There has recently been a survey of insurance claims resulting from damage to cars in car parks, the result of which is that the insurance industry has seen a substantial increase over the last ten years. The cause? Apart from careless and possibly impatient driving, the principal reason seems to be that cars have got bigger. The vogue for ever larger cars and SUVs has meant that that the older car parking spaces are now simply too small, resulting in dinks to car doors and scrapes to wings.
Older garages, too, are becoming less of an attractive proposition as their width restricts even the slimmest of us struggling to squeeze out of the car door – that is if you want to keep your car in a garage at all. Let’s face it, unless you have a prized classic car that needs to be locked up for insurance purposes or under cover to keep it in shape, are you likely to need a garage for keeping a car in? At this point I should apologise to those of you who do indeed store your car away from the elements, since I know that some do, but the majority of people these days are happy to park in the open.
So how valuable is it to have a garage at all? They are useful for all sorts of things; storage being the principal benefit, of bikes (motor and peddle), boats, gardening equipment, outside furniture and more. But they are also an escape, somewhere to tinker, somewhere to think. The Americanism ‘man-cave’ may have gender overtones, and when viewing a house it is normally the husband who is the most keen on the outbuildings, but the truth is that we all need that that getaway and a garage or other decent outbuilding is therefore an essential requirement for many.
The properties that we sell do invariably have a garage or accessible shack of some size, and they are held back in value if they don’t. Alternatively, most of the country houses and some of the village properties that we market will have space within the grounds to build a garage or car port and many heritage designs are very attractive, with plenty of space and often a first floor room for an office or hobbies. They come at a cost, but add a further dimension to a property and will generally see a good return.
Many times over the years we have shown properties where potential buyers have been deterred because there is no room for particular items of furniture.
If you have inherited any furniture or furnishings, then you will know what I am talking about; possession, pride, love, guilt and duty all unite to form a resolute determination to hang on to Granny’s bookcase at all costs, even if you don’t particularly like it.
Last month a client related the story of her maiden Great Aunt who, nearing her end, invited family into her house to divide among them the furnishings that she would be leaving behind. Following a few hours of tactful diplomacy and the odd envious glance at each others’ choices the great nieces and nephews came away with car boots stuffed to the gills. My client recently visited such a cousin who had the walls of his not-so-large sitting room stacked with Georgian secretaries, tallboys and chests. They didn’t fit with the style of his 1980’s suburban house, they were splitting because of the pumped up central heating and you could barely move for the bank of brown furniture. When she asked him why he had taken so many pieces, his response was that nobody else had room for them.
A couple of years ago a viewer of a decent sized farmhouse in Dorset seemed to love all about it, but hesitated as we chatted on the drive after the viewing. He was concerned, it seemed, that the landing and stairwell walls wouldn’t take his collection of six foot canvasses, mostly oil portraits that had been passed down to him and his siblings. He didn’t buy it in the end and as far as I know he is still looking.
We also sold a house recently where a substantial oak dresser took pride of place in a relatively small dining room. Inherited from three generations down, the piece, although lovely, took up half the room, meaning that one side of the dining table could hardly be sat at. The owners had been meaning to sell it on but couldn’t bring themselves to do it and this made me wonder whether prior generations had felt the same.
It can be a foreboding step to part with inherited furniture that stirs sentimental memories. It is so important, however, to create space when selling on a house and large pieces of furniture in small rooms simply don’t help. By the same token, house buying, whether downsizing or changing style, should be an adaptable experience and if the house is almost perfect, but for the lack of space for that inherited linen press, then you just have to weigh up what is most important to your lifestyle. After all, it’s you who has to live it.