How extensive of a basement remodel should we do?

Asked by Martha, Seattle, WA Mon Nov 14, 2011

Our 1905 yr. old house (Seattle, upper QA) is in great condition w/ a footprint of 700sqft, a 4000sqft lot & a 500sqft detatched 2 car garage. The main flr has an entry, living rm, dining rm & kitchen. The 2nd flr has 3 bedrooms & a full bath w/ a clawfoot tub (no ceiling height for a shower). 1/2 of the daylight basement is finished & used as a family rm; the other 1/2 has a finished 3/4 bath (tiny shower), finished stairs/landing, an unfinished storage rm, & an unfinished hallway w/ a stacked w/d, & furnace/water htr. We are planning a basement remodel (no more than $60k) but aren't sure how extensive it should be. We want to finish the unfinished 1/2, put new flooring in family rm & stairs/landing, & remodel the bathrm. Should we also expand the bath & laundry & make the stairs/landing less claustrophobic? Doing so means sacrificing the storage rm & relocating the w/d & water htr/furnace. Would gaining a full bath & laundry but losing storage help or hurt resale someday?

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Patrick Beri…, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Nov 14, 2011
You know what? There are so many factors here that no one can answer this question as well as you can yourself. Most buyers value kitchens and baths a lot, and that includes a master bath. What you should do in your situation depends a lot on how long you plan to live in the house. You might try to figure out the market value of your property both before and after a remodel and reconcile that with remodel costs and time until you sell.
2 votes
Ray Akers, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Nov 14, 2011
I believe you have answered your own question..."Should we also expand the bath & laundry & make the stairs/landing less claustrophobic?" 'Claustrophobic' isn't a good thing. Remodeled baths are important to buyers, right behind remodeled kitchens. So, I support a plan to the job right the first time. Why leave a couple of areas untouched? If you don't do the full remodel, you're likely to regret NOT doing the stairway and bath in the future. As I advise all my clients; look at your remodeling project with an eye toward a future sale. In other words, how will future buyers view your home?

My other advice is; remodeling always costs more than you budgeted and takes twice as long as you calculated. (I hope you have better luck with your project!)
2 votes
Ardell Della…, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Mon Nov 14, 2011
The answer has much to do with the ceiling height at the lowest point of the basement level. i.e. could be a vent that is hanging lower than overall ceiling height.

Capturing value in the basement of a Seattle Home is often prohibited by needing to duck under a vent, or the ceiling height generally. Can a person who is 6' tall walk freely from end to end without ducking? Spending a lot of money remodeling a space with a low ceiling is usually not a good idea.

Also if any room is to be called a bedroom on that level, make sure it has the proper window size for ingress and egress or people won't consider it to be a legal is also a fire hazard. I think the size is 22" wide by 24" long, but check with the current code at the time of the improvement.

Whatever you do, I don't think it will "hurt resale" someday. The question is will you capture the full amount of your investment, and that often has to do with ceiling height and the size of the windows in each enclosed space.
1 vote
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Nov 14, 2011
Martha, Ray and Jirius know what they're talking (writing?) about.

With a two-car garage, there's enough storage for a 700-square-foot-print house.

The issue of how the basement is configured will probably be less important to younger, wide-eyed buyers, than how dated your kitchen and other bath will be several years from now!

You guys have a nice house, you make good money, you shouldn't feel cramped and crowded going up and down in your own house. You should do the remodel. You don't have to buy high-end finishes, but buy nice ones that you will enjoy.

All the best,
1 vote
Jirius Isaac, Agent, Kenmore, WA
Mon Nov 14, 2011
Martha, I agree with Ray that if you are going to do it, do it right the first time. I assume you will be living in the house for a long time, otherwise, I would not do any of it. You should be able to get some competitive bids for the project since contractors are really needing work, especially in the winter. Get an architect to draw up the plans for you , then get the bids. This process will save you money & get it done right. Is there a bath on the first floor? If not, I also would not do any remodel at all.Contact me if you need any referrals, let me know.
1 vote
Kim Mulligan, , Seattle, WA
Sun Feb 12, 2012
Hi Martha,
Disclaimer: yes I am a "Green" broker. After you make a decision on if you will do the remodel or not, based on all the other great advice here and the decision is Yes"! I believe there is another layer. I suggest you consider sustainable concepts in the remodel as a way to further possible resale and capture more of your investment.

I honestly believe energy efficiency and indoor air quality as priorities will not only be enjoyable while you are living there, but will be a value added when you have the house on the market in the future. Contrary to popular misinformation, it may not cost more than an "ordinary" remodel, and can actually be a selling point. The link below is for an upcoming self-guilded home tour in Seattle where you can see these concepts in action and meet some of the folks that do this for a living. Sometime even the homeowner is there to share their likes and dislikes. Best of all it's all free on Earthday Weekend April 21 and 22 this year. It could be a great way to garner opinions and new ideas.

There is no "right" answer, just the right one for you.
0 votes
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Nov 14, 2011
Ardell's right; I have clients who did a basement remodel,, and they dug out to get ceiling height.

Realistically, you can't anticipate the future market. You can make some guesses, however, and my guess is that if you left the house alone, and put the sixty into a CD, you'd have the best economic return on your money. But you'd have that claustrophobic feeling every time you went into the basement. Without seeing the place, I'd say that putting sixty in would give you forty back on the market.

Which brings me to, is it worth spending twenty to make your house more livable? I think so.

As for the basement bathroom, how are you going to use it? Are you going to go to the basement to soak in the tub? Does the basement have garden or driveway access? A mud-room is great, and so is a shower for coming in after a game or something.

My guys had a half-basement, with a crawl space for the other half. They finished the half as you can see, and turned the crawl space into storage. Great solution, thanks to a creative contractor, who I highly recommend.
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