Homes in colonial America featured basements to keep food fresh and provide space to store meat, barrels, bags of sugar and flour -- even bottles of wine. Some modern finished basements have wet bars and music systems, but the underground rooms still feature space for storage. There are advantages and disadvantages to selling a home without a basement. A lot depends on where your home is located.
Basement Square Footage
The square footage in your basement can add to the overall usable space in your home. Some states, including California, don't list underground square footage in a general house listing. Other states, such as Indiana, routinely include basement space combined with the square footage from the upper levels of the property listing. If your basement has wall coverings and flooring comparable with the upper levels, most buyers consider the basement space part of the overall house square footage. Finished basement spaces typically allow large spaces for playrooms, pool tables and family media rooms. These areas increase the value of your home. If your home has these areas above ground, however, this satisfies some buyers. In such cases, it is not any harder to sell a home without a basement. [Fact checking: CE note & #7 -- under "How Do I Increase My Home Value?"]
Basements and Geography
Many modern homes in the Sunbelt feature concrete slab foundations with no basements, while many homes in the Midwest and Northeast have basements. A lot of this has to do with the ground and the climate. In some areas of Florida, for example, the high water table makes it impossible to install a basement. In other areas, the soil is too sandy to accomodate a basement. On the other side of the coin, many homes in colder regions feature basements. The basement area under a house means the foundation is below the frost line, so it adds a sort of interior insulation for cold climates. Underground storage areas and basements also offer safety in states with severe weather conditions. Below-ground rooms are safer during tornadoes and windstorms. Some buyers look specifically for homes with basements for this built-in protection. Building a safe area in a home without a basement, such as an interior room with no windows and heavily reinforced walls, meets the needs of these buyers. [Fact checking: CE note & #8 & #9]
Not All Basements Are Equal
The condition of the basement impacts home buyers more than the fact that the house has the basement. Damp basements with water seeping up from the floor or through the foundation walls are a turn-off. In this case, it is harder to sell a home with a basement. But basements with drywall, ceiling molding and floors dry enough to allow carpeting or hardwood flooring are attractive to many buyers.
Modern home shoppers look for basements with enough window openings to allow light. Walkout basement doors attract potential buyers who want outdoor access from the basement. The number of windows and doors also impact radon levels in the basement. The Environmental Protection Agency links radon, an odorless, colorless gas created from decaying matter, to increased cases of lung cancer. Some states require sellers to disclose basement radon levels. All states allow potential buyers to test the basement for radon levels before buying. Buyers fearing high radon levels avoid basements when house shopping. If your basement tests high for radon, install fans to circulate the air to the outside. This helps reduce harmful radon levels.
- University of Pennsylvania Scholarly Commons: Stenton -- A Survey of 18th- and 19th-Century Food Preservation Techniques
- HGTV: A Basement With Purpose
- Bob Vila: Purpose of Sump Pump
- Board of Commissioners of Gwinnett County Georgia: Basement Finishing of a Home Building Permit Requirements
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: A Citizen's Guide to Radon
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: IAQ and Basement Conversions or Remodels
- Realtor.com: Frequently Asked Questions
- Fine Homebuilding: Why No Basements in California?
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Storm Prediction Center: Tornado Safety
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.