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This is a multiple part question about possibly building a garage apartment in the Heights area.

(1) What are the financial advantages and disadvantages to garage apartments. Any figures on return on investment aside from renting it out?

(2) What would be the best course of action to getting quotes? I'm assuming I should have plans ready to receive equivalent bids.

(3) Any recommendations as far as designers and/or contractors?

(4) Estimated price? I don't have much room and it will most likely be a max of 24 x 24. $100/sq.ft.?

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I would expect it to cost more. I heard from a realtor of a couple that were built recently that cost closer to $80k. You have to account for the first level (the actual garage with bays for cars) and the systems/connections that are required with a totally separate structure (electrical, plumbing, gas, sewer, HVAC, etc.)

Having said all of that, we love having one and it is a great thing about the Heights. I would think that with it being new, c. 500 sq. feet, and if you build it with central AC, you could get $750/mo. I'm not as clear on what it would do for the resale value of your place. I know our current house was much more attractive to us for having a detached garage with an apt., and that we were ready to pay more because of it.

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This is a multiple part question about possibly building a garage apartment in the Heights area.

(1) What are the financial advantages and disadvantages to garage apartments. Any figures on return on investment aside from renting it out?

(2) What would be the best course of action to getting quotes? I'm assuming I should have plans ready to receive equivalent bids.

(3) Any recommendations as far as designers and/or contractors?

(4) Estimated price? I don't have much room and it will most likely be a max of 24 x 24. $100/sq.ft.?

We've been looking into garage apts as well .... still haven't made the decision though.

1) Not sure. The space can't be counted towards your house sqft because it is detached. So you are lucky to get your initial investment back bt not more than that

2) Call a couple of builders

3) We had Harvard Heights come by but they weren't very responsive to our request. Rod Frego quoted $80k finished for a 22' x 30' garage + apt. All Star construction quoted $80k for shell and $100k finished

4) see 3)

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Harvard Heights is busy doing easy and close jobs. Quoted 25k for a 2 story 24x24 shell. When I wanted a simple 10k garage, I was "too far away" for them. I live just outside the loop on the south side..guess lumber prices over here was the breaking point

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We've been looking into garage apts as well .... still haven't made the decision though.

1) Not sure. The space can't be counted towards your house sqft because it is detached. So you are lucky to get your initial investment back bt not more than that

2) Call a couple of builders

3) We had Harvard Heights come by but they weren't very responsive to our request. Rod Frego quoted $80k finished for a 22' x 30' garage + apt. All Star construction quoted $80k for shell and $100k finished

4) see 3)

Can anybody say much about Harvard Heights? All I've heard is they never call back, but nothing about their quality.

How did you compare between HH, Rod Frego, and All Star? Did you have plans ready and say "how much for this?"

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Can anybody say much about Harvard Heights? All I've heard is they never call back, but nothing about their quality.

How did you compare between HH, Rod Frego, and All Star? Did you have plans ready and say "how much for this?"

I looked at a couple of Harvard Heights garages with the builder, and I thought the quality was pretty decent. I had the same problem though, when I asked for a quote. I never heard back, and later decided to spend my money on a kitchen remodel. He apparently told another HAIFer that I did not cal HIM back, but I had already told him to give me a quote. There was nothing for me to call back on.

Kind of a shame, because now I want to redo my garage again, but do not trust him to call back.

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Thank God I know enough about construction to build these myself, if I had too. 60K? 80K? 100k? What a rip off. At any of those prices.

What do you think is a reasonable price for a basic garage apartment, sheathed in Hardiplank, permitted and built to City of Houston code?

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Harvard Heights built our garage with second story apartment shell and did a really good job - good quality at a reasonable price (about 25% less than my builder was going to charge). Yes, I've heard from a number of people how unresponsive he is when I've suggested that they call him for quotes, but I would say that once he gets to the job he is very responsive. He detailed out a timeline for construction and did a pretty good job of sticking to it - roughly 30-35 days total for completion. He updated me probably every 2-3 days as to what was coming next. He has also done a job for friend who was very satisfied and is about to build a garage for another and came up with some good ideas for them. A real plus to Harvard Heights is that he does the drawings himself and gets them approved thru the city - the inspectors all seem to know him - so you don't have to hire a separate architect and structural engineer. The biggest negative is that he is not organized enough to really have a great business. He only wants payment after he completes milestones of the job which meant my writing 6 or 7 checks which gets old over a 30 day period. And if he only understood that all of these no call backs probably mean lost business opportunities.

