Get the most out of a garage condo

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Now that the garage-condo concept has broadened from narrow to nationwide, it’s important for owners of classic, ultrapremium and exotic vehicles to understand that not all garage condos are created equal. If you want to keep your prize vehicle(s) at a place other than your home’s garage, then you have to consider numerous facets beyond location.

Glenn McWilliams, who founded Garage Condo Developers Association (GCDA), witnessed the failure of several facilities, beginning in the late 2000s, because of inadequate and inappropriate design, which should serve as elements for consideration. Make sure that driveways are wide, condo doors are suitably tall and units themselves are of ample size, he says. Other basics that McWilliams suggests include an electrical supply that affords expansion in the future and roof and wall insulation (R-38 and R-19, respectively, in his opinion). “If it’s a metal building, a lot of these are built like [self-storage facilities], so they might be less insulated,” he says.

McWilliams tells his association members to ensure that every door is viewed by a security camera. He says GCDA’s members have forgone construction of fences around facilities. “The units are owned instead of rented," he says. "We get very good self-policing out of our owners. People are very aware of what’s going on in the facility, kind of keep each other’s units and property protected that way.”

Mark Basso, who is the founder and president of Autobahn Country Club of Joliet, which includes garage condos on its property, argues that better security is important. “We have 24-hour security, and we have a security team that makes the rounds all night.”

Basso’s facility includes a 1.46-mile, nine-turn road course. He says vehicle owners shouldn’t overlook the importance of access to a track at their garage condo’s facility, even if they don’t believe that they want to run their vehicle. He says he’s seen those members get to a time when they want to drive. “You start to drive the car, and you start to get better and better," he says. "A lot of people who have the money for these [vehicles] are going to want to start to compete, and to compete you’ve got to have a big track, you’ve got to have all the safety things in place and all the run-off areas.”

Other considerations: Is the facility zoned for overnight stays? Can it accommodate heating or air conditioning? What about a sink and drain in the unit? Can it accommodate high-speed Internet?

What about costs? One garage- condo facility in Spring, Texas, sets the price of a 1,075-square-foot space at $88,680 and one that's 1,262 square feet at $104,415. The most sophisticated garage condos, which Basso refers to as "garage mahals," can require the purchase of land and then construction of the building. At Autobahn Country Club of Joliet, lots start at about $200,000 for a garage condo of 4,000 square feet; membership to the club starts at $4,000 per year.

McWilliams warns consumers not to forget about the investment beyond the cost of the condo itself. As with residential condos, garage condos require association dues to take care of maintenance, snow removal and so forth. He also warns potential buyers to determine whether the facility was built on property that was obtained through a land lease. In that case, the garage-condo owner doesn’t own the land upon which his/her structure is built and could incur a $300–$600 per month fee. “You’d be renting the land from the developer,” McWilliams says.

Taxes on a garage condo vary by state and depend on whether the facility is considered to be residential or commercial.

Basso says “you don’t have to be a billionaire” to join his community and points out that simple garages at his country club can be rented for $600 per month, plus the membership fee.