Can I Gain Equity by Finishing My Basement?

Finishing a basement in your home can give you a double bonus. It will provide a lot more living space, with room for an entertainment area, a playroom for the kids or a home office. A well-finished basement also will add value to your house when you go to sell it. But -- don't expect to get back every dollar you spend.

Finishing Cost Will Vary

Finishing a basement can run you $20 to $25 per square foot on a national average, but will vary by region. A lot will depend on whether you have to do a lot of waterproofing or perhaps add windows to provide more light. Costs also will jump dramatically if you do any plumbing for a bathroom or wet bar or add a lot of electrical circuits. You'll save money if you do some work yourself, but at a professional level.

How Appraisers Judge Basements

How much value or equity you gain will depend on how the basement is finished and how your house compares to others in your area. Real estate agents and appraisers look at the square footage of the main house first, then add any basement space. If a substantial portion of your home's square footage is in the basement, you may not fare well if space in neighboring houses is all above ground. On the other hand, a basement may help you sell the house faster.

Average Return Is 66 Percent

Overall, according to a survey by Remodeling magazine, finishing a basement will return about 66 percent of the cost. That's a national average, but California ranks the same. The quality of the remodel and location of the house will affect how much you actually gain. The more the basement matches the quality of the rest of the house, the more you can expect.

It's Better Than an Addition

Finishing a basement is generally rated as two to three times more cost efficient in adding space and value to your home than building an addition because it's a lot cheaper per square foot. Remodeling magazine ranks a basement remodel on a national average as effective in adding value as a major kitchen remodel and pegs the cost for each in the $60,000 range.

Leave It Alone

When you're planning to sell also affects a decision on basement remodeling. If you plan to live in the home a few more years so you'll enjoy the remodel, go ahead. If you're planniing to sell fairly soon, you might be better off to delay. An unfinished basement in some cases may actually help sell a house because it affords the buyer a chance to make improvements quickly.

About the Author

Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.