What Is an English Basement? | Real Estate

Unless you’ve lived in a big city, the English basement might be a whole new concept. English basements are common in urban centers and allow homeowners to maximize their basement space by renting it out to tenants or providing additional living space for family or friends.

Whether you’re considering living in an English basement or rent Once out, there are pros and cons to consider. Here’s what you need to know about English basements and how they can make an impact property values and certain legal obligations that come with renting a basement unit.

  • What is an English basement?
  • Where do you often find English cellars?
  • What’s it like living in an English basement?
  • The pros and cons of living in an English basement.
  • The cost of building or renovating an English basement.

What is an English basement?

English basements emerged in 19th-century London and allowed people to live comfortably under terraced houses, which are low-rise buildings that share a common wall on one or both sides. In the US, the English basement can be found everywhere with row houses that share some common characteristics: small windows, better ventilation than its predecessor, and outside accessibility, according to a Bloomberg report.

An English basement is on the lowest level of a building. “It’s a self-contained unit, typically one or two bedrooms, located either on the ground floor or in the basement,” says Diana Minshall, real estate specialist at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in the District of Columbia.

English basements also allow homeowners to maximize the space available. “It’s so expensive to own a house these days,” says Minshall. “To be able to supplement a large proportion of your transport costs with rental income from an English cellar is truly amazing. It offers fantastic flexibility.”

Where do you often find English cellars?

English basements are typically found in large brownstone or townhouse cities in the United States, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York City, but are more commonly found in the District of Columbia, particularly in older homes. In some cases, they first served as quarters for domestic workers and later became a popular rental option for people moving to the city for work.

What’s it like living in an English basement?

English basements occupy the lowest floor of terraced houses and are partially underground with smaller windows at street level. There is also a separate entrance to the unit from the rest of the building. “They’re usually smaller,” says Minshall. “Often they are in basements so they can be dark.”

While some English basement units can be cheaper and offer more privacy, lower levels have a higher chance of flooding and basement apartments are also more prone to pests such as spiders, insects, rats and mice. Less sun exposure can also lead to excess moisture, mildew, and mold growth.

The ins and outs of living in an English basement

  • English basements provide additional living space for family or friends.
  • It can bring rental income for homeowners.
  • The separate entrance offers some privacy as the resident does not have to go through the main living area of ​​the house.
  • Basements can be cheaper.

  • They usually have lower ceilings and narrow doorways.
  • Smaller windows mean English basement units are typically darker.
  • Basements are prone to flooding.
  • Pests such as insects, rats, mice and other animals could become a problem.
  • Mold formation is possible.
  • English cellars typically face a street or building entrance, which can be noisy.

The cost of creating or renovating an English basement

TThe cost of converting a basement into an apartment ranges from $50,000 to $100,000. In some expensive neighborhoods, you could pay $150,000 or more, according to HomeAdvisor. However, due to the rental income, you can recoup your initial investment within two to five years. You could also significantly increase your real estate value.

You must also consider your city’s building codes before converting your basement into a rental unit. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development says illegal basement housing faces potential hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate lighting and ventilation, and inadequate egress in the event of a fire. Your property may also need to be inspected before it is legally recognized as a residential unit.

For example, New York City and Washington building codes dictate that English basements must be at least half their height above curb level, with a minimum ceiling height of two meters. The walls, which must reach the floor, must also be moisture and water proof. Every room needs a window and the floor of any courtyard or open space needs to be at least 15 cm below the window sill.

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