Everything You Need To Know About Carriage Houses (2024)

Table of Contents

  • What Is a Carriage House?
  • Typical Features of a Carriage House
  • Modern Uses for a Carriage House
  • Pros and Cons of Having a Carriage House
  • How Much Does a Carriage House Cost?
  • How Much Value Can a Carriage House Add to Your Home?

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Carriage houses originated in 18th-century England. But they also have a storied history in America. In fact, the U.S. vice president and attorney general of New York, Aaron Burr, had a carriage house on his city estate where he housed his coach and horses in 1790.

You can still find carriage houses all over the U.S. today, with many remaining in the Northeast. Whether you’re considering buying a piece of architectural history, or a modern update on the style, keep reading for everything you need to know about carriage houses.

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What Is a Carriage House?

A carriage house (also known as a coach house) is a two-story outbuilding that once stored horse-drawn carriages. The structure featured a tall doorway so the coach could easily maneuver the horse and carriage in and out of the building. Some carriage houses included stables where horses were fed and groomed and an upstairs loft where the coachman lived.

When automobiles replaced horses in the 1900s, landowners decided to convert carriage houses into garages with upstairs living space for drivers and room for two to three cars on the ground floor. Some structures on massive country estates housed multiple cars and staff.

Modern Carriage Houses

Today, many owners use carriage houses as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) for home offices, guesthouses and rental apartments. Builders have restored, repurposed and customized many carriage houses according to homeowner preferences, adding more windows for natural light in addition to contemporary features and finishes.

In 2020, the state of California lifted many code restrictions on building ADUs, including carriage houses, to respond to the state’s housing crisis. After the new bill, homeowner associations (HOAs) could no longer deny the construction of ADUs on properties, a right they had before.

Typical Features of a Carriage House

Carriage houses offer the historical charm of the past and the contemporary conveniences of today. Generally, they come with the following features and characteristics.

Enclosed Garages With Ample Space

Many carriage houses provide protection for two or three vehicles. Some are large enough to fit an RV. This prevents homeowners from needing to park a second vehicle outside leaving it vulnerable to the elements, storm damage, fallen trees and bird droppings.

Fully Functioning Living Spaces

Many living spaces in carriage houses contain complete accommodations—kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and bedrooms. This prevents the inhabitant from needing to run into the main house to use the shower, toilet or to prepare a meal.

High Ceilings

Built to fit tall carriages, these structures feature high ceilings on the lower level. Some can measure as high as 20 feet. The downside of high ceilings: they can generate higher heating and cooling bills when the ground floor isn’t well-insulated. But you can always call a contractor to learn about the best type of insulation for your needs.

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Charming Architectural Details

A carriage house interior showcases historical charm and character designed with unique architectural details that provide visual interest and texture. These include vaulted ceilings, carved millwork, unexposed wood beams and columns.

Open-Concept Design

Even smaller carriage houses can feel spacious inside due to their open floor plans. With an open-concept kitchen and living room, owners or renters can prepare food in the kitchen while, at the same time, entertaining guests or keeping an eye on little ones.

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Modern Uses for a Carriage House

Today, carriage houses can provide the following incentives and conveniences for those using for rental purposes, or for those wishing to keep loved ones close to home.

  • Short-term or long-term rental income
  • Home office or studio space
  • In-law suites for aging family members
  • Guest houses to host holiday visitors
  • Apartments for older kids in college

Pros and Cons of Having a Carriage House

Before you hire a builder, or mix and pour the slab, know the pros and cons of carriage houses.

Pros

  • Some can fit several vehicles
  • Provides rental income
  • Low property taxes
  • Provides additional living space for family members
  • Can function as an office, saving money on renting commercial space and avoiding home distractions
  • Can save on the high cost of assisted living when used for an aging parent

Cons

  • Difficult to heat and keep cool if not well insulated
  • Some home insurance policies don’t cover garage structures]
  • Challenging to sell on its own
  • Some local governments won’t allow them
  • HOAs outside of California can veto construction

How Much Does a Carriage House Cost?

The cost of a carriage house averages $216,400 with the lowest costing about $20,000 and the highest around $800,000 for a fully custom home. The price you’ll pay will vary depending on your location, home size, the house plan, customization, material and labor costs and permit fees. The following factors also influence pricing.

  • The property is on land: You or a real estate agent finds a listing for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
  • You commission a builder: A builder constructs the carriage house from scratch according to your specifications.
  • Site preparation: You need professionals for excavation,
    foundation and connecting utilities.
  • Home price: Building materials, kit components, modules and panels vary in cost.
  • Shipping and delivery: Long-distance shipping costs for pre-built or modular homes can be high if the company doesn’t have a nearby manufacturer.
  • Installation and setup: Setting and tying modules on foundations and installing panels and materials factor into the cost.

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How Much Value Can a Carriage House Add to Your Home?

Building an carriage house on your property can increase the appraisal value by 25% to 34%, according to a study of 14 properties with accessory dwelling units in Portland, OR. This will enable you to list the home for a higher price when you’re ready to sell. If used as an income property, you’ll likely rent it faster if the home is located in a college town or tourist destination.

To arrive at the average prices in this article, we surveyed five industry websites and three retailers and material suppliers on national and local levels. All averaged figures were correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

Everything You Need To Know About Carriage Houses (2024)
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