Thinking about renting a basement apartment? Before you sign a lease, you first need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of living in this type of home.
Before even considering a specific basement apartment, you have to make sure whether that apartment on the listing is legal. It must be inspected and approved by the proper authorities. Local laws can regulate whether homeowners can create a multi-family home with the basement for rent on the single family property. If the landlord doesn’t comply with rules, regulations, and certifications, it might mean that the basement apartment is not compliant with the code on vital systems like heating or plumbing.
Legal basement apartments have strict requirements in order to be fit for renting, and some of these are: It must be on the bottom floor of a building, have ceilings of at least 7 feet high, have a window in every room, have at least half of basement’s height to be above street level, and its walls must be damp- and water-proofed.
Some people prefer basement apartments over other options, while others would definitely not consider one at all. To understand why here’s what you need to know:
Pros of basement apartments:
- Spacious – Generally, basement apartments have a decent amount of space provided. Since it is often placed under single-family homes, it’s more likely that you would get more space than a multi-family unit. Why? Most homes have hallways that are spacious, but basement apartments have no hallways, thus more available space.
- Less expensive – You get more space, but you pay less. Because of the less demand of basement apartments, it’s generally priced less than a typical apartment in a desirable neighborhood. Also, it’s a great temporary dwelling for people who are looking to test out a neighborhood they’re considering buying it.
- More privacy – Basement apartments often have their own private entrance separate from the main entrance everyone else uses, often found on the side or the back of the house. This way, you don’t have to invade your landlord’s or other renters’ personal space too much. Also, these types of houses often have tiny windows, which also offers more privacy than if you have to share a house or an apartment with someone.
- Fewer stairs – Since you’ll be living on the bottom floor, you will most likely deal with going down one set of stairs only. If you live in any space above two floors high, you will need to climb a number of stairs you need to deal with climbing.
- Direct access to outdoor space – Basement apartments give you access to outdoor spaces without having to walk through a corridor or down the stairs. This is useful for people who like to grill or barbeque outside, and for those who own a pet, making it easier to let your dog out in a yard.
- Cooler – The cooler temperature in basement apartments can be a pro or a con, depending on the place where you live. During the summer, heat rises so it means you can stay cool, helping you save money on your air conditioning.
Cons of basement apartments:
- Cooler – While this can provide relief during warmer months, a cool basement can be harsh during the winter. Make sure your doors and windows are tightly sealed to prevent drafts, and the heating system working properly.
- Probably less secure – Basement dwellings have a higher chance of break-ins because it is directly accessible from the street, so make sure you ask your landlord about the security measures for your apartment. Windows have to be secured and locked, and the entrance from the outside must have a strong lock. A basement apartment must also have a fire escape route, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Lower ceilings – Some basement apartments have lower ceilings than typical apartments. If you’re tall and then you stretch, you can touch the ceiling. Make sure this won’t bother you, so before signing anything, walk around the apartment and make sure you aren’t feeling claustrophobic.
- Noisier – Basement apartments are not always soundproofed the same way other apartments are. If there are dwellers above the apartment you’re considering, try to tour the house and see if you can easily hear them. If you can’t deal with loud neighbors or if you are sensitive to sound, then a basement apartment won’t be a good idea.
- Lack of natural light – While tiny windows give privacy, it can also mean less natural light in your apartment. You may miss a lot of sun shining through the morning. But if you’re not a morning person, then great.
- Can be prone to flooding – Sadly, all basements are prone to flooding, because it is the first place where the water goes, from pipe bursts to groundwater. You should get more cautious if your location is prone to excessive rains and storms, or if the lawn slopes towards your apartment. Look for signs of flooding or dampness or molds. The apartment must have a tar sealant on the inside and outside of foundation walls.
- Retains more moisture – Basement apartments also tend to retain moisture because of their underground location. This means more molds, bugs and the risk of unpleasant odors. To prevent this, you should own a dehumidifier.
- Has potential for bugs – Underground places are cool and dark, where rodents and gross insects thrive. You can deter these by sealing up cracks and entrances and removing excess moisture from the house. Ask about any pest problems in the past and the measures they took to keep the place pest-free.