If your property is sizable, you might wonder whether adding a detached garage is worth the expense (and possibly the eyesore). The good news is that a detached garage can add value and marketability to your home — two perks that can offset the cost of this addition.
For some homebuyers, a detached garage is even a must-have, according to top real estate agent Scott Freeman, who works with over 86% more single-family homes than the average agent in Riegelsville, PA. He shares a recent example of a New Jersey couple who chose to purchase a home because of its unique 40-by-100-foot detached garage.
“That was really the driving force for these people to buy this house,” says Freeman. The couple, who refurbishes military vehicles and owns recreational vehicles, insisted on viewing the garage before seeing the house to ensure that the detached building was spacious enough to accommodate their lifestyle.
So, just how much value can a detached garage add to your home? Let’s dive into return on investment details so you can decide whether this project is worth the cost.
Typical cost to build a detached garage
Building costs for a detached garage vary widely because of size and materials, but in general, these standalone structures tend to cost about 10% to 15% more than a garage attached to your home. Detached garages come with higher construction costs since contractors can’t use the walls or power from your current home.
HomeAdvisor estimates that building any garage costs an average of $50 per square foot, with labor costing about 50% of the total project price. Similarly, Thumbtack estimates the cost at about $30 to $40 per square foot, depending on materials, scope, and where you live.
To put these cost per square foot into perspective, here’s how much one to three car detached garages cost on average:
- One-car detached garage (288 square feet): $11,500 to $20,200
- Two-car detached garage (600 square feet): $24,000 and $42,000
- Three-car detached garage (900 square feet): $36,000 to $63,000
Prefab detached garages
If you want a quick and easy building option, consider purchasing a prefabricated detached garage. You can put these kits together yourself to save on labor costs. Here are a few options you may consider:
- Home Depot sells a Rustic Wood Log Garage Kit measuring about 19x17x10 feet for $12,995. There’s no flooring — you’d need to arrange for a concrete slab unless you want a dirt floor. (Expect to pay about $4 to $8 per square foot including labor for the concrete, which costs about $3,600 to $7,200 for a 30-by-30-foot slab that’s 6-inches deep.)
- Barn Pros has a two-car 30×28-foot detached garage package including a 780-square-foot loft for about $50,000. The kit includes all structural materials, including engineered wood, siding, roofing, garage doors, an entry door, and windows, plus stamped blueprints and engineering calculations to submit for permitting to a local building authority.
- Hansen Pole Buildings has a similar kit for a 44x40x18-foot garage for about $64,000 that includes board-and-batten siding, a charcoal steel roof, windows, commercial-grade entry doors, and an open overhang. Again, you’d need to purchase the floor separately, but the kit does include “permit ready” prints to submit to your local building authority.
Additional design costs
Don’t forget about the interior touches. Even if your garage has no livable space, you’ll still need to add lighting and a few extras. For instance:
Ceiling lights, which mount to a plastic or metal box secured to overhead joists or studs, cost about $90 to $230 per fixture, depending on an electrician’s hourly rate. Pendant lights have a similar price range. Recessed lighting costs more, about $125 to $230 per fixture.
Regardless of the fixtures that you choose, opt for LED lighting, which lasts 25 times longer than incandescent lighting and uses at least 75% less energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It also provides a clean, bright look.
If your detached garage acts as a workshop, you’ll need storage. You can purchase something premade, such as the Husky 77x78x24-inch Welded Steel Garage Storage Shelving Unit with Wire Deck in Black ($199) at Home Depot. The Husky line also has closed storage options, such as this preassembled six-piece welded steel cabinet set. If an open system is more your style, the Gladiator GearTrack 14-piece Light Gray Multipurpose Storage Rail System ($59.99) uses two 4-foot pieces of track and 8 assorted hooks to stash garden tools, a ladder and other items.
Even in a workshop, you might not want to see tread marks and mystery stains on the floor every time you step inside. Painting a concrete floor with a water-based epoxy finish such as Rust-Oleum Epoxyshield 2-Part Gray Gloss Garage Floor Epoxy Kit (about $117 to cover a 2.5-car garage) makes cleanup easy. This low-odor, low-VOC formula adds a durable coating that resists cracking, peeling, salt, oil, gas, and other chemicals. Just sweep it or rinse it off to keep it looking fresh.
A security system
The national average for a home security system, including a control panel, motion detectors, sensors for the doors and windows, an audible siren, and a remote keychain fob costs about $700. However, you’ll pay less if you already have a home security system, or if you opt for just an alarm system (about $125). Prices vary depending on whether a system is hardwired or wireless.
