Monday, June 29, 2015 / by Bill Berning*
When you’re preparing your house for sale, the basement is often overlooked when it comes to home staging. While rooms such as the living room and bedrooms take staging center stage, any smart buyer will want to explore all the rooms of your home – and that includes the basement. A clean and finished basement is an excellent addition to any home, and can really add some zeros to your home’s market price tag. It’s clear that it’s in your best interests to get your basement up to speed with the rest of your home staging efforts, but where should you start? And what should you stay away from?
Do: Clean It Up, No Matter What You’re Planning
Of course, whether you’re planning on an aggressive basement improvement project or just getting things together for an open house, the first step is to clear and clean the basement. Pack up boxes and move them into storage, mop and clean the walls, and air out the room if musty smells have taken over. Give potential buyers a clear view of what your basement looks like – a finished basement is a plus, but an unfinished, clean basement won’t make them bat an eye. A messy, smelly basement, however, will remain a black mark.
Don’t: Ignore Water Damage
A well-built basement is bone-dry, and if you’ve got pools of water or drips in the walls, you’ve got water problems. These can easily damage your home’s foundation and encourage mold growth, resulting in your responsibility for some costly repair bills. You’ll want to take care of the issue before any buyers come calling, even if you’re not planning on any more intense finishing projects. Many home improvement contractors offer consultations, tests, and services for waterproofing basements, but there are some simple fixes you can perform yourself. Cracks and gaps in pipes and walls can be plugged with caulk or cement, but if water is seeping in along the floor, you may need to consult with a professional to determine the cause and your options. Solutions can range from pump installations to landscaping changes.
Do: Insulate Your Walls
An insulation project is one of the easiest ways to add a bit of comfort to your basement, without trapping yourself in a more complicated project. Moreover, it’s inexpensive, and generally quite easy to DIY if you do your homework. Insulation will keep in the warmth and the cold, and covering it with a wall installation will give your basement a clean look. Before installing any insulation, however, be sure that your basement is entirely waterproofed – insulation and moisture will make for mold city. Even if you don’t have obvious water leakage problems, be sure that no condensation is coming through from the outside with hairline cracks and holes: tape plastic sheeting to the walls, and leave it there undisturbed for a few weeks. If you return to dry plastic, you’re golden.
Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew With Finishing
Remember: you’re trying to sell this house. Thus, you don’t want to tie yourself to it with a basement finishing project that could potentially take years to complete. No sane buyer will purchase a home with a basement project abandoned half-finished, so you’ll need to consider what you can really handle in the time frame you’ve decided on. If you have the money to spend, a professional job can give you the speedy results you need, but take care with your finances: you don’t want to wind up spending more on the project than the returns it’ll grant you on your home’s price tag.
Do: Familiarize Yourself With Your Local Codes
Housing codes vary from area to area, and when undertaking any kind of home construction project, you’ll need to make sure you don’t wind up in hot water by accidentally violating an obscure footnote. Codes address everything from ceiling height to water and electrical rules, so no matter what you’re planning, you’ll want to pay attention. A consultation with a home improvement professional is a great help in this area, even if you’re determined to DIY: they’ve got expert hands-on knowledge, and a more down-to-earth understanding of what local codes mean and how they apply to you and your project.
Don’t: Get Too Determined to DIY
We understand the DIY urge, especially when you’re tempted by the thought of increasing your home’s value – if you’re out to get more money in the long run, why spend money now on professional work that you can do yourself? (Theoretically.) The fact of the matter is, a home’s basement is an entirely different ballpark than any other above-level rooms. There are foundation and water factors you have to take into account, and when things go wrong here, they can potentially affect the rest of your home in the worst of ways. YouTube tutorials and online articles can only give you so much assistance, and a contractor with years of hands-on expertise is going to have an edge no matter how many blog posts you’ve read and how-to videos you’ve watched. By all means, you’re free to try your hand at basement finishing projects, but if you wind up out of your depth, don’t be ashamed to call in a pro to consult. They’ve got a passion for home improvement that’s a great addition to any team.
Finishing your basement is a great way to add value to a home you’re getting ready to sell. Basement improvement jobs are excellent undertakings due to their flexibility: whether you’re just out to add some insulation and soft lighting fixtures, or if you’re out to transform it into a fully-functional social room, any level of effort can spell big results when it comes to selling your home. Consider what you have time to go through with, get the pros on the line to lend a hand, and go forth to improve.