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GARAGED // Space to play around with

Here's a way to find inexpensive living space: Turn a garage bay into a room.

This bonus room is in the Palm Beach model by Custom Craft Homes/Arthur Rutenberg Homes at Villa Rosa on Lutz-Lake Fern Road in northern Hillsborough. It started life as one of three garage bays.

"We have run into a lot of prospects who wanted a three-car garage with the idea that they'd take one bay and turn it into a maid's quarters later on, or a bonus room, or whatever," builder Ernie Lashlee said. "So we decided to go ahead and show the option."

In this model the room has been decorated as a teen playroom, with sofas, TV and foosball game.

"It's an inexpensive option," Lashlee said. Converting the garage bay into a room adds 275 square feet to the house, at a cost of $2,980, he said. That includes air conditioning, windows, a vaulted ceiling instead of flat, and carpeting.

"If you added 275 square feet, you're talking about close to $11,000," Lashlee estimated. "Conversion is much cheaper than addition."

It's popular with buyers. "We're selling it left and right," Lashlee said. "Of the last four sales, three have done it."