Vehicles outgrow garages

Homeowners seeking space for popular SUVs, trucks

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Buyers are still enjoying pickup trucks with ample cab seating and driving roomy, wide-bodied SUVs, but they may find challenges when it comes to parking at their own homes.

Three-car garages have been popular for several years, but some buyers are also looking for length in garages that allow space to store more than large vehicles.

Think bicycles, lawnmowers, snowblowers and other essentials.

“To some extent, garages are an important part of any new home,” said Matt Lancia, owner of Matt Lancia Signature Homes in Fort Wayne. “With a lot of neighborhood requirements, you can't have outdoor storage like a shed or auxiliary garage.”

The consumer shift to pickups and large SUVs has created a niche business in garage remodeling as people try to make space for vehicles that may comfortably seat eight people and still have room in the garage for storage.

Builder William Pachota, based in Livonia, Michigan, sees interest in larger garages across all income levels.

“People are adding on to garages to make them wider, doing additions, adding rooms to the back and making garages longer,” Pachota said. People “really like a cathedral ceiling” in the garage.

“If somebody has a truck with a cap on the back, and they lift it up,” Pachota said, “it can rip the back door off and bust the glass in it. You need clearance and peace of mind.”

Dustin Collier, a builder based in Traverse City, Michigan, said his garage project clients include thirtysomethings but consist mostly of people in their 50s and 60s.

“Vehicles are just taller. You might be able to fit a Ford F-150 into a garage with nothing on its roof, but if you have lights or anything up there, it's cutting things close,” he said. “I see a lot of four-door pickup trucks. They just don't fit.”

Collier sees people spend $3,000 to $12,000 “trying to make things right.”

While the 8-foot height is the new standard on garages, he builds as high as 12 feet now to accommodate the popular roof racks.

Lynn Reecer, CEO and managing broker with Reecer Properties Inc. in Fort Wayne, primarily works with higher-end home sales, so far this year with an average price of $450,000.

Reecer said buyers sometimes request outbuildings to better ensure they can store everything, including vehicles, on their property. It's not uncommon, she said, to work with men who have hobbies and need space for antique cars. Sometimes, if a garage is tall enough, car lifts that allow vehicles to be stacked can help.

Buyers looking for outbuildings may have to consider more rural areas to avoid the restrictions and covenants that are common with some neighborhood associations. Outbuildings are sometimes used to store RVs, which are becoming more popular for families with children in travel sports like soccer, baseball and other competitions, Reecer said.

Lancia said the median price for homes his company builds is about $250,000. He said the 7-foot height is still the most common, although there's an occasional request for an 8-footer.

The more customized a home, the greater potential for a buyer to want added garage height. Sometimes that's because of taller walls or vaulted ceilings in the home. A taller garage helps balance the space aesthetically, which goes beyond the function, Lancia said.

Brad Graber of Custom Home Designs in Columbia City said requests about garage size depend on the homebuyer's overall price preference.

With entry-level homes, buyers tend to be more cost-conscious, so many of the garages tend to be the standard two-car, 22 feet by 20 feet. Graber, a designer, considers entry level in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

For buyers looking at homes costing more, a garage could easily be 24 feet by 24 feet, leaving added space for storage.

Rather than a typical 16-foot-wide door, 18-foot-wide doors can be beneficial, Graber said.

People with lake homes, he said, are particularly interested in larger garages if they have boats to store.

In August, sales of the F-series pickup, long the best-selling vehicle in America, grew 6.3 percent to 81,839 units for the month. Overall, Ford's SUVs saw a 20 percent sales increase, while car sales declined 21 percent.

The Ram truck and van brand enjoyed a 26.5 percent sales increase.

Passenger cars dropped below 30 percent of the market in August for the first month ever, according to Cox Automotive. A few years ago, they made up half of industry sales.

Beth Walker, broker-owner at Fairfield Group Realtors in Fort Wayne, sells more existing homes than new construction. Sometimes the size of a garage can be a determining factor on whether a buyer with an SUV or large truck wants to make an offer on a home.

Some will decide they want the home, even if it means they have to park their larger vehicle on the driveway, said Walker, who is also president-elect of the Upstate Alliance of Realtors.

Walker said she and her husband joke that a two-car garage is like a one-car garage with a built-in shed.

Walker has noticed some taller garages with new construction, but she doesn't see overwhelming demand for over-sized garages in the local market.

“A lot of the folks, for whatever reason in my clientele, if I look at 100 people, maybe 10 to 15 percent have larger vehicles,” Walker said.

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