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Thread: Garage Conversion-Tax Consequences?

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Garage Conversion-Tax Consequences?

    My CPA friend has informed me that if I convert my one car garage into a
    den,family or bedroom that my property taxes will increase.

    Are there exceptions to this rule/law?
    I know of a fellow that uses his garage as a dual purpose art display room/car garage.

    With all the new floor coatings available it seems that others are getting similar ideas.
    I'd like to buy a tool shed and a metal car awning structure so garage could be used as a multi-purpose den/laundry room.
    note: I live in California.

    Are there ways to get around a reassesment?

    Mike50
    Last edited by Mike50; 08-07-2007 at 06:41 AM.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    No legal way around it...as I understand it, changes to the floorplan are likely to change the assessment value. If you get a building permit, it will be noted, and most likely assessed. If you don't and they find out, it is a fine, then they back assess and you must still get a permit to have the work checked, which may require tearing some stuff out.

    Your friend may be on borrowed time if they ever do a drive-by looking for unpermitted work. This would be even more evident if the garage door was removed.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3

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    Depending on the size of your city and required inspections upon sale this is a change that can be made "under the radar". You have to do your homework.

    I would say the most important issue is whether or not your city requires an inspection upon sale.

    Tom

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    General Contractor dx's Avatar
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    I disagree. This can be done legally and without tax consequences in most places. You just have to accept some small compromises.

    1. You must keep a functional car-size door. There is nothing to prevent you from removing the automatic door opener and putting a large set of curtains or shoji screens so the garage door can't be seen from inside the room.

    2. You cannot install anything the local code does not allow in a garage. In my area that would be items such as sinks, showers or floor drains.

    3. You can insulate and drywall a garage. No code against that anywhere.

    4. You can tile a garage floor. Or acid-etch the concrete slab for an artsy floor. No code against that.

    5. You can heat and cool a garage. No code against that.

    6. You can install ceiling light fixtures in a garage. No code against that.

    7. You can put furniture in a garage. No code against that.

    My own attached garage is finished exactly as nicely as my living room, except it has a garage door. I don't need the extra space, but I could convert it to a den/home office, etc. by simply putting furniture in it. No assessor would ever dream of telling me it's not a garage.

    dx

  5. #5
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua
    No legal way around it...as I understand it, changes to the floorplan are likely to change the assessment value. If you get a building permit, it will be noted, and most likely assessed. If you don't and they find out, it is a fine, then they back assess and you must still get a permit to have the work checked, which may require tearing some stuff out.

    Your friend may be on borrowed time if they ever do a drive-by looking for unpermitted work. This would be even more evident if the garage door was removed.
    That's what I thought Jim.
    DX makes interesting points except for the last one. Permanent Furniture is a big gray area imo and might be the deal breaker.
    It also might depend on the individual inspector and what kind of mood he's in.
    It sounds like a crap shoot...

    Mike

  6. #6
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    If you turn that into a bedroom, it will be required to have a way of egress, a door does not count, even 3 doors leading into that room.

    A window is a way of egress and the square footage of that window is dictated by the size of the room it serves.

    I did a service call friday for a rental property that had a tenant using a basement for a bedroom, no windows bigger than a casement. Bad bad bad situation if there is ever a fire.

    I'm probably the only one who's against them, but I despise glass block windows in basements.

    Not only have you sealed your basement off from ventilation but there is no way out for sure other than doors, no way a fire department can shove a fire hose through the windows to hit the base of the fire, which is a preferred method.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  7. #7
    General Contractor dx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike50
    Permanent Furniture is a big gray area imo and might be the deal breaker.
    No it isn't. Furniture is not part of the building and no code has any provisions relating to furniture. Putting a bed in the kitchen does not make that room a bedroom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike50
    It also might depend on the individual inspector and what kind of mood he's in.
    Drywall, tile and such do not require permits and inspections in most areas. So no inspector involved. If permits are required in your area, yeah, I would have it inspected BEFORE you put rugs and furniture in the garage...LOL

    But there is really no real risk. When you apply for the permit, they'll refuse it if they don't want you to do whatever it is you want to do. And they have to quote you the code section or local ordinance prohibiting it.

    dx

  8. #8
    General Contractor dx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED
    A window is a way of egress and the square footage of that window is dictated by the size of the room it serves.
    I'm not aware of such a provision What section of the code says the window size is dictated by the size of the room?

    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED
    ... no windows bigger than a casement. Bad bad bad situation if there is ever a fire.
    Casement is a type of window, not a size. You can have a casement window big enough to drive a truck through.

    dx

  9. #9
    G.C. 22+ years(in 3 states) Old Dog's Avatar
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    Default some suggestions...

    Hey Mike50,
    You might ask him how much your taxes will go up and then weigh that against all the future enjoyment you would get out of your conversion.
    I had done alot of garage conversions in southern cal many years ago and didn't have too many problems(permit wise) in the older areas.If you happen to have a homeowners association that can be a different story.Have to consider if you plan to sell in the future.
    While you like the conversion,potential buyers may not.I have seen people leave the garage door in place and just finish off the inside;drywall, paint,carpet,tile...didn't change the garage per say,just "spruced it up" a little.It then can be changed back fairly easy if need be.
    Just a thought...

  10. #10
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Depends on where you live in California. In Southern Calif, most larger cities and towns have PARKING regulations which prohibit converting a garage, because the garage parking was part of the required number of spaces per zoning when the place was built. "Back in the day", many garages were totally converted to bedrooms or whatever, with or without permits. Today you cannot do that. So , as someone mentioned, first requirement would be that the garage door be left intact. If you have a gas water heater in the garage, then any sleeping arrangements would be prohibited. Also, the garage door and a door to the house would not qualify as egress, so a window of minimum size would be required. Any plumbing such as sinks would require permits. You could probably also even put in a toilet, if it was arranged such that it did not interfere with the requirement that you be able to park the required number of cars. You can finish the floor, and the walls and ceilings. Remember that any wall between the house and the garage is a firewall, and any modifcations to that will require a permit.

