The New Basement


One household feature you will be sure to find in Minnesota is the Lower Level Basement. Termed recently as just the “Lower Level”, it typically offers a walkout feature to the backyard. No longer used as a secondary space with no design, basements have transformed into a functioning part of the home where families gather to entertain or relax. Current trends include wet bars, fireplaces, recreations spaces, lounging areas, home entertainment rooms, wine cellars, and more. Home owners are also transforming rooms into home offices, exercise rooms, or additional bedroom space for guests with a private bathroom. One main factor that is transforming these spaces is the recent improvement of TV technology and its affordability. Flat screen TVs not only offer different sizes to fit various nooks and crannies of the lower level, but they also offer a better entertainment experience with their resolution and picture quality. Families want the best TVS for their own personal enjoyment. Another factor is that families are getting less formal and want a space that is all their own, sometimes even creating themed rooms to fit their personality.

Some older homes in the Twin Cities have basements that are not convertible due to lack of space or foundation restrictions. Those that can be renovated and updated usually have restraints like low ceilings, visible duct work, poor floor plan design, and lack of natural light from windows. Buyers are in luck if they truly seek a home that has a functional lower level as described above. Newer homes, especially new construction homes, feature the “Walkout” lot, one which allows the home owner to walkout to the backyard or pool area, thus giving the new basement floor real value. Now the lower level can have 9-10 ft ceilings, hidden duct work, recessed lighting, full size windows, sliding glass doors, and anything that makes it more a part of the home.

Here are a couple of things to be aware of:

If you are looking for a newly constructed home or plan on building your own, be forewarned. Many of the homes currently for sale from builders have unfinished basements. You will look at a price and think that includes the basement, but it does not…and most of the time they will want another $50,000 + to finish it for you. I recently walked into a model that was advertised as a 3-bedroom home, only to find out the third bedroom was in the basement, unfinished. To finish it would cost another $40,000 and the home was already priced at the top of the market.

Also, if you are thinking of purchasing an older home that has a converted basement or remodeled basement, make sure you ask the home owner for proof of properly pulled building permits. Also make sure you ask if there has ever been any drainage problems before the conversion. I came across one home where the homeowner covered up his “problems” with drywall and nice looking carpet, only to have a huge mold problem later. Remember, a sure sign of moisture problems is a stale aroma as soon as you enter the basement. Also, look for dehumidifiers, a red flag for excess moisture.