The Basement Speaks

When showing a house, a visit to the basement – if and where accessible – is indispensable. Here one can gather many clues about the property. Some basements are in perfect shape, other in various conditions and degrees of maintenance. While each situation is different and property age must be factored in, remediation is generally possible where warranted. Obtaining an expert opinion during inspection or secondary inspection – and possibly a quote from a reputable company – represents the best way to one’s peace of mind.

When walking through a basement, one should look for structural soundness or lack thereof, signs or humidity or water, any potential active or inactive infestation, cracks, bowing walls, supports, beams, plumbing, electrical, furnace, water heater, and any other elements that can help assess the overall quality of the property.

These pictures were taken from a few past showings and inspections of unfinished basements, and might help familiarize with some of the possible findings:

These damages were caused by powderpost beetles.


These joists were sistered when a new floor was installed above.


Other sistered joists.


An overall look at the wall profile. Many updates visible.


An updated distribution board.


A brand new furnace, perfectly code-compliant: notice the plate below to detect potential water leaks.


Gas shutoff valve replaced with a code-compliant one.


Signs of humidity on this wall.


Signs of humidity.


Here plumbing has been updated with PVC pipes.


Basement walls have been stabilized through the installation of helical piers.


Evident cracks in the foundation cinder block wall.


A clean, unfinished basement.


Fun basement findings: an old barbershop chair for a group picture!


These are but a few examples. When walking through a property, and especially a basement, it’s good practice to keep the seller’s disclosure handy – always mandatory in Michigan for residential properties, 1-4 units. At the time of offer, basement conditions should be given consideration in the purchase price. While it is possible that seller might be willing to negotiate on unexpected findings, it is unlikely that negotiations will ensue due to evident and/or disclosed issues.

Being able to identify potential defects during your showing will save time and money. This is why the service of a REALTOR® is always recommended, because through your agent’s experience many questions can be answered immediately, and be reflected in your purchase agreement.

As usual, I am always contactable if need be. 24/7. Happy basement explorations everyone!


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