Buying a house with a basement in Oregon
When buying a house in Oregon, you will run into lots of houses with a basement especially if it’s an older house. In inner Portland neighborhoods, your typical bungalow house usually comes with an unfinished basement. In outskirt Portland neighborhoods and the metro area, many older homes including ranch houses come with a basement whether finished or unfinished. You will see more finished basements in those areas. When I show houses with a basement to a buyer, the basement is usually an attractor for men who want to build a man cave with an entertainment area and possibly a pool table and a wet bar. Women clients typically don’t care much about basements. Without stating any further gender bias, I will move on to discuss some tips when buying a house with a basement.
Should you buy a house with a basement?
When looking for a house, you typically put in a criteria on a site like Zillow or Redfin and homes with a basement will pop up for homes that meet your minimum total square footage. Often those houses with a basement have included the square footage of the basement in their total square footage and therefore the results pop up as they have met your initial search criteria for the total square footage. In general, the square footage of a basement does not render the same value as the square footage of above grade square footage. Appraisers will typically discount the value for the basement. There may be an exception for high level finished basements but in general, basement value is lower even if it’s finished. Unfinished basements render even lower value for their square footage. The value can also depend on the nature of the neighborhood where the home sits in. Namely, if the neighborhood is pretty much filled with homes with basements, the value of the comps can affect how the value of the target home’s basement can be rendered whereas if a basement is a rarity in other neighborhood, then the basement value will not be considered as much.
So if your search results show houses with a basement and a nearby house has the same total square footage all above grade for the same price, you should look into it further. Ask your real estate agent to analyze the value of the house to make sure you compare recently sold comps with a basement in the neighborhood so that you can get a better value of the house with a basement.
Living in Oregon, it’s wet six to nine months out of the year. The ground around the house is wet and a gutter and downspout can pour more water into the ground near the basement wall. Unless the house is well-equipped to deal with water issues in the basement, a basement will usually present some water issues. There are many ways to deal with water intrusion in the basement including installing French drains, water guard system, or waterproofing the basement concrete walls through excavation. They all cost money. Sellers must disclose for known water issues or what they “should have known” on the disclosure. Further, you need to instruct your inspector to measure moisture levels around the basement walls to see if there are water issues.
If you are a first time home buyer, you probably don’t know too much about these issues of having a basement. That’s why it’s important that you work with a good realtor who can identify these potential issues so you can make an informed decision. If you really love the house that has a basement, by all means, go for it but be informed and smart about it.