The Garage an Essential Feature for Most Homebuyers

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

If you’re like me, every day you pull into and out of your garage, assuming that you’re lucky enough to have one, without thinking much about it.

Usually there is a fumbling for the garage door opener, which I never have assigned to a particular place in my car, but the rest is as automatic as driving.

There have been problems with that, such as the occasional times I’ve mindlessly detached my side view mirrors and streaked my car with paint by sideswiping the door jambs. Better yet was when I attempted to back out of my garage with the door closed, crashing halfway through the door and removing an entire corner of the structure.

When the carpenter arrived to repair the considerable damage, he said, “Your wife did this, right?” Shamelessly I lied. All these years later, I still suffer guilt about that.

Today, living in a large condo building with a broad sweep of a garage door opening, I’m given much more leeway, more than two cars wide.

Just as automobiles changed the way we travel, the garage has changed the way our homes look, rendering them at least 25 percent larger – and more than that if you consider the “bonus” room that can be built above.

Readers of this column know how I tend to fixate more on the history of things than how they operate, and so it is with the garage. The word didn’t exist until the beginning of the 20th century when it was coined from the French word garer, meaning to shelter.

At that time, the early automobile had to share the carriage house or stable where buggies and horses were still kept, resulting in a weird transitional phenomenon in which the cars smelled of horse manure when they were taken out for a spin. Eventually, the automobile claimed its own exclusive space and, by 1925, real estate industry sources were saying that houses without garages were slower to sell.

It’s still the case today. Most people want a garage when they buy a house.

For protection from the elements, separate outbuildings used as garages were first attached by breezeway to the main house but eventually incorporated into the footprint of the house itself. Along the way, a couple of neat inventions sped the modern garage’s development, namely the folding overhead garage door, invented by C.G. Johnson in 1921. In 1926, Johnson invented the electric door opener to help those who had trouble lifting the doors.

Garage doors were originally made of wood. Some still are, but by the 1970s they were constructed of galvanized steel, then fiberglass, followed by composites such as resin-filled wood and eventually vinyl-covered aluminum. And for ultimate convenience, the automatic garage door opener appeared prominently in the early 1960s, although it had been invented in the ‘30s.

Today, garages can serve many functions other than housing cars. One friend uses a three-bay garage as a museum of vintage cars, each with a crystal chandelier above it. Another in a house I listed serves as a combination office and workshop, which is impeccably clean and more organized from its painted floor to its stacks of glistening shelves than any professional office.

Many garages are used as workshops, workout rooms and even for business startups. Where do you think Apple, Google, Dell, Nike and Mattel began?

But mostly, the garage is for items that don’t fit elsewhere in our homes. In my case, it was always the repository for all my garden tools, since I never had a shed, and for all my real estate paraphernalia, recyclables and a variety of discarded items waiting for bulk pickup.

Some consider the garage that is part of the house a boon and others an eyesore, especially when it becomes the major focus of its facade, all but obscuring the front entrance. In my town, the architectural review board on which I serve prefers that garage doors face out from the side of the house rather than the front.

Most architects with whom I’ve discussed garages would prefer that they be separated from the main house once again, perhaps connected by a breezeway for convenience. But homebuyers always prefer that they be incorporated into the footprint of the house, either in front, to the side or underneath.

I have no preferences about how or where to construct a garage or how to use it, but I always advise car owners to buckle up before backing out and, oh yes, make sure the garage door is open.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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