The Dated Basement Features That Homebuyers Always Notice

published Oct 3, 2022
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Credit: Courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate

You know an old basement when you see one. The <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="shag%20carpeting,%20the%20crusty%20cardboard%20boxes,%20the%20vintage%20television%20sitting%20in%20the%20corner.%20It%20may%20be%20nostalgic%20for%20you%20(take%20this%20<a%20href=" https: target="_blank">amazing retro basement in Nebraska, for example), but dated basements can really polarize homebuyers. If your basement has any of these features, you may want to consider updating it before trying to sell your home.

Bad Lighting

Drop ceilings with fluorescent lights are reminiscent of two things: corporate offices and dated basements. The lights flicker, they’re both oddly dull and bright at the same time — and they’re a definite no-no for modern basements meant to draw buyers.

“It’s important to invest time into picking out high quality lights and the right color bulbs to illuminate the space properly,” says Jean Prominski, professional organizer, energetic space clearer, and owner of Seattle Sparkle. “If the space will be a multi-use space, use lights that have a variable dimmer switch, to be able to adjust for the mood.”

Musty Smells

Picture yourself in an old basement. Maybe it’s the one from your house growing up, or a friend’s, or your grandparents. Now, take a deep breath. Do you recognize the smell?

Dated basements tend to have a specific musty or mildew smell — and that’s something that will definitely turn off any potential buyers who might be walking through your home.

“Poor ventilation or leaks may have contributed to the old (yet sometimes sentimental) musty smell of the basement,” Prominski says. “While the odor may make for an inviting place to hang, it’s a very important area of the home to address. Many people are able to process the particles from mold just fine, but there is a subset of the population who suffers from mycotoxin (mold) poisoning, and they probably don’t know it.”

If your basement has a smell like that, make sure to get it checked out and remedied before putting your house on the market.

Graphic Flooring

In the ’50s and ’60s, a popular basement trend was to use linoleum floor tiles with images on them. Prominski’s parents, for example, bought a 1950s home to remodel and carpeted over floor tiles that had champagne glasses on them, with a series of bubbles popping up out of each glass. 

“Instead of pulling out the old tiles, my parents just carpeted right over them,” she says. “These bubbling alcoholic beverages were on the ground level of the home for more than 30 years.”

Take your home sale as an opportunity to rip any of those tiles up and get rid of them for good. Then install something more modern, like laminate or reclaimed hardwood.

Garish Colors

Prominski loved her grandparents’ yellow velour couches from the late 1960s. But for new homebuyers, those couches — and others like them — aren’t the best for visual appeal. It might be time for an update.

“Freshen up your color palette to something that lifts your mood rather than something that reminds you of a bodily function,” Prominski says.