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Bring Out the Best in Your Basement

By Kristine Hansen | September 2010

Basements can adopt a split personality. On the one hand, it’s a sweet storage space with minimal décor and a high tolerance for accumulating dust. Yet when it’s time to sell – especially in a competitive real estate market – or expand the home’s livable square footage, the basement needs a little dressing up. That’s when homeowners and real estate pros can work together.

One approach is to think big and transform this below-ground level into a higher-end living space, whether that’s a family room, children’s play area, or guest bedroom. “I have seen people take a basement and turn it into a family room, put in nice carpeting, and even build a little room around the utilities,” says Chobee Hoy of Chobee Hoy Associates in Brookline, Mass. “Hanging pictures … anything that looks pretty.”

It might encourage a sale. Yet it might not up the asking price, says Hoy. Many times a basement is not included in a home’s total square footage of livable space. “The square-foot value is not as high as the second or third floors. Don’t put in the fanciest bathroom you can, because you might not get your money back,” she says. “You might have trouble selling the house for what you think it will sell for.”

Still, buyers want more room for the asking price, and a basement provides that option.

“Sometimes if a buyer needs extra space, and that’s the only space that’s available, that’s attractive,” says Hoy. She’s seen photographers gravitate towards homes with sizeable basements simply because they make great darkrooms and st