A GARAGE YOU CAN PARK A CAR IN
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.