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American Dream No. 36: A garage of your very own

I know it sounds weird, but when my husband and I bought our first house, one of the things I was probably way too excited about was finally getting my own garage. And that’s how you know you’re getting old. When you start daydreaming about garages.

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I’ve spent many, many hours of my life outside in sub-zero temperatures, scraping snow off my frozen car and trying to dig it out of plowed-in parking spaces. In college I actually kept a shovel in my trunk during winter, because no matter where I lived, I always had street parking. There was even the time it snowed something like 24 inches, and I literally could not unearth my car from the pile of ice and snow it sat under so I could get to work. (Yep, my work was still open. I live in Wisconsin. It has to snow at least 3 feet here in order to warrant an office closing.)

Homeowners take them for granted, and potential homebuyers regard them as afterthoughts when evaluating properties, but I think garages are underrated.  They’re a lot more valuable and versatile than most people realize. Besides just providing you a place to park your car, there are lots of perks that come with owning a garage.

10 perks that come with the American Dream of having your own garage:

  1. You have a spot to store your bike
  2. If it snows where you live, you can keep beer cold without taking up fridge space
  3. If your garage is attached, you’ll stay dry when it’s raining
  4. No need to scrape off your car when it snows overnight!
  5. You can finally have your own (wo)man cave
  6. You can work on DIY furniture projects in a well-ventilated area
  7. If you’re in a band, you can host band practice
  8. If you’re an artist, you can turn it into studio space
  9. You get extra storage in the rafters
  10. You’ll have a backup option if it rains during an outdoor party in the summer

And you don’t even have to save up a ton of money in order to get your own garage (in addition to, you know, the house that comes with it). You could buy a home for as little as 3% down when you finance a conventional mortgage loan with private mortgage insurance (MI). For example, if you buy a home for $150,000, a 3% down payment would be $4,500 (vs. $30,000 for a full 20% down payment).

What is MI? Basically it’s an insurance policy that reduces the amount of money a lender loses if borrowers don’t repay their mortgage loans. Lenders generally require MI on mortgages with down payments that are less than 20% of the property value. So MI lets you buy sooner, and you’ll be able to cancel it when extra payments, appreciation or home improvements bring your loan balance below 80% of its original value.

Saving up a few grand and still being able to purchase your own garage (I mean, home) is much less daunting than saving up $30,000. You’ll get your home and garage sooner, and trust me, your car will thank you. So will your bike. And your beer.