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$100k is too much. But the final cost should be 70-80k finished with 2 ton AC, kitchenette, full bath, and small laundry. There is no way it will be less than $65k finished.

I'm not patient enough for BryanS to respond, but I think that your estimate is reasonable. I suppose someone could contract it out themselves and save quite a bit, but they'd probably either eat it later on when they're fixing their mistakes or just figure out that this is beyond the scope of what they can pull off and still manage to keep a day job. Possibly both.

Now lets remove some assumptions. Let's say that the garage apartment had to be up to code, but that the second floor was permitted as a workshop area (such as for an artist that wants to have a studio for themselves), not as a residence, and that the lower level was just a carport rather than an enclosed garage, with the floor joists sitting on steel poles. Hardiplank, no windows. No plumbing. Limited electrical, 1,800 BTU window shaker. How low can you go?

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I'm not patient enough for BryanS to respond, but I think that your estimate is reasonable. I suppose someone could contract it out themselves and save quite a bit, but they'd probably either eat it later on when they're fixing their mistakes or just figure out that this is beyond the scope of what they can pull off and still manage to keep a day job. Possibly both.

Now lets remove some assumptions. Let's say that the garage apartment had to be up to code, but that the second floor was permitted as a workshop area (such as for an artist that wants to have a studio for themselves), not as a residence, and that the lower level was just a carport rather than an enclosed garage, with the floor joists sitting on steel poles. Hardiplank, no windows. No plumbing. Limited electrical, 1,800 BTU window shaker. How low can you go?

You probably mean 18,000 btu. You could probably do that for $30,000.

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I'm not patient enough for BryanS to respond, but I think that your estimate is reasonable. I suppose someone could contract it out themselves and save quite a bit, but they'd probably either eat it later on when they're fixing their mistakes or just figure out that this is beyond the scope of what they can pull off and still manage to keep a day job. Possibly both.

Now lets remove some assumptions. Let's say that the garage apartment had to be up to code, but that the second floor was permitted as a workshop area (such as for an artist that wants to have a studio for themselves), not as a residence, and that the lower level was just a carport rather than an enclosed garage, with the floor joists sitting on steel poles. Hardiplank, no windows. No plumbing. Limited electrical, 1,800 BTU window shaker. How low can you go?

My apologies for the delays... I just got through doing some taping and floating... and am now drinking my margarita...

I do feel sorry for anyone building a structure, as you describe. Where I come from, such structures are called pole barns; fitting for only parking tractors in.

Doing the work yourself... I'd say no more than 45K. That is... you doing the work... Based on a 65K estimate having someone else do everything for you... 45K does not seem unreasonable. Of course, you'll spend every weekend for a year building it... but... considering doing that and paying as you go vs. taking out loan financing and paying for years, even decades... one year building a structure outright is a small expense.

Considering that I am basically rebuilding/remodeling half of my house down here... and correcting countless mistakes that the builder... who "passed" his inspection... built... I give little weight that builders and some inspectors at COH really know what the hell they're doing. I prefer they stay clear. Being an accomplished rocket scientist, I know enough about basic physics and structural mechanics, and about 20 years doing this kind of work, to do it right.

Building a huge garage apartment on your property will draw attention to yourself. So permits may be unavoidable in that case, depending on which part of the city you live.

100K on a garage apartment... that you plan to rent for income... does not make sense to me. Because for 95K you can buy a single family house in Freeport, rent it out for $200 more per month (over a garage apt), and pocket about 5K in cash. Plus, the renters are not in your backyard. You can even hire a property management company, and still come out ahead.

EDIT: My 45K estimate is for a fully finished structure (you doing the work, subing out A/C); not the pole barn that TheNiche describes.

Edited by BryanS
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Just off the top of my head, but I'll break it down like this:

design: $2000

permit: $1000

engineering: $1000

site prep: $500

foundation: $8000

windows: $500

frame material: $5000

frame/siding/windstorm labor: $5000

trusses: $1000

siding: $2000

roofing: $1200

painting: $3000

sheetrock: $5000

cabinets: $1500

doors and trim: $700

trim labor: $3000

plumbing: $7000 (includes tying in sewer to existing)

HVAC 2 ton: $4000

Insulation fiberglass: $1200

Electrical: $8000

Kitchen Ctop: $750

Bathroom Marble: $350

tile work: $1000

carpet: $1000

Garage door and openner: $750

total: $64450

I probably left out a couple of things. And I'm sure you can cut costs here and there. But those are realistic costs. Contractor fees are not included.

