We've come a long way since last spring, when COVID-19 forced open houses to shut down and home tours to be canceled in favor of video viewings. Still, the pandemic does rage on. And some of us are still uncomfortable touring homes right now. Or maybe we just want to get a first peek over video before stepping foot in a stranger's house.
The garage could be an afterthought. After all, it's just a big, empty space to store your stuff, right? Who needs to take a closer look at that?
Oh, but dear buyer: The garage is more important than you think.
"Being in the Motor City, the majority of my clients put the garage in the top five, if not the top three, of importance," says Becca Franklin, a Realtor® in the Detroit area for Jeff Glover Associates.
That holds true nationwide. According to a recent report on realtor.com®, the garage is one of the five features that matter most when buying a home. That's why agents say it's essential to pay attention to the garage—whether you're viewing it on a video tour or in person. Here are eight potential problem spots to look out for in the garage.
1. Will my cars fit in the garage?
You don't want to find out after you bought a house that the garage isn't quite big enough to park your vehicles.
"During a virtual tour, I'm usually asked about the garage dimensions," says Franklin.
If you have extra items you plan to store like a trailer, kayaks, and bikes, the garage's size is essential to know. Be sure to find out the ceiling height, too. Older garages may be smaller and not accommodate larger SUVs or recreational equipment.
Be on the lookout for beams that could provide additional storage for sporting goods or other equipment. Take note if you notice support poles in the center of the garage, adds Kimmy Rolph, a Realtor® at Kimmy Rolph Real Estate, in Devon, PA.
"Make sure your vehicles will properly fit the space with ample room to open the car doors to get in and out of the vehicle," she says.
2. Is there bonus space?
You might not be able to tell just how big the garage is or how many levels it has if your agent shows you only a picture of the outside.
Ask your agent to show you the interior of the garage from top to bottom. There might be room for an in-law suite or an above-garage apartment, Roth says. If so, check out all the features, including electric, plumbing, and stairwell, and if there is a private access door.
3. What kind of garage door does it have?
Garage doors come in a variety of styles and materials. Ask your agent to open the door: Does it open with a remote, or manually? Does it roll up or tilt to open? What is it made of?
Rolph recommends checking for a battery backup so the garage door can still be opened during a power outage. Or at least make sure the emergency cord is in good condition so it can open the door manually.
4. Is the garage floor in good condition?
"Ask your agent to show you the flooring in the garage up close in your video tour," says Paul Hatvany Kitchen, a Realtor with the Hatvany Team at Compass in San Francisco. "Also, ask them what the base material is made of and what—if anything—it is finished with."
If it's concrete, examine the floor for substantial cracks or crumbling concrete. An epoxy floor is the ultimate garage flooring upgrade as it masks previous spills or stains, but Kitchen says to ask your agent if there was any evidence of problems before the epoxy was put down.
5. Is there enough power for a freezer?
Amp service is something buyers overlook or forget about when touring a garage, Kitchen says. Yet there are some garage essentials you might not be able to use if there aren't enough outlets or voltage.
"Make sure to ask your agent what the amp capabilities in the garage [are] and ask them to show you where any and all of the power sources are located and what their voltage is," he advises.
Larger appliances such as washers, dryers, and freezers require a 220-volt service. And if you have an electric car, a 220-volt plug is essential.
6. Where are the lights?
If a bare bulb in the center of the ceiling is the only source of light in the garage, you'll want to know if other light fixtures exist or can be added.
"It is worthwhile for buyers to ask their agents to show them the lighting options throughout the garage up close, including where the switches are," says Hatvany.
If the garage is attached to the house, ask if there is a switch for the garage lights inside the house. Also find out if there are exterior lights on the garage to illuminate the driveway, side door, and walking path to the house.
7. Do the workbench and shelves stay with the garage?
Whether you wrench on your cars, have a woodworking hobby, or do DIY home improvement projects, a built-in workbench can be a bonus. And any garage shelving will likely come in handy, too.
"A buyer should ask the agent if the workbench or dedicated workstation is permanent, attached to the wall, or if it is movable," says Kitchen.
8. Is the garage heated?
If you live in a region where temperatures drop drastically in the winter, a heated garage can be a key amenity.
"Since cars are a big thing in the Motor City, a lot of people like to work on them in their garage, and heat and electric help with that year-round," says Franklin.
Even if you prefer to take your car to the mechanic, other hobbies such as home brewing, woodworking, or those DIY garage projects are a lot more comfortable to do in a heated garage. Be sure to inquire about insulation, what kind of heating unit it is, and how old it is.