price/appeal of a semi-finished basement

debndulcySeptember 17, 2010

Prep'ing to sell, I've wanted to resurface (with some type of light texture/cement finish) the basement walls before waterproofing them, and perhaps put floor tiles or linoleum over the cement floor. (Haven't priced flooring yet.) Since the walls have 65 years of waterproofing, ugly lumps, bumps, and depressions from changing heating systems, etc, - it's not a job I look forward to - though would like to think it would be attractive (not only moreso to me!) to a buyer. I imagine it being more useful/attractive to anyone with children, pets, various hobbies, and exercise space/equipment. I have some casual furniture (eg, futon, table/chairs and bookshelves) to put there.

The house is a very well-kept 1800 sq ft, plus attached garage, good sized yards and lovely landscaping/gardens. The 3 bedrooms include a rather large master + bath, 2 medium sized bedrooms + hall bath. There's a den, dining room and large living room w/fireplace, etc. The kitchen is 8 yrs old; bathrooms 'updated' (fixtures). Attic access is only through a closet ceiling entrance. I've added closets/space.

I know many details go into the picture/pricing, so giving just an overview. IF OTHER THINGS ARE GENERALLY EQUAL (between homes for sale), can I expect that my work on the basement would be worthwhile (both in terms of pricing and interest)? I'd love to add a powder room, as all baths are on the 2nd floor; I'm going to talk to a plumber, as I could frame, etc, it myself (ie, with the help of friends!). (Obviously, fully refinishing it is not in the cards for me at this time.)

I hope this question seems reasonable to those of you with more experience/knowledge about such things.

Thank you for any input or thoughts!

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It depends on the competition. If most have a first floor or basement bathroom, it could be worth installing in order to compete. However, as it would be located in an unfinished basement, regardless how neat and tidy, I don't think you could really expect much of a return on the investmnet, other than making it easier to sell the house.

If you do go ahead, make certain to pull all permits if your town requires such, and have all work approved with final inspections, to show the buyer that the job was done right...especially as it will be a DIY.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Adding a powder room will most likely involve breaking up part of the basement floor to get the plumbing in to connect toilet/sink to the sewer. It won't be cheap and it's messy. We're repairing botched previous owner powder room and other basement plumbing this week. You'll need electrical as well.

If you are close to listing, I'd say skip the expense and aggravation.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 5:10AM
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Let the buyers decide what they want and where. As far as your walls go though, I'm a bit confused - to me, waterproofing is something done prior to even putting up basement walls, using weeping tiles, plastic barriers, etc. and then the drywall (or whatever you use) goes up. There's no point (and only a bad contractor would suggest it) in waterproofing from the inside of the walls, whether or not you texture them cosmetically. Or am I missing something?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 5:55AM
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What you are describing I wouldn't consider semi-finished. I wouldn't bother with the basement unless you are going to do it to the same level as the rest of the house (which likely won't pay back at resale). Adding a bathroom to an unfinished basement doesn't make sense. I would just get the basement clean and empty so it looks large and open, the real estate agent can play up everything that can be done with the space.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 10:06AM
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Thank you for these responses.

I would/do use quality contractors for plumbing and electrical, and know my limits with any project. I like the best quality I can manage, thus the desire to make the basement look as good as possible, and more pleasant to use.

I suppose I would be attracted to bathrooms on every floor! Especially since I do a lot of gardening and other messy projects.. and seem to trek much of it all the way upstairs, regardless of how I try not to. But you're right, I suppose, if someone else finds they want a bath in the basement, it's doable - for them. (I'd seen a raised floor for such a room in a friend's house; I assumed it was to install the needed plumbing w/o digging.)

larke, I know that on the subject of waterproofing, the outside comes first. I have some minor efflorescense starting in a few spots, and it appears the basement has been kept dry by regular interior waterproofing, so I was following suit. Their uneven-ness looks really ugly to me - so I wanted to smooth them to the extent I could (I've talked to the DryLok people about what could and/or need to be done to accomplish what I want). I've hung florescent utility lights and it made a big difference, but the walls still make it feel dungeon-like. I've started to scrub out all old dirt - walls and floor - and use bleach as a first step. Most basements here are either fully or half-finished (the rest being the laundry or furnace or workshop area).

