SFH - Entire 1st floor is a garage. Convert to living area?

4 Replies

I cant find much about doing this online since the layout of this house is a bit unusual.
Its a bi-level house. Two story. The first floor is 1500 sq ft, the second floor is 1500 sq feet.

The first floor is entirely garage. Two garage doors in the front, no entrance except the garage doors.
The second floor is a living area and can be entered via exterior stairs. The two floors are not internally connected.

The house is valued at ~600k. The two neighboring houses are great comps. They have similar size lots, both multi story, both are the same total sq ft (3000). The difference is that they have a normal layout. One garage bay, first floor living area, second floor living area. Those houses are valued at about 950k. I assume the reason for the discrepency here is because due the garage space not being counted as living area, the bi-level has to be listed as only being 1500 sq ft.

I'm thinking about converting the first floor into a living area, connecting them with internal stairs, getting rid of the external stairs, and just keeping a single small garage bay. This would effectively double the square footage (from 1500 living area -> ~2700)

This obviously wouldnt be cheap, but if it could add ~350k in value, it would be worth it. I'm wondering if anybody has experience with something like this or if there may be some things I'm not considering. Its different than just converting a regular garage, so I'm hesitating a bit about whether it could actually result in the value improvement that I'm expecting.

Anthony, it sounds like it makes a lot of sense to convert some of the garage space to living space. Maybe you could post a pic of the house? What are you planning with the home and what is the highest and best use? SFR? STR? The devil is in the details. You could talk to a draftsperson or architect to see what it would cost to design the space, then get bids. The biggest issue will be adding a bathroom, etc. Also, if you have to cut into the upper floor to add the stairs you may need to talk to a structural engineer.

I added a photo of the house below. My plan for this is a potential flip, but I think it could do very well on airbnb as a rental as a backup plan. Its a water front home on a unique lot with a view of an active river.

Luckily, the first floor actually has plumbing already and a small bathroom. The window on underneath the stairs is a ~200 sq ft storage room with bathroom. Has electricity, septic, running water, etc on both floors.

I think my biggest problem will be the difficulty of doing the work, staying under budget, and not having the house look "weird". It will be hard to get this done without it being obvious that it used to be a large garage.


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I can tell you this is 100% possible in Southern California. This type of project here is referred to as a JADU (Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit), since it is attached to the primary residence it is classified as a JADU as opposed to a traditional ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit). These are also referred to as granny flats or in-law suites from time to time.

My suggestion is to contact your area's Building & Safety Department to discuss the possibility and legality of doing this in your area.

If you have any questions as to what is involved in this feel free to PM me.

Best of luck!

Hi Anthony,

It will look weird if you try to restyle it yourself.

It might be wise to talk to an Architect in the area who does SFH work.

That way it's more likely that everything will be styled good to the eye and match.

You don't want the 1st and second stories looking like flip flops with a tuxedo, or vice versa.

Maybe look into Hardy board, and Blue and white really POPs a lot better than beige (but you have to respect the neighborhood styles and colors too).

This house is not the same style, but it is an eye popping blue and white.

(Maybe the area floods every so many years, or Giant Gators come up from the swamp and break through the doors, and that's why it's up in the air like that. Or maybe there is some kind of weird easement through the garage.)

Good Luck!

You don't want to wake up on the couch and find this guy staring it you.