Back in the 1950s, the one-car garage was standard in the 41 percent of homes that had any garage at all. More than half a century later, almost two-thirds of all new homes have two-car garages, and on a nationwide basis 19 percent have three-car or more garages, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

“The home-building industry is definitely seeing a growing trend toward the three-car garage,” said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Home Builders.

“Especially in areas where houses do not traditionally have basements, the three-car garage is becoming a must-have in new homes,” said Howard. “But it’s not just limited to those areas. Three-car garages are becoming more common in markets across the country.”

Census Bureau statistics confirm the trend toward three-car garages in all four census areas, although the Midwest and the West are definitely in the lead. When the Census Bureau first started tracking three-car or more garages in 1992, they accounted for 20 percent of the new homes in the West. In 2004, 31 percent of new homes in the West had three-car or more garages. In the Midwest, 16 percent had three-car or more garages in 1992 and 32 percent had three-car or more garages last year.

The number in the South has grown steadily from 4 percent in 1992 to 9 percent in 2004. The Northeast increased from 4 percent to 10 percent over the same time period, and anecdotal reports from builders indicate that more consumers in these areas are demanding three-car garages every day, especially in upscale houses.

For most buyers, the appeal of the three-car garage is simple: more storage space. NAHB studies of consumer preferences consistently show that extra storage space is very high on most consumers’ wish lists.

And while there may not be three vehicles parked in the garage on any given day, it’s a sure bet that it will hold yard and garden equipment, seasonal recreational equipment, and much more – many of them items that would be difficult to retrieve from a basement or attic. Additionally, builders are finding that consumers increasingly prefer 8-foot by 10-foot garage doors compared to the more standard 7-foot by 9-foot doors so that their larger garages can more readily accommodate SUVs and the other bigger vehicles that are growing in popularity.

As they’ve gotten larger, garages have also become more sophisticated, said Howard. “Consumers find elaborate and extensive built-in storage and shelving systems, work areas, utility sinks and many other amenities very appealing,” he added. “They are also tending to view the garage as more of an extension of the house, and some buyers are even heating and cooling the space for comfort and year-round use.”

Another very appealing feature about a three-car garage is that it allows builders to offer a second-floor “bonus room” that can be used for a multitude of purposes. “These bonus rooms are a growing trend in upscale homes and provide a very flexible space that can be put to any number of uses,” Howard said. “From a playroom for the kids to a home office, exercise room, loft, extra bedroom, an in-law or nanny suite, quarters for a boomerang child, and even extra storage, the uses are almost endless.

“With extra space, extra amenities and plenty of flexible customization options, the three-car garage is definitely a trend that consumers are embracing,” he said.

Ironically, he added, today’s three-car garage with an upstairs bonus area actually rivals the size of a typical new home of the 1950s, when homes averaged about 1,000 square feet.

It is also ironic that at a time when new-home lots are generally decreasing in size, the three-car garage requires a slightly larger lot. Placement of the three-car garage is also challenging for builders, and typically they are sited at the side of the home rather than the front so that the garage does not become the most prominent point in the streetscape.

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