Sounds like the consensus is that I may be wasting my time as far as possible return goes, but wasn't expecting any; I just wanted to compete better to the extent I could.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 12:19PM
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The most I would do -- if anything -- is paint the basement and make sure there's enough light for a buyer to see the size and shape, and that it is DRY.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 12:24PM
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Is it a walk out basement?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 12:52PM
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No, it isn't a walk-out; if I were staying here, I'd have stairs dug out/put in, for my better use. You have to go thru kitchen or den to get to the door to the basement.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 2:34PM
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We are finishing our basement for our own use right now -- but before this -- I've always said that buyers would love our home - until they saw the basement.

We have put thousands of dollars into our home: new windows, new cherry floors, new kitchen (addition), all new bathrooms, etc...

But, when you walk downstairs to the basement you are greeted by nasty walls with seepage stains and dusty concrete floors.

We had the walls taken care of (rod holes and cracks) but they are still ugly. Eventually, they will be insulated and dry-walled.

My DH insists on a powder room even though it was not plumbed for one -- it was $1,700 for the sink and toilet rough in.

I don't expect to ever recoup the investment on our finished basement when it is done -- but we could never sell it the way it is.

At a minimum -- I would paint the floor and walls so it looks nice -- that is after making sure walls don't leak or seep.

Another interesting option is spray painting the ceiling black -- our friends did this to their quasi-finished basement and I think it looks great.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 9:09PM
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Thank you stir_fryi for a little support on the idea! It's not that it's so bad, but - again - could be more attractive/usable - with not too much investment (granted, the supplies cost less than my time/sweat equity in this case).

Thanks for the estimate on the plumbing rough-in, too.

My brother also suggested spray-painting the 'ceiling' (rafters and heat venting) - I saw something about putting up sections of (?, don't remember the material) onto furring strips, which I really liked.

I guess I'm one of the few people - who typically have so many projects - that it's important what the garage and basement lend themselves to - in a home!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 12:03PM
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How about asking some realtors for their opinions?

Not every buyer gives a hoot about a basement. Me, for instance! LOL To me a basement is where the HVAC and water heaters live. Under ground. Not fit for human habitation. In some parts of the country houses don't even have basements.

Now, what *would* please a buyer, is a powder room on the first floor.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 1:46PM
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I understand! And the powder rm on first floor is excellent point - better to add one there instead of the basement - from I expect majority point of view.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 2:09PM
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When I was growing up, we kids practically lived in the basement! That is where we had family parties and sleepovers. Where else can you roller skate or ride your Big Wheel in January???

When my kids were younger I often wished our basement had at least been decent enough for the kids to play down there.

Making it at the least clean and semi-attractive is important.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 7:16PM
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Indeed, stir_fryi! I grew up where we had heavy winters, and basements, though never fully finished, always held space for additional fun... family, kids, friends, dogs/pets.. and even special spaces, before today's larger homes. But I do understand and much appreciate the point of view expressed by others here, too.

I expect input from agents scheduled for next week. After this discussion, I've decided to rank the last things/those I'd like to do, from 1 to 3. Level 1 being things that absolutely still have to get done, and so forth, against a calendar. I hope I can get what I want done in the basement - though given the market generally, .. perhaps I'll have the time to do it, either way... :)

Thank you all!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 12:46AM
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I would say that a semi finished basement isn't worth too much. its really the worst of both. You put in time and energy to fix something up, and won't get value for it. The realtor will still advertise it as an unfinished basement.

Generally finished basements are nice to haves, but don't add their cost back when selling, Unless you're doing it all yourlself.

I'd talk to a realtor. they're opinion isn't gospel, but they do have an idea as to what some of the driving factors of the market in your area.

My vote would be for making sure the rest of the house is in tip top shape, declutter, clean, make little fixes, and move on.

A powder room would be nice downstairs, if there isn't a bathroom downstairs (I'm assuming you mean first floor, not basement) but again, it will cost a decent amount of money, time and floorspace, it might not be worth it.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 10:38AM
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In terms of home improvement, basements give the worst return on investment. While the actual ROI varies by region, no matter where you are, underground space is less valuable than above ground space.

If you are just looking to make the most money on your sale, "clean and dry" should be your mantra. Any other improvements are likely to be money losers.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 11:20AM
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I would talk to a few realtors and see what they recommend. You say that most people have finished or semi finished basements and yours being unfinished could hurt you in comparison.

I also think it depends on the all over value of your house. I don't think it would hurt to get a few estimates for refinishing the walls and adding some kind of flooring. If you could do something for just a couple thousand dollars it might be worth it.

At the very least make sure it is clean. If nothing else could you put a coat of cream paint on the walls?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 11:58AM
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