NOW Magazine - Toronto Living - - Front Page - By JOHN MUGFORD

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.

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