How to convert garages into higher income spaces in residential zoning?

4 Replies

Hi BP, 

I'm in contract to buy my first 4-plex, which has 2 underused accessory buildings that I would like to turn into money makers. One is a row of 5 garages, the other is a row of 4 storage units. The property is in a residential zone, so I'm told I can't convert them into any commercial space such as artist studios, offices, etc. But I KNOW I could make more out of them if I could rent them as finished space, rather than as garage/storage. 

Any ideas on how I could creatively renovate and market these spaces for $$? 

Thanks! 

Geneva

Ideas I've considered: 

* Rent them as "hobby space" for artist studios, workshops, or man caves, clearly stating in the ads and lease that no commercial use is allowed. 

* Turn garages into a 1BR loft-style apartment. Leave storage units as-is.  

* Finish the spaces and attach them to the current apartments as bonus rooms and charge higher rent (once current tenants move out).

Hi Geneva, I don't know your area, but have you spoken to anyone at your county regarding a special use permit, variance, or anything like that? I've lived in VA, NC, and now live in TX, and all offer something along those lines. You might give it a shot, as there's usually something that can be done. I'm not saying it'll necessarily be simple, but something to look into nonetheless.

Hi Chad. I'm in Berkeley, Ca -- perhaps the most restricted market there is! I visited our local planning department today, explained my question, and they gave me a list of permitted uses. I expect they are the usual uses permitted in a residential area: child care center, clubs/lodge, community care center, library, religious assembly. For an accessory building I'm basically limited to child care. I haven't yet consulted a local architect, who might know better how to finesse the restrictions.

On the planning website it looks like I can apply for a "Use Permit (Public Hearing)," but I don't think that's what you're suggesting. "Variances" seem more obscure. They appear in applications that I can access, but I can't find any general info yet...

Hi Geneva,

I am actively looking for a 1-4 unit in oakland or berkeley and I'd be really interested in hearing how this value-add works out so please keep us updated. I'm actually an architect but I work in San Francisco so the only help I can offer is for spatial planning, layout etc if you need friendly advice. 

Good luck!

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.