Now that the election is over, Mitt Romney can focus on his garage. Before the former Massachusetts governor won the Republican nomination for president, he made plans to raze the house on a beachfront plot in La Jolla, Calif., that he snapped up for $12 million in 2008 and replace it with an 11,000-square-foot mansion with a basement addition and outdoor shower. But when blueprints leaked in March, the garage got all of the attention: a split-level, four-car space touting a $55,000 PhantomPark car elevator. Put on the spot, the Romney team said that the project was on hold until after the election.
Sound extravagant? Perhaps, but the former private-equity kingpin is certainly not the only homeowner dedicating space, creativity and big money to steel on four wheels.
With the help of Realtor.com, Trulia.com, Sotheby’s International Realty andColdwell Banker Previews International, we whipped up a list of homes for sale with outrageous garages. We included homes ranging in price from $699,000 to $50 million.
On the West Coast, particularly in California, auto enthusiasts get creative with their car storage. Thanks to the hilly terrain and a premium on land, some high-end homeowners carve out subterranean parking garages with car elevators that resemble Romney’s. In Laguna Beach, a cliffside home on the market for $8.75 million elicits comparisons to a super villain’s lair. Entrance to the aptly nicknamed “Spy House” is through the street-level garage, which can store two cars. From there a hydraulic lift can drop you and your car down into an entry gallery, where your ride can double as an art installation, greeting guests.
Some avid car collectors do away with the dark, dank garage concept altogether in favor of massive, elaborately finished showrooms that showcase prized vehicles along with amenities like wet bars and TV lounges. A gated estate in Fairfield, Calif., that’s on sale for $20 million boasts three auto barns, an antique gas station, a maintenance bay — even a “diner.”
In Indian Wells, Calif., the Falling Rock Lane Estate spans 18,400 square feet of glass and concrete in an homage to indoor-outdoor luxury living. Discreetly tucked under the side of the main house is an additional 12,000-square-foot, climate-controlled space designed to house up to 25 cars. Accessible by elevator, the space has a separate work station, a half bath and an adjoining golf cart garage. Price tag: $12 million.
In Pelham, N.Y., a quiet Westchester town just north of New York City, a 10,000-square-foot Georgian Colonial comes with a two-part, 28-car garage. But the garage hasn’t necessarily been the big draw of the home – rather the extra space is.
“We have had both car collectors and people simply looking for a large property close to the city look at this,” says Mary Quinton, the McClellan Sotheby’s International Realty agent representing the property. When she initially took the listing in 2011, she believed the sweeping automotive space would contribute greatly to the home’s value and attract a car collecting buyer quickly. One has not yet emerged and the asking price has subsequently been slashed by about $1 million to $2.9 million.
Garages remain desirable features that can value to a home. (A 2011 National Association of Home Builders study found that the lack of a garage can diminish a home’s value by thousands.) But the more lavish the garage, the smaller the buyer base tends to become. In fact, upscale garage additions recoup a modest 52% of their cost, according to theRemodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Realtors say the value of these over-the-top spaces manifests in two less tangible ways: as extra square footage to buyers seeking more space and as a marketing tool that garners attention and sets an estate apart from its local competition.
In Manhattan, where storage in a public lot will run upwards of $500 per month, parking is a prime commodity. The city doesn’t typically issue building permits that allow private garages in new single-family homes, meaning if you want to live in a townhouse with private parking you’ll need to find one with a garage grandfathered in. In Greenwich Village, a $13.8 million townhouseoffers a rare opportunity: a private two-car garage. Another option: an 8,700-square foot penthouse on nearby Perry Street. The $80,000-per-month rental includes a 3,000-square foot subterranean garage capable of holding six cars. A private elevator connects the floors.
While garages have most often been associated with suburban living, some urban real estate developers see an opportunity to add high-tech auto amenities to their new luxury high rises. In Manhattan, architect Annabelle Selldorf created a boutique condo building in which 13 units come with their own “en-suite sky garages.” An owner drives into the building, loads the car onto an elevator that identifies it via scan tag and then, 60 seconds later, parks it right outside of the apartment door.
Just north of Miami in Sunny Isles Beaches, Fla., Dezer Properties has teamed up with German carmaker spinoff Porsche Design to construct a car elevator-equipped, 57-story condo building, as well. Expected to break ground in 2013, the Porsche Design Tower will house a lift that operates much like the one in Selldorf’s 200 Eleventh Ave building, with one aesthetic exception: glass partitions between parking spots and units that allow the car to always be visible to its owner and guests. Apartments will range from $3.9 million to $21 million, for 4,200 to 14,000 square feet.