the pros and cons of living in a basement apartment

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Well its 22 days into 2014 and I will already have to break one my of my new year’s resolutions. Why? Because we are definitely NOT moving.

You may remember from an earlier blog post that I wanted to move this year. I vowed that 2014 would be the year where we would move out of our basement apartment and into an awesome new rental by the ocean. Well, we looked at some awesome apartments near the ocean and we got a HUGE reality check… living near the ocean in Vancouver doesn’t come cheap. Oh, and didn’t you hear? Vancouver’s housing market is the second most expensive in the world! So we decided to tally up the pros and cons of living in our current basement apartment to see if it was worth the move.

Living in Vancouver I can count several friends that either currently live in basement apartments or have at one point or another. Basement apartments are becoming more and more common as young urban professionals are looking for an affordable rental option in the city (doesn’t anyone else watch Income Property on HGTV??). But basement apartments often get a bad rep. If you’ve ever considered taking the rental plunge into the underground, consider the list of pros and cons we made for our basement apartment:

PROS:

  • More square footage – Simply put, you get more bang for your buck. There is no way we could comfortably afford to rent a 2 bedroom high rise apartment in Vancouver right now. But we can afford 2 bedroom basement apartment.
  • Tons of storage – While our apartment itself doesn’t have large closets, our landlords have given us access to some shared storage space elsewhere in the house and outside. Which is great because we have skiis, snowboards, snowshoes, golf clubs, climbing gear, coolers, lawn chairs and more!
  • Free parking – Enough said. We don’t use our car that much so its nice to know we don’t have to pay extra just to leave it in the same spot for a week or more at a time.
  • Cable, internet and laundry are included! – After paying an arm and a leg for cable and internet bundles plus coin operated laundry machines at previous apartments, this is not only a cost-saver but a time-saver too! Plus, our landlords gave us a PVR “to borrow” so long as we’re tenants… free of charge!
  • Affordable option in an otherwise expensive neighborhood – Sure we could get an above ground apartment in the suburbs at an affordable price, but living near the city centre and being on the Skytrain line is very important to us! It’s the difference between an hour commute to work or a 15 minute one.
  • Updated appliances and fixtures – We’ve lived in some pretty old and dingy apartments over the years. The nice thing about basement apartments is landlords often update them with new appliances and fixtures in order to attract city dwelling tenants who want some nicer amenities. Ok, so I don’t have a dishwasher, but I love love love my deep soaker tub.

CONS: 

  • Not enough natural light – We have one large window in our living room but don’t like to open the blinds that often to let light in since the window looks out onto the backyard. And if the landlords are in the backyard, you often feel like they can see everything you do.
  • Most of the apartment is, of course, underground  This is tough because at the end of the day you are living in a suite that is in a basement. Every now and then I feel a little claustrophobic.
  • Our landlords live above us and at times can be noisy – They have a large pitbull and he likes to bark and run across their hardwood floors which wakes us up most weekend mornings.
  • We pay a third of the home’s utility bills – This con isn’t actually too bad, however if there is a month where you decide to save energy costs and unplug everything there is no guarantee the folks upstairs are doing the same.
  • Privacy – Our basement apartment has a private entrance, but if our landlords are having a BBQ in the backyard, we have to walk past them and their friends on our way into our apartment. Talk about awkward small talk. And while they have encouraged us to host our own backyard BBQs, we’ve never felt comfortable enough to do it.

For us personally, the choice was clear. The pros out weighed the cons (at least for right now in our lives) and the basement apartment won. It helps that we actually get along really well with our landlords upstairs.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a few changes to make it feel like new. So we decided instead of moving, over the course of the year we are going to make some aesthetic changes to our living space. For one, paint the walls a lighter color and secondly switch out our dark furniture with lighter fabrics and textures. We’re also going to work harder to find ways to de-clutter our space so it can feel more airy and bright–a constant challenge with basement apartments.

Would you ever consider living in a basement apartment or have you ever lived in one? Did you love it or hate it?

Also, would you sacrifice location for space?

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10 thoughts on “the pros and cons of living in a basement apartment

  1. I did a stint in a basement apartment–and it was a lovely apartment–but I just couldn’t handle it. Too much darkness, and the noise over my head at random times. Just because they were staying up all night before their early morning flight doesn’t mean I want to!

    Definitely love your ideas to make the best of your current situation, a few changes like that can make all the difference 🙂

    • yes darkness and a noisy upstairs are definitely huge cons. Luckily there is only 3 people living upstairs now, when we first moved in there were 5!!! I’ll be sure to do some before and after shots so we can judge if our little renos make any difference to the darkness. Thanks for sharing!

    • LOL! HGTV will be here waiting for you when you return! Yes Mirrors is key. We have large mirrors in both bedrooms but not in the living room. I will add it to the shopping list! 😉

    • So true! Although we have been lucky and have had no silverfish! Or bugs really!! The basement suite is quite updated so there is no moisture like other basement suites

  2. I live in a basement!! I don’t think you’ve ever been over?! But I’ve had some backyard BBQ’s in the past. One time I had one while my landlords were ‘away’, but they ended up coming back from their trip one night early…… to a backyard full of wasted people. Luckily they’re pretty cool, but it was definitely awkward,

    • HAHA! Really? That’s awesome. Yeah maybe we’ll have to throw a bbq party this summer. No I haven’t been to your place yet… we should have a girly movie night and I’ll come over! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. Maybe you could add sheer curtains to the window so when the blinds are open you get the light, but still maintain a certain amount of privacy.

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