"Living Space Conversion Garage Remodeling" - So said our Realtor when we bought our San Diego house and asked how to increase its value. His actual words were: "For adding living space, a conversion of the garage will make you more money than all your other change career efforts."
Other building professionals agreed that converting the garage to living space was a project that could be worth several hundred thousand dollars to us. Of course that was before the real estate bubble burst in San Diego.
How so? As new homeowners, we already needed more living space. Both our Realtor and a owner-builder services consultant advised us to add living space through the conversion of our garage. At the time, it seemed be a sure real estate money maker.
We were told that of all of our career change efforts to improve our financial picture, what would earn us the most money for the year was a garage conversion!
A few years ago, deciding to stay in San Diego on our career change journey, we finally bought a house. Even though a modest 3 bedroom house in San Diego cost over $500,000 at the time we purchased the home, we thought it to be a wise real estate decision.
Even as new homeowners, we needed more living space so conversion of the garage appeared to be the fastest and easiest way to add square footage to our new home.
For our garage conversion project we looked to owner-builder services, which is a do it yourself garage conversion approach.
As we met with a consultant with a company that identifies itself as UBuildIt, "The Dominant Leader in Owner-Builder Services". Their claim was that they were the first and only franchise company to offer a national service to the owner-builder segment.
Needing living space, a garage conversion was exactly what we were looking to do, so UBuildIt owner-builder services seemed to be good fit for a do it yourself garage conversion.
Both my wife and I have made change career decisions in the past few years, leading us to San Diego.
Following the prevailing home buying advice at the time, we decided to buy a house, even with prices over $500,000 for an entry level house.
After all, that same house sold for $200,000 when we first came to San Diego. Surely we could see the same equity increase, so said the Realtor. If we only knew the future for San Diego real estate!
We heard comments like "Why are you remodeling your garage? You just moved!" Even though we had been in our house for a brief time, we felt we were already needing more living space.
Our son, who suffered a spinal cord injury a few years ago lived with us at the time. Our daughter was also moving to San Diego after making her own change career decision.
Bear with me here because our garage conversion plans really does have relationship to the term "The Sandwich Generation." That title is bestowed upon a generation who has two other generations living with them.
At that time, there was the possibility that we would be members of the Sandwich Generation very quickly if my wife's parents moved in with us.
Our house was just a bit over 1000 square feet of livable space. Our garage remodel plan was to either do a garage to bedroom conversion or a garage to family room conversion to make room for the multiple generations living with us.
Because it was an attached garage, new remodeling through our garage conversion plan would add much needed room, by simply adding living space through conversion of the garage.
We figured converting the garage was the easiest and fastest way to not only gain much needed living space, but to gain equity as well!
Of course, such a plan for converting space works when home equity is increasing, but may not when housing prices are in a free fall.
In the real estate market of San Diego at that time, we were told the garage conversion cost would be minimal, compared to the added $300,000 of equity to our home's value when the garage conversion project was completed. And had there been no real estate bust, I suppose that would be true.
Perhaps that is why first our real estate agent, and then an owner-builder services consultant, both asked us "Do you have any idea the value your home will gain by adding living space through conversion of your garage?" We look back at such projections and see how fleeting they were now that the San Diego bubble has burst.
So it was that the real estate experts painted a bright financial picture if we would take the course of a garage conversion.
Simply remodeling space that already existed within the walls of our house, seemed to be such a wise way to increase equity. What plans we had in taking what seemed to be profitable refinancing steps.
But the San Diego bubble burst and we never did take action to do a garage conversion.
In a exploding real estate market, it may be true that for adding living space, a conversion of the garage will make more money than all our other change career efforts.
What we discovered was that when prices begin falling by 20% or perhaps even 40 or 50%, the value of the home will not support even the best refinancing plans.