What do you think of a city making garage conversions illegal?

The City of Rancho Cordova is currently considering changing zoning code in a way that would essentially do away with garage conversions. Basically, the new code would allow a garage conversion only if the property owner built another garage somewhere else on the parcel (which effectively means nearly all properties will not qualify for a conversion). The slide below is from a presentation on May 24, 2011 at a council work session. See the entire slideshow here.

The main reason for this conversation and potential change is about curbing blight in neighborhoods since garage conversions often contribute to a decline in property value. However, while it’s true that an individual property usually sells for less when the garage is converted, the real question is whether a garage conversion on a street results in other properties losing value. How much market weight does one conversion have for an entire street or tract?

Questions: Do you think garage conversions contribute to blight? How so? Is this a good move to help increase property values? Where is line between what a city can do to boost real estate values and the rights of residents? What blight issues make the most negative impact on value in a neighborhood? Are you aware of other cities or areas where conversions are illegal? Would making conversions illegal be a negative factor in the eyes of buyers? I’d be curious to hear your constructive thoughts below.

NOTE: I will update this post at some point to let you know what is decided on the issue. Again, this is only conversation among City Council right now.

If you have any real estate appraisal, consulting, or property tax appeal needs in the Greater Sacramento Region, contact me at 916.595.3735, by email, on our appraiser website or via Facebook


  1. Anne Graviet says

    Blighted neighborhoods convert their garages, not the other way around, imo.

    Low-income families cannot afford to move and buy a bigger home so they make room for their family needs by using the garage space.

    I feel this law is maybe possibly picking on low-income people and infringing on their freedom, pursuit of happiness and property rights. We should not make criminals of them for making space for grandma.

    • says

      Thanks for your thoughts, Anne. I think one thing to consider too beyond money issues is that the older housing stock is much smaller in size and therefore more prone to conversion for size issues also. Newer houses are so much bigger now, aren’t they? I was just thinking yesterday while inspecting a house in Anatolia how a walk-in-closet in this 5-year old house was just a tad smaller than one of our upstairs rooms in my 1950s house. 🙂

      It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out and how residents in Rancho Cordova respond to the issue at hand. Additionally, we’ll see if any other cities make a similar attempt.

  2. Anne Graviet says

    Newer homes are too big, imo. I wouldn’t want to heat and cool soaring ceilings no matter how” magnificent” they are – but I’m biased because I have a weakness for vintage homes. I’d rather have a wrap-around porch than a Porsche.

    You have a 2-story 1950’s house? That’s rare. Why have I never seen a 2sty 1950’s home? Is it a tract home?

    • says

      “porch than a Porsche” – that’s clever. In my experience I’ve found that the largest homes in newer tracts tend to sell for a lower price per sqare foot than the median range for the neighborhood.

      I do live in a tract home.

  3. Anne Graviet says

    I must not have gone to the right neighborhoods yet because I’ve not ever come across a 2sty 1950’s tract home – they’ve all been ranch style. Of course, I’ve been around in North Sac/Uptown where they were originally selling 3/1 cottages on large lots and marketing them as mini-farms, so it different from Rancho Cordova 🙂

    Back to the topic, I don’t like this new law very much because I feel that if some one wants to modify the interior of their very own home, they ought to have that right. I am looking forward to your updates on this and thanks for the blog, Ryan – it’s great information!!

    • says

      Thanks, Anne. This really is a big issue. Beyond HOA communities, I think garage conversions are legal mostly everywhere in the Sacramento area. Can someone name a community where they are not allowed?

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