How To Create A Basement That Doesn’t Terrify Buyers

clean laundry area basement

The basement is typically the room that sellers pay the least attention to and buyers pay A LOT of attention to.

Basements seem to become the repository for all our crap: decor, old electronics, tools and the list goes on.

It can also be the place where we just use all the spare stuff we didn’t use in the rest of the house to decorate it. I was recently in a basement that had the leftover laminate floors from upstairs…on the ceiling.

Many times homeowners think “its just the basement” and buyers usually say “I love the house…now lets see the basement” Its almost like they have to prepare for it and are expecting the worst. So surprise them with a nice basement!

Actually, when I show houses I like to leave the unfinished basement for last. If buyers don’t like the rest of the house they usually aren’t going to like the basement.

And just because your basement is finished doesn’t mean it won’t frighten buyers! Some really awesome basements have closed off areas where the furnace is or storage is that are completely neglected.shutterstock_190302161

The first, and biggest step is to go through the stuff in your basement and have a yard sale. When you finish that you can throw out or donate anything that didn’t sell and then you’ll have a much easier time getting your basement ready to show. Remember…you’re moving soon so you probably don’t want to take all this stuff to your new place.

Here are some of the things buyers notice most when going into basements and how to remedy them.

The Simple Fixes

  1. Remove everything from the stairs to the basement and sweep/mop/vacuum the stairs.  – You know all that stuff that you store there so you can reach it easily? It looks cluttered and is a tripping hazard. And don’t forget all the brooms and mops that are hanging on the wall or things hanging behind the door. Its ok to keep a few things accessible but if you can’t open or close the door because of all the stuff behind them then put it on a shelf and see #2.
  2. Organize Shelving – Most people store extra Food / Cleaning Products and a lot of stuff they will never use again in their basements. Buyers will look. If it looks neat and organized then it’s inviting and people can see the potential for the space. If it looks like a Hoarders episode buyers get anxious. This is usually about the time when buyers ask “Will they be able to move out in time for closing? There seems like a lot of stuff around.” And yes I get that question A LOT!
  3. Clean the boiler or furnace and hot water heater – Is your furnace a scary thing…like the one in Home Alone that tries to eat Kevin? The simplest fix is to just wipe it down. The cleaner it looks the newer it looks. Buyers will want to easily be able to view these items so also make sure the area around it is clear of debris.
  4. Clean slop sink – Yup…you know the one that has a million colors of paint splattered all over it. Get a sponge and some gloves and scrub.
  5. Check the lighting – No one likes a dark basement. Even just putting in brighter bulbs makes a difference.
  6. Address the floor. Some can be painted with floor paint to make it look nice, others can just be swept and mopped.
  7. The smell/moisture  – (This is one of the most important) How does it smell? Musty? moist?  Buyers are sensitive to the smells in basements because they are really worried about the potential for mold problems. Smell and Moisture are big issues even in finished basements.  A dehumidifier is a quick easy fix and if you run a hose from it to your sump pump well you won’t have to empty it.


When To Call In A Professional:

  1. Large cracks in the foundation wall – Buyers are always concerned about foundations and with good cause. If there are any large cracks or if the cinder blocks are bulging anywhere call someone in to assess.
  2. Sump pump and french drains – Make sure the wells are clean and operational. If the sump pump hasn’t been replaced in forever its an inexpensive fix. I was just in a house where the sump pump was held up by old rusty paint cans. The inspector put it in his report.
  3. Mold – Call a professional.
  4. Water coming in – If you frequently get water in one area of the basement then have someone address the drainage outside.
  5. Furnace servicing. If you haven’t had it done in a while you may want to consider having it serviced. Many people have service plans that cover repairs to the furnace. So if they find something wrong you may be able to get it fixed for little or no cost. It will also ease buyers’ minds to see a recent service sticker on the furnace.
The most important thing is…don’t think of it as “just a basement”…if you do then you’ll treat it like that and it won’t show well.