Engel & Völkers Licence Partner Cadaqués > Blog > Guide to garages and underground car parks

Guide to garages and underground car parks

Garages are practical because they provide a weatherproof and secure parking space for your car, motorbike and your bicycle. It can also be used to store a wheelbarrow or various tools. Often, the garage additionally serves as a DIY space for hobby craft. Underground car parks in apartment buildings also make it easier to rent out apartments, and not only in central locations. Moreover, a garage increases the value of a property that is being sold. But what does the ideal garage or underground car park look like, what permits are required and what does it cost?

The single-family home garage

Having a garage on your property has many advantages. The car is protected in the enclosed garage, regardless of whether it is hailing, snowing or the sun is blazing outside. The tiresome scraping of the windscreen in winter is eliminated, as is the need to remove sand, leaves or pollen, depending on the time of year. A garage offers the car additional protection against damage caused by accidents, vandalism or theft. There are individual garages, prefabricated garages or assembly kits made of different materials and in various sizes to match the diverse architectural styles of the properties.

What types of garages are there?

If you are looking for a garage, you will find designs for one, two or more cars. Single or double garages can have additional storage space, have windows and doors to the garden or even be connected to the house. The roof shape can be chosen to match the main house or as a stylish contrast to it. Whether you choose a garage with a flat roof, pent roof, gable roof or hipped roof is a question of purchase price and personal preference. The range of prefabricated garages made of different materials allows for quick retrofitting on the property without much effort. Masonry garages can be customised, but require a certain amount of construction time. Wooden garages are a compromise in terms of individuality and effort, but require regular maintenance. The various types of garages include, for example:

  • brick or other masonry garages
  • prefabricated metal garages, galvanised or plastered steel wall
  • solid concrete garage
  • wooden garages made of solid wood or in post and beam construction

Is it worthwhile to have additional doors and windows?

A door into the garden is particularly practical if the garage is also intended as a shelter for the garden tools, the water hose or wheelbarrow. A window allows daylight into the garage and at the same time ensures good ventilation. Depending on the location of the garage, a side door, for example, could lead safely across the fenced garden area to the side entrance door of the house or, alternatively, to the covered front entrance.

Garage attached to the house or free-standing?

Depending on the size of the property, the question arises as to whether the garage should be attached directly to the house or placed freestanding on the property. Regardless of whether it is a new building or the garage is being retrofitted, both variants are possible if there is sufficient space available. When adding on to the house, a connecting door can lead directly into the building, which can be an advantage especially in bad weather. However, if the garage is situated on the property's boundary, it is only conditionally suitable as storage for the garden tools, unless it has an extra door leading to the garden. A free-standing garage sets itself apart visually from the architecture of the house and adds its own unique accents. When retrofitting a garage, the free-standing variant is often easier to build than an annex with underpinning. Especially with the wooden garage, a certain distance to the house is recommended to simplify regular maintenance.

The various types of garage doors

There are different types of doors that can be opened either upwards or to the side. Sectional doors consist of individual door sections that usually move upwards into the garage via the guides as overhead sectional doors. If you want to store your surfboard on the garage ceiling, you can also choose a side sectional door. When opened, the garage door then runs along a rail to the inner longitudinal wall. Unlike sectional doors, a roller door only requires ceiling space at the front of the garage. It winds up the individual door sections in the form of a roller so that the storage space on the ceiling behind it is retained. Both the sectional door and the roller door allow parking directly in front of the garage, as they do not extend beyond the perimeter of the garage. If there is enough free space in front of the garage, an overhead door is a cost-effective option. A classic garage door swings in one piece under the garage ceiling. Even more driveway space is needed for a wing gate that opens outwards in two halves. All door types can be pushed open manually or equipped with a motor. Opening the garage door remotely from the car is particularly appealing when it is raining or snowing. An electric garage door also offers advantages when it is dark. This way, the driver does not have to leave the car until the door is closed again. However, this automation is associated with somewhat higher acquisition costs.

What permits are required to build a garage?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to give a general answer as to whether or not a building permit is required for the construction of a private garage. Each federal state regulates the corresponding requirements individually within the framework of its building regulations. Currently, only North Rhine-Westphalia generally requires a building application. In all other federal states of Germany, no building permit is required for the construction of a garage for a single-family home up to a certain floor area, length and height. The specifications for the size of the garage vary between 20 and 50 square metres depending on the federal state.

If the garage is to be located on the property boundary or at a distance of usually less than three metres from the property of the neighbouring house, the boundary building law applies. In some cases, written consent may even be required from the next-door neighbours. In other federal states, there are requirements regarding the floor area and height of the garage as well as its distance from the road. The local building authority can provide detailed information on any permit requirements and the maximum sizes for a garage. Prefab garage manufacturers are usually familiar with the regional requirements or will handle the administrative procedures. The following must be taken into account when choosing a garage and with regard to the requirements of each federal state:

  • general permit requirement (currently only in North Rhine-Westphalia)
  • area in square metres (between 20 and 50 sqm)
  • height of the garage (up to 3 m, Schleswig-Holstein 2.75 m, Rhineland-Palatinate 3.2 m)
  • permitted length (up to 9 m, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate 12 m)
  • permitted boundary development (between 15 and 25 m)

How much does a garage cost?