Bryan is right. Labor costs are high, but you cannot do any electical, plumbing, HVAC yourself. All else is fair game.

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Just off the top of my head, but I'll break it down like this:

design: $2000

permit: $1000

engineering: $1000

site prep: $500

foundation: $8000

windows: $500

frame material: $5000

frame/siding/windstorm labor: $5000

trusses: $1000

siding: $2000

roofing: $1200

painting: $3000

sheetrock: $5000

cabinets: $1500

doors and trim: $700

trim labor: $3000

plumbing: $7000 (includes tying in sewer to existing)

HVAC 2 ton: $4000

Insulation fiberglass: $1200

Electrical: $8000

Kitchen Ctop: $750

Bathroom Marble: $350

tile work: $1000

carpet: $1000

Garage door and openner: $750

total: $64450

I probably left out a couple of things. And I'm sure you can cut costs here and there. But those are realistic costs. Contractor fees are not included.

Bryan is right. Labor costs are high, but you cannot do any electical, plumbing, HVAC yourself. All else is fair game.

Yes, you can. All you need are the permits/inspections. Please let me know if I am wrong. Or do it anyway and screw the permits. But that's just me... A/C work, let the pros do it. Electrical, plumbing, framing, roofing, sheetrock, etc, etc. are all easy. Look how much you can save doing most of the framing, electrical, plumbing, sheetrock yourself (or with helper)...

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True, but very few people these days possess the knowledge or desire to do it themselves. The laborers that install sheetrock usually make about $9 per hour, and they can install faster than you can. So if you make $9 an hour or less then maybe you should do it yourself. Otherwise, put in the overtime at work, and you will come out ahead.

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True, but very few people these days possess the knowledge or desire to do it themselves. The laborers that install sheetrock usually make about $9 per hour, and they can install faster than you can. So if you make $9 an hour or less then maybe you should do it yourself. Otherwise, put in the overtime at work, and you will come out ahead.

Except you're not paying cost for labor, you're paying whatever the GC charges you.

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And remember, a detached structure usually only carries 10% of the dwelling value on insurance for replacement - increase that limit. Also on flood insurance, any detached structure will need to be covered by a separate flood policy.*

* Companies with deluxe offerings such as Chubb, AIG Private Client Group and Fireman's Fund usually offer more inclusive coverage, including Flood options - read thy policy!

Edited by Native Montrosian
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I used Mike with Harvard Heights and I thought his work was excellent. We didn't have him build a garage apt, just the garage. If we had wanted it shelled out for a garage apt cost would have been $24K total (which included the upgraded roof we picked out). We had him shell out the garage and we insulated and sheetrocked it. You could save considerable amounts on getting him to shell it out for you and then slowly get the tradesmen in yourself to to electrical and plumbing. You can keep a permit open indefinitely while you work on it. Then insulate and sheetrock yourself. We just threw the board on the walls and had someone come in an tape and float it which saved us tons on labor. We rented the stand from Lowes that hoists the sheetrock in the air to attach to the ceiling.

Mike can be a little flakey but he has the building of garages and garage apts down to a science. He has very little waste with his projects. He had our garage built in a week and that was with having to do some minor changes in the concrete work to pass inspection. He does all the design work so it cuts down on the costs. It's hard to get ahold of him because he does a lot of business. His cell is 713-857-9688 if you have problems getting him to call you back.

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We're currently house-hunting in the Heights, and one of the places we're considering is on a 33-ft wide lot with a new 2-car alley-access garage. I'm curious if the costs are any lower for adding a 2nd floor space to an existing garage.

I assume the slab can be re-used, but what about the existing walls, door, trusses, siding, roof, etc.? Can any of this be salvaged, or is it typically a complete demo and rebuild?

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We're currently house-hunting in the Heights, and one of the places we're considering is on a 33-ft wide lot with a new 2-car alley-access garage. I'm curious if the costs are any lower for adding a 2nd floor space to an existing garage.

I assume the slab can be re-used, but what about the existing walls, door, trusses, siding, roof, etc.? Can any of this be salvaged, or is it typically a complete demo and rebuild?

