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By Adrian Sainz - Associated PressSeptember 20th 2006
Golf bags, bicycles, old trophies, power tools, boxes of moldy books - Americans' garages are filled with stuff, stuff and more stuff. Just one thing is often missing: cars.
Several companies, including GarageTek out of New York and HouseWall Garage System based in South Florida, are helping people get the junk out of the way so the cars can come back in. These companies also are taking advantage of the multibillion dollar home remodeling industry, which includes the trend of turning garages into multi-use rooms.
These companies offer specially designed wall paneling that allows easy installation of hooks to hang bikes and ladders, and elevated cabinets for storage. Flooring, lighting, workbenches and other accessories make the garage a place for work, play, and entertaining, with projects ranging from the high hundreds to thousands of dollars.
"It's ironic that the one room of the house where the door is open daily for the whole world to see tends to be the most unsightly, poorly utilized and neglected," said Barry Izsak, president of National Association of Professional Organizers. "The garage becomes the family dumping ground. I kind of liken the garage to purgatory, in a way. It’s the place where the junk waits until its owner finally makes the decision to get rid of it." Izsak is a professional organizer in Austin, Texas and wrote the best selling book, Organize Your Garage in No Time last year.
Robin Levinson chose to spend money on her home garage in swanky downtown Fort Lauderdale. The floor is clean, except for a motorcycle and two kayaks. There are bikes, ladders and tennis rackets hanging on hooks attached to the attractive light brown paneling. "It's an extension of how you live; when I show the house I make sure people see the garage," said Levinson, who hired HouseWall for her garage remodeling but wouldn't say how much she spent.
The National Association of Home Builders reported in 2004 that 91 percent of new homes have garages and 83 percent have a two-car garage or larger. Meanwhile, garage organization is a fast-growing segment within the $7 billion home organization sector, according to statistics provided by Peachtree Consulting to GarageTek. HomeWorld Business' Houseware Census published in January show retail sales of garage organization products increased an estimated 38 percent from 2001 to 2005, from $498 million to $688 million.
"People don't want to do it themselves anymore," said Michael Dagen, who started HouseWall two years ago. "They don't have the time or the effort or the skill."
Early fixtures in the garage reorganization industry include Coleman garage furniture - currently licensed by O'Sullivan Furniture - and Gladiator GarageWorks by Whirlpool Corp. Another prominent company is Syosset, N.Y.-based GarageTek, which has reached 50 markets in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom since 2001, with a goal of eventually reaching 110 markets.
Still, the garage organizing process does bring an expenditure that's usually more than if a family dedicates a weekend to do it themselves by just throwing out old belongings, installing shelves and re-stacking boxes. Home improvement giants such as Home Depot and Lowe's rely on the do-it-yourself approach to sell shelves, cabinets and wall hooks to individuals, while also offering installation services.
Butensky said GarageTek targets the top 20 percent of home value in its markets and shapes its message to reach women who want a "neat, safe room." HouseWall's projects range from $800 to $17,000, Dagen said.
However, Izsak said the garage organization industry can satisfy any price point as Americans keep buying more stuff. For example, retirees with fixed incomes who have trouble moving around can employ these companies to do work they can't.
"The garage industry is ripe for many more players in the market," said Izsak. "Probably what's going to happen, there are going to more and more cost effective players in the market, and prices should come down." Izsak’s Austin professional organizing company installs Elfa® adjustable garage systems.
Looking forward, both GarageTek and HouseWall have made deals with developers to offer their systems as amenities for new home buyers. And, a big selling point for Dagen is protecting cars from the sometimes harsh elements of South Florida's climate - salty air for homes near the beach, the threat of damaging thunderstorms or hurricanes.
"The irony is that people are leaving their expensive Lexuses, Volvos and BMWs in the driveway or on the street, yet their garages are full of worthless junk," Izsak said.
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