Second-story living quarter
Adding an apartment above a detached garage could raise the cost to $110 to $350 per square foot, depending on whether you’re adding a full apartment or a simple loft room above the garage space. Don’t forget the building permit, which might cost an additional $200 to $1,500, depending on the project’s scope and your municipality.
The value of a detached garage varies by location
Much like an attached garage, a detached garage contributes to your home’s value since it adds usable square footage. Angela Miller, a certified appraiser in Tidewater, VA, with over 25 years of experience, says she gives as much value to a detached garage as an attached one, especially in the country. “I also give some value for an unfinished, accessible second floor,” she adds.
In general, a “functionally adequate” garage in a typical market might add $5,000 to $25,000 worth of value, Mike Ford, a Southern California-based general certified real estate appraiser since 1986. In high-end markets, the value might be higher.
Remodeling magazine last calculated the return on investment for a garage addition in 2015, when it determined that a 26-by-26-foot freestanding two-car garage cost about $52,000 and recouped about 65% at resale.
Look at comps to gauge detached garage value in your market
According to an analysis of Census data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the majority (93%) of new single-family homes built nationwide in 2019 had either a garage or carport. So when you’re putting your home on the market, consider how your detached garage stacks up compared to if you sold a home without a garage.
“It really depends on the availability of other off-street parking as well as demand [for] available on-street parking,” Ford says. “Where on-street parking or large driveways are not present, the value of a garage goes up quite a bit.”
A real estate agent will compare your home to comparable properties (or “comps”) that have sold recently using a comparative market analysis in order to set a good listing price. According to Freeman, comparing similar sold properties’ detached garages “can be a little bit harder” than comparing attached one-, two-, or three-car garages.
“Detached garages can come in all shapes and sizes. The [largest] I ever had was a five- or six-car garage,” he says.
“There’s a lot that comes into play. We get a lot of garages that have a living space above the garage. It’s not as plain as saying, ‘It’s a two-car garage.’”
When comparable properties aren’t available, Freeman makes adjustments based on the garage’s size and amenities in the current market, much like an appraiser would do.
A detached garage with a living quarter can add even more value
If your detached garage includes heating, plumbing, or cooking facilities, it can add even more value to your home, particularly if there is demand for in-law suites or home offices in your market.
For instance, 17% of the more than 2,000 agents polled in HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Q2 2020 Report said that a designated home office was a desirable feature for homebuyers in a post-COVID-19 era.
“It’s definitely become very popular to have additional living spaces like carriage houses or apartments above garages,” Freeman comments.
As we mentioned previously, our local market determines how much more buyers will pay for a finished or partially finished detached garage. Ford met one homeowner in the Beverly Hills area who had spent $150,000 to convert an existing unfinished area above a two-car garage into livable space. But because the land value there significantly exceeds the home’s market value, he doesn’t believe that the improvement will add much to the overall property value.
Unpermitted work negates potential value-add
Ford also has run across garages with unpermitted living space that the property owner rented. While these might be “a significant value additive to the local market,” they’re not legal dwelling areas, he says. He never considers an unpermitted garage or a bootleg rental part of the GLA, or Gross Living Area. “A legally permitted garage conversion often adds value to a property, net of any loss due to not having a garage anymore. An unpermitted one does not,” he says.
When building a detached garage with livable space, obtain a permit and have the finished building inspected to save headaches and legal issues down the line.
Advantages to adding a detached garage
Beyond value, a detached garage adds storage and flexible space to your home. Consider the following benefits you’ll gain with this addition:
Space for boats, recreational vehicles, and equipment
“Where I do most of my business, we have properties with detached garages. We have a lot of people with hobbies and toys, boats, four-wheelers, and workshops,” Freeman says. “If you have a business — like in our area, we have a lot of landscapers — they don’t necessarily want this big garage attached to the house. They want it separate, so that they can store their things and keep noise and whatnot away from the living space.”
Added storage with complementary exterior design
Free-standing garages don’t have to look like boxes with doors. The Garage Plan Shop, for instance, sells an array of building plans for detached garages large enough for one to four or more vehicles. It also sells plans for tandem garages to fit on narrow lots, garage workshops, garages with lofts, and garage apartments.
Privacy for an office, in-law suite, or hobby room
If your detached garage has plumbing as well as electricity and meets local building codes, you might be able to convert it into livable space for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or a guest house.
A detached can add value and functionality to your home
If you’re still unsure whether breaking ground on a detached garage would be worth your while, jot down how you’d like to use the space. Do you want a livable loft upstairs? Enough space to park a car or a boat? Room for a workout area or a workshop? Then consider asking a real estate agent how much value they estimate a detached garage will add to your property value. Weigh the functionality and value add against the cost to decide if a detached garage is right for your home.
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