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Barn Blog

February 15, 2013

Great Garages

Great garages
by John fullerton • nfba Vice President
This story originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of frame building news
With interest rates at record lows, significant appreciation of the value of our home, and the addition of a little one to our family, early in 2003 my wife and I decided it was time for us to buy a bigger house. As we looked at various homes in and around our growing town of Lawrence, Kan., we were largely shocked by how much homes were selling for. We decided we needed to find a home with potential, one that was larger than what we had, yet one we could afford. As we did with our previous home, we figured we could put some sweat equity into an older home and use home improvements to take a so-so house at a bargain price to a finished stage some years later when we might again feel the “seven-year itch.”
We encountered few houses that met our criteria. We did not want to move into a dump that would require a sig- nificant financial investment to bring it up to snuff. There were some exceptions, however, and we noticed a common trend among them.  We discovered three large, older homes that were in pretty good condition at relatively low prices.  On each of these we asked our realtor why, in his opinion, each might still be on the market. In every instance he noted that there was no garage present. He mentioned that most buyers looking for the size of home we wanted a garage. We talked to the owner of one of the properties who said — without prompting from us — that he had considered building a garage at the recommendation of his realtor, just to try to help him sell the house.
We finally picked out a home in the nearby town of Baldwin City. The 100- plus-year-old house was almost completely renovated, with some of the renovations incomplete. It had been on the market for more than a year, and it had no garage. After extensive negotiation, we were able to purchase the home for a reasonable price.
We contemplated our discovery that a large home might be difficult to sell without a garage. It seemed like it would be extremely frustrating — and perhaps a significant loss — to have to build a garage just to sell a house when you are trying to move. So we thought that if we would have to build a garage to sell this house, why not build it right after we buy it so we can enjoy it, too? Of course, the tricky thing is affording home improvements.   According to mortgage experts, typical home improvements may yield an increase in a home’s value equal to about 50 percent of what one spends for the improvements. So we knew we would have to choose the things we put money into carefully. A garage yields a significantly higher equity increase, compared to most other home 
improvements. The appraised value may be more or less than what it costs to install the garage, depending on the circumstances.
We arranged for a temporary loan to cover construction costs, and began the paperwork so we could get refinanced based on a complete reappraisal once the garage and other home improvements were complete. This made us a bit apprehensive, since it was a gamble whether we could actually get financed for enough to cover all the costs of construction. Since we wouldn’t know what the appraisal for refinance would be until after the project was done, we had to focus on keeping construction costs low. From working with NFBA, I knew that the cost of a continuous concrete foundation comprises a substantial amount of the total cost of a typical garage; but that cost is basically eliminated if the garage is post-frame. Other cost advantages for post-frame garages include speedier construction and fewer materials, due to the wider bay spacing of framed structural members. We estimated that it would cost several thousand dollars less to build what we wanted using post-frame design.
I knew we could construct an inexpensive metalclad structure that would meet our needs, while solving the problem we anticipated when we would try to sell the home. We considered the wide variety of fine metal cladding products available, noting that we could closely match or complement the color scheme of the house.
The beauty of post-frame is that you can put any kind of exterior wall finish you wish. We could have saved even more money by choosing metal cladding and roofing, but we decided to take advantage of post-frame’s extreme versatility, and push it to the limit. We figured it was worth a little extra money to have the external appearance of the new garage since this was such a specialized and time-consuming type of installation, we ordered the building to be left without vinyl siding under the eave at one end. 
We wanted a little taller garage door to accommodate our van, two windows, an access door, a skylight, and storage space in the attic. 
The crew arrived fresh from another project late on the first day. We were briefly hampered by rain, but by  the end of the day the posts were embedded and the entire frame was basically put together. Girts were in place, so we could see the outline that would end up being walls. I was impressed! The next day, trusses, purlins, and ply- wood sheathing were installed.  We may consider installing interior drywall at a later date; however, since we are happy with the way it looks and plywood is more durable than drywall, we will probably just leave it as is. The biggest advantage for installing an interior wall, besides appearance, is the huge gap formed by the columns in between the interior walls and the plywood sheathing. This provides a 6 inch or wider cavity that may be filled with insulation.

Most of all, we love being able to use it. Besides providing shelter for our vehicles, we made it big enough for a large workbench, wall shelving, and all our tools. The same person did the appraisal for both the original home loan and the re finance. The value this particular garage added to the property exceeded the cost of construction, because livability and curb appeal are such important factors in the seller’s market that dominates our area. The cost benefits of post-frame paid off, making our investment in construction of the garage well worthwhile. We will 
know its real value when we someday sell our home. The experience made me want to build a post-frame house.

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