If you have ever considered buying a house with a shared driveway, or currently have this situation, read Linda Kallman’s story about how to solve this issue. It concerns a cottage in Airmont that shared a very narrow driveway with a neighbor. “This is a cozy little house,” says Realtor Laura Weintraub, of Weld Realty, of 72 Hillside Ave. in Airmont.
And it really is. Located in a peaceful, wooded setting in the Village of Airmont, right near the Ramapo Mountains and park land, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage Colonial was listed by Weld in early May for $317,000 and just reduced to $298,900.
It’s very close to Bergen County, N.J. and much more affordable than comparable homes there, but also an easy commute in any direction.
So why hasn’t it been snapped up? As you drive up, you can’t help but notice a shared driveway between this house and the house right next to it, with just enough room for a car to pass through to the parking area in the back.
We called in Michael Clark, a landscape architect with Forsite Landscape Solutions, for a creative expert opinion on how a potential buyer could solve the problem and add value. Since the owner of 76 Hillside, next door, has expressed interest in sharing the cost of a solution, Weintraub provided Clark with surveys of both homes. “This is an opportunity to take a negative feature and make it the best feature, something unique,” Clark says. He really did his homework, and his ideas reflect that.
The least expensive option would be to just create two separate gravel parking areas in the front of both houses, incorporating green space and plantings.
A step up would be to add a beautiful green space walkway between the houses where the existing asphalt driveway is now. And a final step could be to create a new gravel driveway around the west of the second house, with green space and plantings, that can be shared to get to the back areas. This could all be done in stages.
The estimated cost for a first phase ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 and includes creating a gravel parking area in front of both houses, incorporating some grass and plantings, and putting in an asphalt apron next to the road, as specified by the town. (The price is lowest leaving the existing asphalt driveway between the houses as is, and just not using it, but Clark feels the best thing would be to remove the asphalt driveway and put in gravel or turf for now even if the driveway won’t be used, avoiding a drainage issue.)
Step it up
The additional cost for a second phase is estimated to range from $15,000 to $25,000. It would entail making the former driveway area between the houses into a green space by installing a beautiful walkway and garden plants. It would create an attractive, oasis-like space as well as a usable right of way for pedestrians. This might include creating a bamboo forest and adding fencing at the back of the houses for privacy, re-grading the back area to improve drainage, and adding plantings in front to maximize privacy.
A possible third phase, estimated to range from $20,000 to $30,000, would add a shared gravel driveway going from the west of the second house around to the back of both houses, and finishing the grade as required, removing the asphalt from behind both houses and installing decorative gravel to create patio areas, as well as cleaning up the site, adding turf areas and updating surface drainage. Again, the overall cost is dependent on the extent of the work done and the materials used, the higher end is with paving bricks for the patio surfaces.