Brooklyn Heights Office
Sr. Vice President
BASEMENTS aren't just for storage anymore. They're being used for everything from basketball courts and putting greens to media rooms and massive wine cellars.
Real-estate entrepreneur Adam Ifshin and his wife, Alicia, took their passion for food and wine and turned their French country Tudor-style home's basement into a place where they host dinner parties and wine tastings. The 4,000-square-foot space includes a 7,000-bottle wine cellar with terracotta floors, a pantry, a sink, a dishwasher, cabinets, a dumbwaiter leading to the kitchen upstairs and a dining room that seats eight.
"It is like a true French wine cellar," says Ifshin, who says it took six months of work on his northern Westchester home's basement to create this impressive space.
The basement also has a gym, playroom, ping-pong table and bathroom.
Gerard Splendore, associate broker with Halstead Property, has seen many basements in his line of work. And he has big plans for the underground space in his 1892 Bay Ridge limestone row house.
"We are going to put in a walk-in cedar closet, a soundproof room for my son to practice his drums, a steam room and weight room," he says. "We are also planning to put a guest room and laundry room."
Even if you don't have the space or resources to do something that elaborate, you might literally be sitting on hundreds of untapped square feet if you're not taking advantage of your basement.
So what you are waiting for?
"I think it's a crime when people don't utilize the space in their basements," says interior consultant and contractor Gregory Carey. "It's cheaper than an addition and it's already there."
Whether you are in the city or the suburbs, there are a few key factors to think about before you build out that basement media room.
"The first thing you should do is check with your local building codes and zoning laws to see what you can legally put down there," says Mark J. Seiden, president of Mark J. Seiden Real Estate in Ossining, N.Y.
Many homes are zoned only for single-family usage, so it's important to clarify your home's status before you add a bedroom or rental unit. There are also laws about windows and doors and regulations about how space is classified (example: living quarters or storage), which can affect resale value.
Once you have decided what you can and want to do with the space, the next thing is to make sure your basement will stay dry.
"You don't want to put all that money and time into it to have it all ruined by flooding," says Michael Morris, former editor in chief of Home Mechanix magazine.
If there's any mold, hire a professional to remove it. If the mold is on the sheetrock, it will cost about $110 to $150 a sheet to remove and replace. Put water sealant or waterproof paint on the walls. This will cost about $30 to $40 per gallon.
Also, "adding a dehumidifier inside the walls can help prevent that damp basement feel," says Mark Rommel, franchise owner of Rockland and Westchester County House Doctors. Budget about $300 for that.
Another issue is making sure you have enough room to actually put something in your basement. Many properties, especially townhouses, might not be high enough. You want at least 7-foot ceilings, and this may require digging down for more space.
"Digging out the foundation can be very dangerous and costly and many times it has to be done by hand," Carey says. "It's a job for a professional."
If you are in an attached home, you also have to think about your neighbors' structures as well. You must contact the city before you do any construction, and you might want to contact your neighbors as a courtesy.
Other factors to think about are heating and air conditioning (ductless air conditioners and radiant floor heating are perfect for basements), drainage (many people use submersible pumps), light (halogen lights often produce too much heat) and ventilation (especially if you are putting in a laundry room). At the low end, all of this could cost about $6,000.
But experts believe that any money you put into finishing a basement you will get back, and then some. Even the simplest finished basement (which can cost as little as $8,000 for about 550 square feet, according to Rommel) can add value. And in some cases, the payoff can be huge.
"I had a property with a finished basement that added $500,000 to the selling price," says Halstead Property vice president Edward Herson. "And the more unique the space is, the more value it adds."
Thursday, January 18, 2007