The price of a garage depends on many factors. While a prefabricated concrete garage requires a full foundation with base plate, a strip foundation is sufficient for a wooden or metal garage. The shape of the roof, number of doors and windows, and the size and material of the garage also influence the acquisition costs. In addition, there may be optional extras such as electric garage doors, locking systems and electricity and water connections. Simple steel garages without extensions are relatively inexpensive, while plastered variants are already considerably more expensive. Additional costs such as transport, assembly, site preparation and paving the driveway should also be factored in when deciding on a garage. The various types of garages also have different maintenance costs, such as the regular painting that is required. DIY can significantly reduce the cost of a masonry garage or foundation. The sky's the limit when it comes to garage prices. The base prices and other costs for a simple single garage without optional extras start at:

  • Galvanised steel garage: from EUR 2,500
  • Wooden garage: from EUR 1,500
  • Plastered steel garage: from EUR 5,000
  • Concrete garage: from EUR 5,500
  • Masonry garage: from EUR 9,000
  • Costs for foundation: from EUR 1,000
  • Assembly costs: EUR 300 to EUR 700
  • Transport costs: EUR 300 to EUR 1,500
  • Structural engineer: EUR 500 to EUR 1,000

Garages and their many uses

A garage can fulfil many functions in a single-family home. Cars, motorbikes and bicycles can be parked there safely and in the dry. A spacious double garage can also be used as a gym, storage room or workshop. A solar system on the gable roof makes the garage environmentally friendly. An attractive green roof can also insulate and at the same time beautify a modern flat roof. In any case, a garage extends the usable space of the property and thus offers real added value.

Underground car parks in apartment buildings

Apartment buildings with underground parking are very popular. In densely built-up inner-city locations, they are the stars among commercial properties. But even in suburban locations, residents prefer an apartment building with underground parking. The vehicle is dry and secure. The parking space is always the same and always reserved. Furthermore, you can reach your apartment comfortably and safely from the underground car park at any time of the day. Since the retrofitting of an underground car park is highly expensive, existing underground parking spaces in a commercial property bring clear advantages and a higher property value when selling the property. An underground car park can also have a positive effect on the yield.

Can underground garages be retrofitted in old buildings or only in new buildings?

If the property is generally suitable for the construction of an underground car park and there is sufficient free space, an underground car park can be added to the apartment building at a later stage. A large-capacity garage is more cost-effective if it does not have to be built under the existing apartment building, but can be dug next to it. This is because special civil engineering measures such as underpinning are time-consuming and cost-intensive. If there is an unused basement, it can be converted into an underground car park. Of course, it is easier and cheaper to plan and include the underground car park in a new building project from the outset. Then the ceiling of the underground car park also serves as the floor of the apartment building, which efficiently reduces construction costs.

What permits are required to build an underground car park?

The construction of an underground car park always requires advance planning permission. A soil survey must be carried out for this purpose beforehand. This determines whether the property is at all suitable for the construction of an underground car park. Sandy subsoils or a groundwater table that is too high can hinder the building project or at least cause higher costs. The development plan can already provide information on whether a building application for an underground car park will be crowned with success. In addition, the regulations of the German Federal Garage Ordinance (GaVO) must already be observed in the planning phase. It regulates, among other things:

  • prescribed length and width of the parking spaces
  • minimum height of the underground car park
  • minimum width and curve radius requirement for the access road
  • maximum permitted gradient and minimum width of ramps
  • fire protection features of the building sections

What are the operating costs of an underground car park?

An underground car park also incurs operating costs. This includes, for example, lighting, ventilation, cleaning and expenses for winter maintenance. An access control system such as a gate at the entrance or a barrier require regular maintenance. The insurance required for the building and to cover the liability risk vis-à-vis third parties costs money, as do compliance with the fire protection regulations. Over the years, the underground car park experiences wear and tear, so that renovation costs and cosmetic repairs are incurred.

Is it profitable to rent out underground parking spaces?

Parking spaces in the underground garage of the apartment building bring real added value for the tenants. The annoying search for a parking space is eliminated and the entrance to your own apartment can be reached comfortably and without getting wet, even in bad weather. In fact, underground parking can even be a decision criterion for choosing a particular rental apartment. The parking space in the underground car park is usually included as an additional perk in the rental contract for the apartment. Alternatively, a separate rental agreement can be concluded for the parking space, which allows the rent to be increased separately. However, if rented out independently of the apartment, parking spaces count as business premises for tax purposes and are therefore subject to VAT. In any case, tenants pay extra for the parking space, so it generates additional revenue. In this way, the underground car park adds to the value of the property and at the same time increases the rental opportunities and the yield.

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