Turning Your Basement into an Apartment for Rent

The uncertain nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the concept of “temporary” appealing.

If people previously acquired assets like houses, cars, and other high-value items with gusto, they now spend more cautiously. Since permanent possessions are often expensive, many people now choose temporary ones, such as rented rooms and shared vehicles. Widespread unemployment has also made rentals more attractive than long-term property mortgages. Rentals are becoming the home of choice in a crisis like this.

So if you have a basement or similar room in your property that you can rent out, start transforming the space while the rental market is active. Here are some suggestions on how.

  1. Check state rules before you start.

Before finalizing your decision to lease your basement, check state or city regulations to learn what is legally accepted. For instance, some cities require rental units to be smaller than the main house. Some allow rentals to be added only to a specific dwelling type, such as a single-detached home. Others prohibit changes in exterior design to blend with the neighboring houses.

Check requirements for electrical installation and safety features, such as dedicated entrances, acceptable windows, ceiling heights, fire extinguishers, smoke sensors, and carbon monoxide detectors. You need to include them all in your budget and plan.

  1. Apply basement finishing.

Basement empty room interior with stone wall trim and brick wall with fireplace

You probably didn’t have much use for your basement before, so you left it unfinished. It’s just storage for extra things. But now that you’re turning your basement into a livable space for someone else, it’s time to finish your basement.

  • Draw a plan for your basement: what the layout is, where the bathroom will go, how to install electricity and plumbing, and how to insulate and install an HVAC system.
  • Check that your basement has no leaks, puddles, or pools of water. Any hint of those suggests that your basement is getting moisture or water from somewhere. Investigate floors and walls, or request a skilled home contractor to check for you. One way to ensure your basement’s dryness is by having drainage or gutters on your roof that direct water away from your foundation.
  • Next, frame your walls. It will outline your divisions and give you an idea of where your walls will go. It will also help you visualize the layout of the electric wiring, pipes, and insulation. Framing your walls will also make them stronger. Add insulation, electrical wiring, HVAC cables, internet cables, and plumbing. Test everything before letting your contractor build the drywall.
  • If you plan to mount an HDTV, surround sound speakers, and other built-in entertainment devices, do this first before completing the wall construction. Otherwise, just let your renter bring their entertainment system.
  • Once the walls are up, you can proceed to paint. Choose neutral colors because you don’t know who will end up renting your basement.
  • You can now install your entry door to the basement’s dedicated entrance, or have your contractor do it. Next up is laying out the flooring. You can do this yourself, but again, the tools and skills of a pro will ensure the quality of the work. Ceramic tiles, engineered wood floors, and vinyl planks are some of the best flooring materials.
  • Finally, attach the light bulbs and check that they all work, as well as the switches.
  1. Furnish your basement rental.

The decision to furnish or not furnish your new rental space is really up to you. You may opt to offer it unfurnished if that will make your life as a landlord easier. However, a furnished place will give you a better chance of charging higher. Furnishing the apartment will also depend on your budget. Do you still have funds left to source furniture and appliances after all the improvements you made?

Demand for rentals is now high because of the temporary solution rentals offer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Take advantage of this rare — and also temporary — situation. With these tips, you can turn your basement into a rental and enjoy the benefits of being a landlord.

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