Home Selling: Should I Finish the Basement?

Posted by Justin Havre on Friday, June 16th, 2017 at 11:05am.

Whether or Not to Finish the Basement Before Selling a HomeWhen preparing to sell your home, there are many improvements that might increase the price or buyer interest. Finishing out the basement may seem like an obvious choice, but it is not always so clear. With these tips, you sellers decide if finishing your basement is the right option for their unique needs.

Find Out if the Basement Counts as Living Space

One of the reasons that home owners want to put a finished basement on a listing is that it can offer extra living space to buyers. The problem is that a finished basement may or may not qualify as living space. The goal of increasing the living space is being able to note that on the listing legally, but, standards are often based on region and may be more stringent in some areas. This means that homes with a nearly identical floor plan might have a different total square footage in various parts of the country, depending on the way that the region looks at bathrooms, hallways and basements. The best way to know for sure is to ask a local real estate agent or appraiser for information about local guidelines.

Get Professional Advice

Making this kind of upgrade is not something you can do overnight, and it may not be a wise decision to do without careful evaluation. Taking an unfinished space to a finished space, especially in compliance with building codes, requires careful analysis and planning. Bedrooms and bathrooms must meet certain requirements for size and methods of egress in case of emergency. You may need to apply for several building permits for construction, electrical and plumbing installation. If you are not already an expert in one of these fields, you should consult at least one or two firms to get an estimate of what you will need to make your basement goals a reality.

Research Costs of Upgrading

Along with professional estimates on the complication of the project, ask about expenses involved. Since finishing the basement may not necessarily result in a much higher sale price, it's important to factor in the cost of each task in relation to its benefit during the home sale. If the basement is already partially finished, thee expenses might be fairly minimal and worth the investment. However, taking a bare basement and adding electricity, plumbing, heating and interior walls might cost tens of thousands of dollars. Try to get more than one cost estimate on each job, and keep in mind that the least expensive one may not always be the best deal.

Set a Reasonable Budget

There is a wide spectrum between completely finishing your basement and leaving it as-is. The goal is to sell the home for the highest reasonable price without having to invest a great deal of liquid funds into various projects. Ask a real estate agent which improvements are likely to have the maximum effect on the sale price, and focus any renovation efforts on those. It might be that adding a bathroom to your basement but leaving the rest largely unfinished, or partially finishing it in some other way, is the best way to improve the home’s ability to compete on the market while preserving cash flow.

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