Does the garage size contribute to home square footage?
The US Census Bureau puts the average size of a house in the US in 2020 at about 2,678 square feet. An average two-car garage is typically around 170 square feet. Therefore, you would think that the average home size would be 2, 678 added to 170 to arrive at 2,848 square feet.
Your thinking would be wrong.
A house’s size is among the main factors affecting that house’s price or value. The average home in the US costs $246,334, according to CNBC. Data from major real estate companies analyzed by Statista shows that the average cost per square foot for a house in the US is $118.9. If the average garage is about 170 square foot, then the average garage is a space worth about $20,213.
A space worth around $20,000 should be included in the size appraisal of a house, right?
It turns out that garages do not count towards the square footage of a house in the US. Including the size of a garage when quoting a house’s size is not only shady but illegal,
Garages do not count towards the final house square footage, and we’ll tell you why. Firstly, however, let’s understand the finished living space profile that counts towards a house’s square footage.
Definition of a living space
The US legally considers a house a livable space that can be used as the primary living area all year round. That ‘all year round’ part is the most important.
To live in a space all year round, you need heating for the winter and cooling for the summer. You also need enough ceiling space to comfortably live and move within a space. Depending on the county, a living space also has designated plumbing and electrical wiring.
The typical height requirement for any space to count towards the square footage is a ceiling height of at least seven feet for over half the space. The other half has to be at least five feet high.
Why a garage fails to meet the size inclusion threshold
Garages do not meet the threshold for definition as living spaces for several reasons.
Heating and cooling
The typical garage is neither heated nor cooled. Think about it: what do you use your garage for? It is unlikely that you have compelling reasons to add heating and cooling to space primarily used to park cars of all uses you can list.
While some garages can be heated and air-conditioned, especially garages used as working spaces, heating and cooling is only one of the factors disqualifying a garage space from inclusion in the house’s final square footage tally.
Garages typically have one main access; a folding or sliding door that opens up wide enough to allow cars to enter the space. A space counting towards the final square footage tally for a house needs access from the main hallway without leaving the main house. Some garages have a door that leads to the main house or hallway.
Again, access is but another single factor among many affecting the inclusion of a space into the final size tally.
Any structures under the ground cannot be included in the square footage tally for a US house. An excavate garage or basement garage might be heated and air-conditioned, have an access door to the main house through a staircase. Still, its location immediately disqualifies its size from inclusion into the total.
If the garage is built into a hill-side such that only one side is under the ground, that is sufficient reason to disqualify it from inclusion into the total size.
What if you convert your garage to try and meet all requirements to have its space included as part of the house’s size?
You could do that, but there are a few things to note.
All conversions need to be approved. The local approving authority (almost always the municipality) should approve designs for the conversion. A professional constructor can then work on the garage per approved designs.
If you convert a garage, two main problems arise. One is that the garage is no longer a garage but a room within the house. The second is that you now need a place to park cars.
Converting a garage necessitates the creation of a new space for parking.
Converting a garage could impact a house’s value negatively. Imagine having a house with high square footage but no place to park cars. In areas where the law requires a sheltered space for parking vehicles, the homeowner would either build a carport or a stand-alone garage. Failure to make these accommodations can result in the house’s market value dropping.
The value of a garage, outside inclusion in the square footage
A house’s size is just one among many factors that affect its value. Rather than worry over the inability to include a garage’s size into the house’s total size, you can focus on making the garage an additional value point for a house.
One way would be by including the square footage for the main house and the garage's size. An example would be quoting the house to be 2,200 square feet plus a 180 square foot garage that could fit two cars with enough space left for bicycles.
That way, the house is presented as a complex that includes a significant garage space.
Another way would be by showing the garage space’s utility. Showing utility is especially relevant where the garage is detached.
A house can be presented as having a detached garage (with the size quoted) that can be used as a guest house, an in-laws sleep-over area, or a man-cave. The exact wording would depend on the market and how the garage has been structured.
The sad news is that you will not be able to include your garage in your home’s total square footage.
The great news is that you don’t need to include the garage in the final tally; any benefits sought from including the garage’s size can be achieved through the space's clever but transparent presentation.