­ally wouldn’t need the stor­age.

Jim Tade­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of InS­tor­age Real Es­tate In­vest­ment Trust, has heard that song be­fore. His REIT is the largest pub­licly traded owner and man­ager of self stor­age with 63 fa­cil­i­ties across Canada. De­mand is strong th­ese days, he says.

“In­di­vid­u­als end up us­ing self stor­age for an av­er­age of about a year, but the trend is to longer use. As peo­ple move into con­do­mini­ums, there is not a lot of room to store things,” Mr. Tade­son says, not­ing that the av­er­age condo is about 650 square feet.

When you con­sider con­dos sell for about $500 a square foot in down­town Toronto, that means 100 square feet of stor­age space would cost about $50,000. You can rent a lot of stor­age space for that type of cash. “A lot of peo­ple are do­ing the num­bers,” Mr. Tade­son says.

But what if you al­ready have the space in your house and are not even us­ing it? Or us­ing it prop­erly? Mr. Tade­son says it can make more fi­nan­cial sense to ren­o­vate your garage and make it part of the ac­tual house than use it for ac­tual stor­age. If you need more space for “your stuff ” as he calls it, rent a locker.

Ren­o­vat­ing your garage is a big-ticket item for home­own­ers. I have what’s called an “over­sized” one-car garage. It’s about 250 square feet. At a con­ser­va­tive $100 a square foot to ren­o­vate, it would cost me more than $25,000 to make my garage part of the home.

Most peo­ple like the idea of a garage and then end up un­der­uti­liz­ing it. A study by Royal LePage a few years back found 85% of buy­ers wanted a garage when pur­chas­ing a home.

Count me as one of those peo­ple. I re­mem­ber telling the real es­tate agent our mini­van would have to fit into the gar- age of our cur­rent home or I wasn’t mak­ing an of­fer. He opened the garage, we backed up the mini­van and, sure enough, it barely fit in. That was the last time we ever had a car in the garage.

That’s the way it is with most peo­ple. The same Royal LePage study found that of the 68% of re­spon­dents who had a garage, only 43% can ac­tu­ally get their car into it.

Mr. Spano says about 20% of his cus­tomers are peo­ple like me, try­ing to dump a stor­age locker. He has what I would call a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A would see me spend about $1,700 to get my walls fit­ted with shelv­ing and hooks that he prom­ises would get all the junk off the ground and leave room for my car. Plan B would see state-of-the-art til­ing put on the floor, the garage painted, new light­ing in­stalled and wall units cov­er­ing ev­ery inch of my garage rather than just the top four feet of my walls. That plan is $4,500.

When you con­sider I’m blow­ing $1,500 a year on stor­age, that sounds like a deal to me. Dusty wal­let Is it pos­si­ble to lose money on a garage sale? For the most part, peo­ple are just do­ing you a favour by tak­ing away things you no longer need — and pay­ing you for the priv­i­lege.


Does your garage look like this? You aren’t alone. Only 43% of garage-own­ers have enough room to park their cars. Be­low, stor­age ex­perts can make your garage a con­tribut­ing part of your real es­tate hold­ings.


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