I built my business on basement apartments, and I believe in them wholeheartedly. But nowadays, any old basement apartment just won’t do. If you want to have a successful lower-level living space, you need to impress potential renters right from the start. Read on to learn 10 tips on creating the ideal basement apartment.
Scott McGillivray is a real estate expert and host of HGTV Canada’s Scott’s Vacation House Rules, Scott’s Own Vacation House, Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays.
Published September 9, 2018, Updated March 29, 2021, Updated February 28, 2022
It kind of goes without saying, but a basement apartment without a separate entrance is no good. If you have to install it yourself it can be very expensive, so definitely look for a property that already has one.
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When it comes to basement apartment requirements, the ceiling height should be no less than seven feet for more than 75% of the space. However, the higher the better. Once you start digging down, it becomes a very big project, so keep an eye out for high ceilings when house shopping.
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A full kitchen that includes a dishwasher is the best way to impress tenants and command a high price. Just because someone is living in a basement doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice functionality. While you can get away with not having a dishwasher in the basement kitchen, I don’t recommend it.
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Even if space is tight, providing tenants with a washer and dryer that is exclusively their own is a huge plus (you can hide the machines in a closet or cupboard to save space). In fact, it can really make or break a rental agreement. If the laundry units can only be shared with the upper floors of the house, it’s not the end of the world. But, keep in mind, a separate laundry will almost certainly fetch you a higher price.
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A gas fireplace is not a must have, but it sure is a ‘nice-to-have’. Basements have a reputation for being cold. While you shouldn’t have any heat problems (as long as you have the right insulation and subfloor), a gas fireplace will impress renters and make the space feel cozier.
Include a Bath and Shower
Basement apartment bathrooms should have a toilet, sink, tub and shower. Having either a tub or a shower isn’t ideal. A shower without a tub won’t appeal to families, and a tub without a shower is just plain inconvenient for a lot of people. In most cases a shower/tub combo will do the trick.
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Like a fireplace, heated floors are an added bonus that can make a basement apartment much more appealing. I would suggest the entryway, bathroom and laundry areas are sufficient enough, if you don’t want to go to the trouble or expense of doing the entire space.
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I don’t know why people think a basement apartment doesn’t need nice, updated finishes. Hardware, light fixtures, faucets, and any other fixtures should be clean, modern and properly installed.
Sometimes you don’t have much control over the layout, but when there’s flexibility, place the kitchen and living space as close to the entrance as possible, and have the main bedroom as far away from the entrance as possible. And in a basement, open-concept is always best. You’ll maximize light, and it will make the space look bigger.
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Since ceiling height is often at a premium, recessed lighting is always best. Sure, chandeliers and pendants can look nice, but recessed lighting will get you the best bang for your buck, and it will look great. If you want to have a pendant over an island, or a decorative chandelier somewhere, go for it, but don’t do it at the expense of recessed lighting throughout.
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