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Convert your garage into a flat & rent it out

Liezl Hesketh in Landlords & owners 

convert your garage

Have you taken a look at your garage recently? What do you see when you look at it?  Somewhere where you store the lawnmower and garden tools? Perhaps a room piled high and filled with junk?  Or do you see the potential of what you can earn if you could convert your garage into a flat & rent it out?  I can already hear you mumbling about the cost, would it be worth it and how do you go about it.  But the simple answer is:  it is easier than you think!

Let’s deal with the economics first:  would it be worth it?  We think it might be one of the best and easiest property investments you’ll ever make!  Let’s look at the numbers.  For all of these, I have assumed a mid-range conversion.  You can spend half or double this amount, depending on the quality of finish you’re planning:


We’ll assume conversion to a simple studio flat:  bed/living room, shower room & kitchenette

Single Garage Conversion into studio flat

Construction cost to convert:  R100 000

Mortgage Bond interest: 10% x R100 000 = R10 000 per year

Rent received annually:  R3 500 x 12 = R42 000 per year

Gross profit per year:  R32 000

Return on investment:  32%


We’ll assume conversion to a simple flat with 2 bedrooms, one small living area, shower room & kitchenette. Perhaps something like this picture below.  Keeping it more open plan will actually keep the cost down a little more.

2 bedroom garage conversion - double garage

Construction cost to convert:  R200 000

Mortgage Bond interest: 10% x R200 000 = R20 000 per year

Rent received annually:  R7 000 x 12 = R84 000 per year

Gross profit per year:  R64 000

Return on investment:  32%

Other property costs

Normally when you invest in a property you have to pay legal fees, transfer duties, rates and taxes, levies.  But the beauty is, when you develop your existing property, you don’t need to incur any of these additional costs which can run into thousands.

make the most of your garage conversion

Make the most of your space when you do a garage conversion

Rules and legislation

You may need to get permission for a garage conversion in South Africa, but it will vary from city to city, but the rule of thumb is that you won’t need permission if:

  • You are not making any external structural changes;
  • Your building already has plumbing connected to the garage building
  • You have not converted a separate garage or outbuilding before

You will need permission if:

  • You have already converted one outbuilding or garage on your property
  • You need to build a new structure with new foundations
  • You want to turn your structure in a double-storey building or change the roof structure
  • You don’t have existing plumbing connected to the garage building

Please check with your local municipality for the rules governing the area you live in.

Work / materials required

Ensure that all the following has been included in the quote provided to you by your building.  Or if you’re attempting this yourself, this should give you some baseline idea of what work will be needed:

  • Garage door to be removed and replaced by regular doors
  • Internal walls and doors
  • Ceilings installed
  • Floor coverings:  vinyl or floor tiles
  • Wall coverings:  walls plastered, painted & tiled in areas
  • Electrics:  plan enough wall sockets and light fittings.
  • Windows: plan carefully where they will go – make the rooms as light as possible
  • Plumbing & installing bath or shower room
  • Installing kitchenette
  • Buying appliances, if necessary
  • Buying furniture, if renting it out furnished
  • Thinking about security:  alarms, gates, locks etc
  • Built-in storage – always a good idea!
  • Ensure you’re insured from when work starts and beyond
  • Finishes like door handles, taps, cupboard handles, toilet roll holders, shelves, mirrors etc.

Remember, the nicer and more professional the finish looks … the more you can rent it out for!

How to maximise your rental potential

The most important thing to remember is that people buy with their eyes.  If it looks good, they might buy.  So ensure that you appeal to the biggest audience possible and that means keeping things simple, uncluttered and stylish.  Here are a few things to remember:

  • Stick to neutral, light colours:  white, cream, light grey etc.  Patterns, florals and bold colours (except in small accents) are out!
  • Make it seem lived in.
  • Take good photographs when it comes to advertising – this is VERY important.
  • Put out accessories like furniture, towels, toilet paper, bedding, cushions – even if the property is going to be offered without furniture.  It helps the renters imagining themselves living there.

How to get started

garage-conversion-overlooking-gardenFind a reliable builder. It is very important to find a builder that you can trust.  Contact a few builders and ask them to provide you with a detailed quote.  Ensure that everything you’re asking for has been quoted for, so that you can compare quotes like-for-like. Phone at least 3 references for each builder you’re considering.  Personal recommendations from friends and family may have a higher rate of reliability, but don’t purely rely on this.  Do your homework!  And remember, the cheapest quote isn’t always the best quote to go for, Also don’t assume that the most expensive quotes will provide you with the best product.

Prepare yourself mentally. It is always hard to take on a construction project, so ensure that you’re mentally prepared for it.  There will be disruption.  There will be dust and dirt. There are days you’re going to wish you never started it, but in the end you’re going to be so pleased you did it!

Written agreement. Ensure that you have a written agreement in place with the builder.  This will help if you have any problems or disputes later on.

Plan a contingency fund. Almost all construction projects unearth something you hadn’t planned for.  Be prepared for this.  Set aside an extra 10%-20% to cover these costs.  If you don’t, you’ll end up skimping on the final finish as you’re running out of money.  Also, you never want to skimp or take short-cuts as that could have a massive impact on the rental you can charge and will impact the quality of your final product.

Plan, plan, plan. Ensure you’ve planned where doors, windows, electrical sockets, lights, cupboards & wardrobes & plumbing will go before you start.  It is easier to change at planning stage than to change your mind later on.

Other things to think about

Value of your house.  Your house’s value might go up as a result of this additional investment.  Keep details of the costs and invoices as they may be required by your accountant (if you have one) or when you sell the property, to calculate your Capital Gains Tax.

Tax.  It is your responsibility to declare any profits from rental properties for tax purposes.

Guarantee.  Ask your builder to provide you with a guarantee to cover the work.  Get this in writing.

Insurance.  Increase the insured value of your house once the work starts.  Ask your insurance provider whether there is any other information you need to provide them before you start the work or after you have completed it.

Builders who offer garage conversions

The following builders offer garage conversions around the country.  They have not been recommended nor endorsed merely because they are included in the list below.  Please check for builders in your area and ask for recommendations and references before taking on any builder:


Tloucon Construction



Cape Town

S Smith Builders


Master Builder’s Association

How to I rent out my new flat?

One of the best ways to rent out your flat is to use a service like’s matching service.  You’ll list the property – remember to add stunning photos – and wait for daily emails to arrive giving you detailed profiles of prospective renters.  Keep yourself safe during the process by initially doing a virtual property viewing using Skype or FaceTime, and only allow your shortlisted renters to come and view the property.  List your room or property today!

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