People usually want to finish their basements for one of two reasons. One is for personal use and enjoyment, and the other is to generate income by creating a basement apartment. This article will examine the options for finishing your basement for personal use and how to maximize your dollars for the best return on investment.
First on the agenda is determining what the basement will be used for. Do you need space for a home office where you can concentrate and get away from family distractions or meet with clients? Perhaps you want a worry-free place where the kids can play. Do you want a home theatre, game or pool table room, bar or hot tub?
In the course of 20 years in the real estate business, my colleagues and I have extensively examined what ratio or percentage of the value of your home should be spent on renovating a basement, to maximize your return on investment. The general consensus is that 10 per cent (on the low side) to 20 per cent (on the high side) of the value of your property should be invested. Within reason, if you follow these guidelines, you should be able to get back on resale most or all of the money you spent on finishing the basement. This is provided you haven’t gone overboard with your decorating agenda by installing purple carpet or, worse, low-end commercial carpet or even ceramic tiles. These additions may severely limit the offers you get when you try to sell your home.
In order to recover your costs, you need to keep the design and decorating tasteful and as neutral as possible. This shouldn’t deter you from customizing your basement, giving it a specific look to suit your taste. The idea is to make sure it’s designed so that changing it to suit another’s style and taste will be easy and affordable.
If you want to go wild, do it with colour (paint) on the walls, furniture and accessories. (Bathrooms and kitchens should be designed to last 15 to 20 years. These two rooms can eat up a large portion of your budget; try to stay as neutral as possible there.) Built-ins like wall/entertainment units and bars will be in the basement for the long haul. It’s important not to go too extreme when selecting stain colours, since it will be expensive and labour-intensive to sand and restain the units, leaving paint as the only option.
Basements present several design challenges. They have the inherent defects of being below grade, not having a lot of natural light, with duct work, pillars and furnaces whose placement needs to be taken into consideration. Generally, basements are dark, dingy places where most people don’t want to spend a lot of time. This is why we pay special attention to compensating for these challenges in the design.
Our aim is to make your basement look as good as or even better than your living room. There’s no point in finishing it if you’re not going to spend any time there once the renovations are finished. We want to make your basement warm, inviting and comfortable. There are several ways to do this: use a bright, cheerful yellow wall colour that can easily be changed, a good-quality carpet, a gas fireplace to provide a warm feeling, halogen pot lights for ambience. Restaurants use them to create a romantic, cozy atmosphere, and pot lights will do the same thing in your basement. Any good real estate agent, when showing your home, regardless of season, will turn on a fireplace because of the associations it brings to a buyer’s mind. It says “home.”
Your wish list may include personal items – a theatre with surround sound, insulated walls, a large-screen TV – that help you relax after a hectic day. If you like to entertain, a custom-made maple bar in the basement is an ideal feature to accompany a pool table or games room.
Keep your design tasteful and neutral to maximize resale value.
All these uses for your basement will have an effect on the resale value of your home. In most cases, if you follow the above guidelines, you should get an excellent return on your investment.