The price of gas might affect American's love affairs with their cars, but probably not their romance with garages. Indeed, despite the fact that most folks don't actually park their automobiles in their garages, they still gotta have 'em. So much so, that a garage can add more than 10 percent to the resale price of a house, according to a recent study by Florida State University Professors G. Stacy Sirmans and David Macpherson. That's more than a fireplace (8.9 percent), extra bathroom (8.7 percent) or extra bedroom (3.7 percent).
Way back in the 1950s, which are the olden days as far as home design is concerned, fewer than half the houses that had a garage at all had only enough space for one car. Now, three-car garages are becoming the norm, the National Association of Home Builders reported recently.
That's rather ironic when you consider that the size of lots is trending ever downward, which makes it difficult for builders and their architects to come up with designs that reduce the prominence of larger garages.
Nevertheless, the NAHB says 19 percent of all new houses have garages that can accommodate three cars or more, and almost two-thirds of the houses being built today have at least two-car garages. Three-car garages are becoming more common in all areas, but especially so in places where basements are a rarity.
That squares with other studies that have found home owners tend to leave their cars outside and use their garages to house all manner of things, including, but not limited to, yard and garden equipment and seasonal recreational equipment.
Where there's a garage, of course, there's also a driveway. We not only drive on them and park on them, we play on them, too. Driveways launch us into the world every morning, then welcome us home at night. And in between, we use them as basketball courts and drawing boards.
Alas, driveways also are almost always neglected. We allow them to crack, crumble and fall into disrepair without giving them a second thought. But we should, especially if we are going to get top dollar for our homes when it's time to sell and move on.
"The driveway plays a big part in the first impression your home makes on a potential buyer," says Jim Merrion, regional director of RE/MAX Illinois. "So it can pay to be conscious of the appearance and condition of your driveway."
Anothony Bellino, an agent with RE/MAX Tri-County in Algonquin, Ill., takes this thought even further.
"To a significant extent, it is the entrance to your property," Bellino points out. "At the same time, it is part of a package with your walkways and landscaping. You want them to help create a nice feeling for anyone who comes to visit, but especially a prospective buyer."
When a home is brand new, buyers don't usually have a say in what paving material is used for their drives. Typically, the builder makes that decision, and generally the more expensive the house, the more expensive the paving material.
Gravel is the cheapest, easiest way for builders to go, then asphalt and concrete. In really expensive neighborhoods, you might find pavers, which are thin bricks designed specifically for paving applications.
All four materials have their advantages and disadvantages. But whatever the builder chooses, it's probably a good idea not to move down to a less expensive material when the time comes to repave. Otherwise, your place might stick out from the crowd in the wrong way.
"If you are in a subdivision where the homes are of a similar vintage and all have asphalt driveways, blend in and stick with asphalt if you must repave," Bellino advises.
Whatever paving material, though, you want to keep it god shape. And that goes beyond not allowing the surface to deteriorate and weeds to grow between the cracks. If you allow the concrete to flake or scale, for example, the only "fix" is to start over by tearing out the existing materials and repave, which can be expensive.
And it can be costly, even if you don't make the repairs yourself, says another RE/MAX agent, Rebecca Singh of County Line in Burr Ridge, Ill. "Buyers rarely know what it would cost to pour a new concrete drive, so they tend to assume it will cost much more than it does," she says.
Beyond upkeep, the drive needs to be functional. For example, if yours is a two-car garage, then you need an approach that is two-cars wide. You shouldn't need a three-car wide drive if you have a three-car garage. Two should do. But if your builder wants to put in just a single lane to save money, insist on a wider drive or you'll be sorry.