As a realtor, I always look for home listing or purchase opportunities that include a garage, mostly because most buyers today demand one.
If you’re like me, you pull into and out of your garage every day without thinking much about it. Usually there is a fumbling for the automatic garage door opener, which I never have assigned to a particular spot in my car. The rest is as automatic as driving itself.
There have been problems over the years, such as the times I’ve mindlessly detached my side view mirrors and streaked my car with paint by sideswiping the door jams, or better yet, 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.
For the past several years, I haven’t had trouble pulling in and out of my garage because I moved to Trump Park, where the entrance to the underground garage is more than two-cars wide.
Just as automobiles changed the way we travel, more than any other element, the garage has changed the way our homes look, rendering them at least 25 percent larger, and even more than that if you consider the “bonus” room that can be built above.
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 the horses and buggies 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 an exclusive space. 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.
For protection from the elements, separate outbuildings used as garages were first attached by a 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 also invented the electric door opener to help those who had trouble lifting the doors.
Garage doors were originally made of wood, and some still are. But by the 1970s, they were constructed of galvanized steel, then fiberglass, followed by composites like resin-filled wood and eventually vinyl-covered aluminum. For ultimate convenience, the automatic garage door opener appeared prominently in the early 1960s, although it had been invented earlier.
Today, garages can serve many functions other than housing cars. One of my former neighbors used his three-bay garage as a museum of vintage cars, each with a crystal chandelier above it. A garage in a house I listed serves as a combination office and workshop, which is impeccably clean and organized from its painted floor to its stacks of glistening shelves.
When I owned a single-family house, my garage looked ready to explode. Just one year earlier it had been cleaned out by a professional organizer who was told by my wife to “throw everything out except the cars.”
Many garages are used as workshops, workout rooms and even business start-up spaces. Where do you think Apple, Google, Dell, Nike and Mattel got their starts?
But mostly, we use the garage to harbor any items that don’t fit in our homes. In my case, it was the repository for all my garden tools, since I didn’t have a shed along with all my real estate paraphernalia, recyclables and a variety of discarded items waiting for bulk pick-up.
Some consider the garage that’s part of the house an eyesore, especially when it becomes the major focus of its façade. In Yorktown, the Architectural Review Board 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, perhaps connected by a breezeway for convenience. But home buyers 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 would 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., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.