    Basically, it sounds like you could do what you are wanting, except not a bedroom, and still stay legal. At time of sale, you would need it to be a "garage" not a rumpus room. I believe the closer you got to it NOT being a garage, the more likely the tax people may get interested.

    I presume you do not live in an area which has much stiffer community regulations, and "CODE POLICE" neighbors! I once lived in a townhouse community, and although they could not phsically make you put the car in the garage, regulations specified that you could not put so much crap in the garage that a car wouldn't fit. And they did have people who NOTICED such things.


    As far as your tool shed, and your metal carport, these definitely are governed by zoning and permit requirements in most cities, so that will be a different problem for you. It will also call attention to what you are doing in the garage.
    Last edited by jimbo; 08-08-2007 at 07:11 PM.

  11. #11
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dx
    I'm not aware of such a provision What section of the code says the window size is dictated by the size of the room?
    Is Cali on the IRC yet? In New York State's version, the section is R.303.1:
    All habitable rooms shall be provided with aggregate glazing area of not less than 8 percent of the floor area of such rooms.
    (...)
    The minimum openable area to the outdoors shall be 4 percent of the area ventilated.
    Pretty sure the UBC has a similar passage somewhere.

    Casement is a type of window, not a size. You can have a casement window big enough to drive a truck through.
    I think we all know what he meant - the typical basement window-well casement - much too small for egress requirements in a bedroom.

  12. #12
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo
    Depends on where you live in California. In Souther Calif, most larger cities and towns have PARKING regulations which prohibit converting a garage, because the garage parking was part of the required number of spaces per zoning when the place was built. "Back in the day", many garages were totally converted to bedrooms or whatever, with or without permits. Today you cannot do that. So , as someone mentioned, first requirement would be that the garage door be left intact. If you have a gas water heater in the garage, then any sleeping arrangements would be prohibited. Also, the garage door and a door to the house would not qualify as egress, so a window of minimum size would be required. Any plumbing such as sinks would require permits. You could probably also even put in a toilet, if it was arranged such that it did not interfere with the requirement that you be able to park the required number of cars. You can finish the floor, and the walls and ceilings. Remember that any wall between the house and the garage is a firewall, and any modifications to that will require a permit.

    Basically, it sounds like you could do what you are wanting, except not a bedroom, and still stay legal. At time of sale, you would need it to be a "garage" not a rumpus room. I believe the closer you got to it NOT being a garage, the more likely the tax people may get interested.

    I presume you do not live in an area which has much stiffer community regulations, and "CODE POLICE" neighbors! I once lived in a townhouse community, and although they could not phsically make you put the car in the garage, regulations specified that you could not put so much crap in the garage that a car wouldn't. And they did have people who NOTICED such things.


    As far as your tool shed, and your metal carport, these definitely are governed by zonig and permit requirements in most cities, so that will be a different problem for you. It will also call attention to what you are doing in the garage.

    OK. Nix the toolshed. Gotcha. My idea was this:

    1.Tear out homemade work bench attached to wall.
    2.Drywall that wall.
    3.Hide washer-dryer/Electric water heater with Japanese Shoji screen
    4.Paint interior & exposed Ceiling Rafters
    5.Paint floor with a Rustoleum finish
    6.Leave garage door intact.

    Usage:

    Walls would be filled with art etc that I do not have room for. I have a lot.
    Chairs/couch/TV/Computer desk.

    Garage is 25' X 19' with 2 existing doors opening to 2nd bedroom and back yard.
    Existing window is 34'x34' inches. No modifications to wall connecting to house needed other than possibly tearing out homemade shelving.

    Bottom Line Jimbo:
    I could easily restore it to a proper garage for next owner.
    It's a large lot and neighbors would not be affected.
    I not willing to gamble on getting hit with a retro-reassesment so I need to be sure before I tackle this in 2008. I'm in no hurry......

    I do have enough garden tools/paint to fill a small tool shed which need to be stored.
    Worse case scenario=I will drywall, paint and finish floor while still parking car inside.
    No one can cite me for hanging art in the garage...I suppose.

    This is a rural/horse community consisting of 1/3 Rednecks 1/3 Artist types and 1/3 Yuppies.
    FWIW Quite a few neighbors have gigantic motorhomes parked directly next to their homes. I have always suspected they are dual usage.
    Maybe used as lodging for "Crazy Uncle Jerry" or something.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike50; 08-08-2007 at 08:44 AM.

  13. #13
    DIY Member Mort's Avatar
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    Sheeze, I'm in SoCal in a tract with HOA rules and I doubt more than 35% of the people can even get a car into the two car garages.....unless they have the three car garage model and then it's still doubtful. Nobody has tried to assess them for running a portable storage site Quite a few have had the garage interior dry walled with epoxy type flooring and not one has required any permits or even HOA approval to my knowledge. Filling a garage with artwork and a couple of chairs has sure got to be a much better/nicer alternative than storing ten tons of useless cr*p that, ouside of likely being a fire hazzard, is sure to draw unwanted critters.

    Mort

  14. #14
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Depends on how much work you do in the garage. Some I've seen could be used as a nice room, but still have the garage door. Changing the floor height, wall-to-wall carpet, dividing walls, removing the garage door and maybe replacing it with a slider, etc. sort of make it hard to get a car in any longer - you've changed the purpose of the room. Filling it with junk is a right in the constitution, isn't it ?
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  15. #15
    Engineer Furd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua
    Filling it with junk is a right in the constitution, isn't it ?
    I sure hope so!


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