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.