Someone in our row of houses looked into this, and said it was possible. They were quoted around $35k for doing the work, which sounded low to me, but what do I know. It may be different for your situation. Anyway, if the slab is good that's your only hope of avoiding complete demo, otherwise you can reuse some stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Someone told me you can't run gas into an upstairs detached apartment. Was he crazy?

The garage apartment I lived in had gas. It was built in 2003 I think, pretty new and bigger than most. I think it was actually bigger than my current house if you count the garage space footage. Anyway, maybe what you are talking about applies to add-ons and not new construction? I have no idea.

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How about this - taking an existing ground-level garage and finishing it out as a studio-apartment-style guest house? Say one of the little older 1-car garages in a pre-war bungalow in-town.

A little, but not a lot of rewiring - repositioning some outlets, adding one or two more

Plumbing - putting in a bathroom - toilet, standup shower, sink, as well as putting in a kitchenette with a sink. Not putting in a dishwasher, so no need to plumb for that.

No nat gas - water heater would be a 30 gal electric

Cut a couple of holes and hang two sash windows

Put in some insulation, hang sheetrock on the outer walls, plus some studs and sheetrock for privacy for the new bathroom area.

No central AC - go with a window unit.

About how much would that cost?

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How about this - taking an existing ground-level garage and finishing it out as a studio-apartment-style guest house? Say one of the little older 1-car garages in a pre-war bungalow in-town.

A little, but not a lot of rewiring - repositioning some outlets, adding one or two more

Plumbing - putting in a bathroom - toilet, standup shower, sink, as well as putting in a kitchenette with a sink. Not putting in a dishwasher, so no need to plumb for that.

No nat gas - water heater would be a 30 gal electric

Cut a couple of holes and hang two sash windows

Put in some insulation, hang sheetrock on the outer walls, plus some studs and sheetrock for privacy for the new bathroom area.

No central AC - go with a window unit.

About how much would that cost?

More than you'd think if you think to install a window you cut a hole and hang the window :)

PS. You don't save any money by not putting in a dishwasher besides the cost of the dishwasher and a water supply line. The dishwasher drain can tie into the sink drain and the water supply can come from under the sink too.

flipper

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How about this - taking an existing ground-level garage and finishing it out as a studio-apartment-style guest house? Say one of the little older 1-car garages in a pre-war bungalow in-town.

A little, but not a lot of rewiring - repositioning some outlets, adding one or two more

Plumbing - putting in a bathroom - toilet, standup shower, sink, as well as putting in a kitchenette with a sink. Not putting in a dishwasher, so no need to plumb for that.

No nat gas - water heater would be a 30 gal electric

Cut a couple of holes and hang two sash windows

Put in some insulation, hang sheetrock on the outer walls, plus some studs and sheetrock for privacy for the new bathroom area.

No central AC - go with a window unit.

About how much would that cost?

Depending on how fancy you get with fixtures and flooring, and how much you do yourself, I bet you could pull it off for 10 grand on the low side and 25-30 grand on the high side, using a GC. Your mileage may vary. What I may consider fancy, you may consider ghetto. What I may consider ghetto fabulous, you may consider fancy.

The biggest costs will be running plumbing and electric. Hanging a window consists of more than cutting a hole, but it ain't rocket science. It is, however, physics. ;)

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Depending on how fancy you get with fixtures and flooring, and how much you do yourself, I bet you could pull it off for 10 grand on the low side and 25-30 grand on the high side, using a GC. Your mileage may vary. What I may consider fancy, you may consider ghetto. What I may consider ghetto fabulous, you may consider fancy.

The biggest costs will be running plumbing and electric. Hanging a window consists of more than cutting a hole, but it ain't rocket science. It is, however, physics. ;)

Thanks, that's about what I was guessing it would cost.

BTW, I do know that there is more to a window than a hole in a wall, which is to say I know a window from a hole in a wall :D

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Thanks, that's about what I was guessing it would cost.

BTW, I do know that there is more to a window than a hole in a wall, which is to say I know a window from a hole in a wall :D

I'm with ya there. I thought it was funny that flipper picked the window for his DIY warning, too.

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A homeowner who knows a little can be harder to deal with than one who knows nothing :)

flipper

You don't have to worry about me, I suck at even putting together Ikea furniture, I certainly wouldn't try doing any major remodeling myself. I was just curious because I used to rent a house like I described in my OP and always thought that the landlord could have made better use of the garage by converting it into a living space than he did using it as a storage for worthless junk he obviously hadn't touched in years.

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