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How Big is Your Garage?

by Connie Yoshimura

    Probably not big enough if you’re an Alaskan whose penchant for big trucks ranks them at the top of truck ownership on a per capita basis amongst our 50 states. After 5 pm, you can see trucks parked in driveways and along every residential street in Anchorage. Twenty-two feet long with double cabs, four doors and extended beds with heavy duty trailer hauling systems, they don’t fit in most garages.

    Over the years, Anchorage has evolved from its tent city roots and small ranch homes with no garages to the covered carport of the 1960's, the single car garage of the 1970's, to the double car garage of the 1980's, the triple car garage in the 1990's to the mega garage of today. A single car garage is a minimum 10 x 18 and a double car 20 x 20. However, some of that square footage is almost always taken up with one or two steps into the main living area as well as space for the hot water heater, furnace and in older homes even the washer/dryer. And so, the truck gets parked in the drive-way.

    In Anchorage, a larger garage has risen to the top of the new home buyer’s move-up list of ‘must haves’. Today’s garages are heated, sheet rocked and even have textured and painted walls, the same as the interior of the home. They have windows, a plethora of electrical outlets and space for the freezer full of salmon/moose/caribou, the dog washing sink, the workshop for wood working, the Harley Davidson and the 1960 Chevy. For some home owners, the garage is as important as the kitchen and has become for others its own ‘great room’ or ‘man cave’ and well furnished with large screen TVs and theater surround sound, a small frig for beer and even a bar.

    And therein lies the problem. The contemporary garage has all of the amenities of the finished interior of a new home but lacks in valuation. The cost to build the garage is now almost identical to the cost of the interior of the home. It has a roof, walls, foundation, mechanical, electrical, built-ins, et cetera. It lacks only hardwood or carpet flooring. However, appraisers value it far less on a per square foot basis than the rest of the home. Today’s garage can be as large as 700 to 1,000 square feet and fully finished. If the average price of new construction is now $200 per square foot, that’s a lot of missed value, even if the builder gives it to the buyer at his cost. In most lower ’48 communities, the garage area is calculated as part of the square footage of the home. However, in Alaska we only give full value to the interior living areas and our local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and appraisers separate the two areas. MLS will list the price per square foot of the home without regard to the size of the garage. Potential buyers and realtors use price per square foot as a moniker of value and rank homes using this method. With the increasing importance of an Alaskan size garage, that’s a strategic error in establishing value, particularly since the garage level is almost always on the first floor which is the most expensive to construct and is given the greatest value.


    There are many factors that contribute to the overall value of a home but in Alaska the garage stands out as being the most under-valued and very often the most sought after item in today’s market. It’s size and dimensions will have a significant impact on your home value today and tomorrow. There’s no doubt that the mega garage is here to stay, along with Alaskans’ love affair with their trucks and toys.

New Homes on Parade

by Connie Yoshimura

    Last weekend the Anchorage Home Builders sponsored their annual Parade of Homes, showcasing Anchorage and Eagle River builders’ new homes. Out of the fifteen entries (one of the lowest on record for the event), some definite residential trends have emerged. First, there aren’t many single family homes on lots over 5,000 square feet and under $400,000. If you can find one, buy it while interest rates are still low. In the future, they’re going to be almost impossible to find in that price point due to the growing high cost of vertical construction and increased regulatory requirements for the development of residential subdivisions. Any new single family home under $500,000 is going to look like a smart buy in another 18 months. In its place, is the new condo which is definitely going vertical and by that I don’t mean three and four story buildings with interior corridors but rather three stories of stacked living within one unit. Out of 15 entries, more than a third were condos. Anchorage and downtown Eagle River are being urbanized. Interesting to note is that Spinell Homes has a four bedroom condo with a great room on the first floor and four bedrooms upstairs plus a laundry room. It functions like a small single family home but has an attached wall. You’ll see more of these types of dwelling units in the future.

    Of the fifteen entries, six were in the Eagle River area, where residential land is still available for development. Two other popular areas was WestPark with two entries in the Sand Lake area and, as always, southeast Anchorage with four entries . There were no million dollar homes this year which may be one of the reasons attendance appeared to be down. The most expensive home was $784,500 by Crown Pointe, Inc., on an acre plus lot on the lower Hillside. If you want a larger home on the hillside, that’s just about the minimum price point in the future. Don’t expect anything on the hillside under $700,000 in the coming months for new construction.

    Our local builders have begun to pay attention to details and designs. Most new homes are the great room concept with a flex room (office/den/extra bedroom) on the first floor. Four beds on the second floor seems to be the ‘must have’. The peninsula island is out and the walk-around kitchen is the only way to go with granite now the standard countertop above $350,000 and quartz making an expensive comeback in the upper price point. Quartz counters provide more consistency in color, allowing additional color for backsplashes which are definitely going to the cabinet level for a clean look. Knobs, pulls, crown molding complete the new kitchen look which includes painted white cabinets, a refreshing look for our upcoming dark winter nights.

    The next time you’re out looking at new homes, pay attention to the lighting which is the jewelry of a home. Whether it’s the restoration hardware look or the origami white cloud dining room fixture, there’s nothing like new and exciting lighting to make a modest home look special. Fireplace surrounds and mantles have become almost like custom cabinetry with varied height bookcases, sometimes as much as eight feet high which highlights the nine foot first floor ceilings, another ‘must have’. Accent walls are definitely something to pay attention to in the kitchen, family room and master bath. It’s an easy and inexpensive fix if a buyer doesn’t like the color but adds a bright spot of color to our upcoming dark days. If you don’t know what color to paint an accent wall, Google ‘pantone’, the color guru website which forecasts the latest in colors for home design and fashion

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Dwell Realty
561 E. 36th Ave., Suite 200
Anchorage AK 99503