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No way out...

No way outI was perplexed as I walked around the semi "finished" basement. One side of the basement had sheet rock, had a dropped ceiling and the cement floor had been painted. The other side held the mechanicals, the oil tank and the washer and dryer. There was plenty of room for storage, and on the whole the area was dry. This space was a bonus as the house was on the smaller side. (On the MLS the basement was listed as "part finished".)

But...

There was no way out! Well, there was the staircase leading down from the kitchen, but otherwise, there was no way out! No second egress. And to install a below grade window to allow for egress may cost upwards of $5,000!

I couldn't shake this as time went by, this is a fatal flaw in my opinion. The basement, on first glance, appears to be a great place for kids of all ages to romp around, but with no second egress, is it safe? This basement is a true basement housing the mechanicals, and quite inconvenient at that! And it certainly does not qualify as "part finished". The only way to get anything down there is through the kitchen and down the stairs. So even if you solve the safety issue by forking over the money and installing a below grade egress window, you still won't solve the problem of getting anything in and out of the basement. Just think if the furnace/boiler needs to be replaced?

No (second) way out is never a good thing in my mind. Being in this basement reminded me of the recent story in the news of the Massachusetts family who got stuck in a corn maze and had to call 911.

Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County Real Estate

2017 President, Greater New Milford Board of Realtors

2017 Connecticut Magazine 5 Star Realtor

 

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© Andrea Swiedler 2009 - 2017

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Comment balloon 23 commentsAndrea Swiedler • October 22 2011 09:37AM

Comments

Andrea - we see that a lot in our neck of the woods - and I always remind buyers if they plan on using that space fine - but it's a safety issue AND should not be advertised as living area when they sell - It usually turns them off from putting an offer in ...

Posted by Marcia Kramarz, CDPE,LMC,CBR (Re/Max Executive Realty) over 8 years ago

Two means of egress usually only applies to sleeping quarters. What you bring up is a good sense perspective. Many older homes do not have a exterior egress for bring stuff in and out. Definitely a flaw. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

If it doesn't have any other exits it may not have been built to code.  If I had a buyer, I'd ask about code clearance and make any offer based on compliance.  If it's not safe, that $5K would come off the price. As for getting stuff downstairs, there's always a way - just have to be creative :)

Posted by Bryan Robertson over 8 years ago

Marcia, using the space for living space might be a bonus, but has it concerns. And it will never be finished space!

Jim, where kids are concerned, I think it is of great concern. And the inconvenience factor is high in situations like this. I don't usually see this, to be honest with you. It did take me a few minutes to realize what was giving me that feeling of something being wrong.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 8 years ago

Bryan, this house was built in the 70's. I am sure it was not an issue back then. Just was a curious feeling to me, to realize that we would be stuck down there if the stairs were compromised.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 8 years ago
Andrea definitely a cause for concern and that space shouldn’t be used for sleeping. Thinking out side the box, any way to cut a small escape door into a closet floor or similar space above?
Posted by David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation, Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential (Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC ) over 8 years ago

Andrea, basements that are being used for things other than utilities----like a laundry, family room etc do require a secondary means of egress.  If there is a bedroom, that secondary egress requirement for the whole basement can be met by the egress from the one in the bedroom.  No bedroom it needs a window, or a door.  I am not sure how long this has been true---but quite a while---possibly not in 1970.  Certainly upgrading is a good idea.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Wow, I can see how that would be a huge issue Andrea...............

Posted by Roger D. Mucci, Lets shake things up at your home today! (Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092) over 8 years ago

Andrea - We see this all the time in our area. Since it does not have egress you cannot list as another bedroom of course and for safety sake it surely isn't a wise thing to do besides...

Posted by Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618, Bergen County NJ Real Estate (Keller Williams Valley Realty) over 8 years ago

I couldn't even BE in that basement.  Nope, not for me.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 8 years ago

I wonder how much it would cost to to installl a Bilco entrance with stairs? Or first home in 1976 had a basement like you have described.  Yhe washer and dryer were down there and was somewhat inconvenient but we had a ping pong table down there which we thoroughly enjoyable.    

Posted by JoAnn Moore, Home Loans in Delaware (The Mortgage Market of Delaware) over 8 years ago

Hi Andrea, great post and I would not want buyers to purchase this house.  Safety always comes first.

Posted by Judith Parker, CRS, GRI, CMRS, Charlotte, NC (ProStead Realty) over 8 years ago

Andrea: That would make me take a trip to the planning department.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) over 8 years ago

Andrea, it can't be use as living space if it does not have a second exit.  Who ever built this house certainly was not thinking.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) over 8 years ago

Andrea...

Sounds like a dangerous place for anyone, but especially kids. I would never feel safe in a place like that.

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 8 years ago

That makes me just a little claustrophobic just reading it.  We don't have a lot of basements, though older homes do in downtown Boise.  Without egress they just make me a little uncomfortable --Kasey

Posted by Kasey & John Boles, Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties (Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com) over 8 years ago

Andrea,

You are wise. I know some agents who will argue that if a house is old, pre-codes, then the inspector should be mum on that. Maybe the inspector should point out that they built them that way, but certainly not say nothing. People can die in situations like that, even in old houses!

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 8 years ago

David, I don't think that will work at all. But it was a good thought.

Charles, upgrading is a good idea, for safety and peace of mind. If they aren't going to use it ever, then who cares.

Roger, I felt very uncomfortable when down there and didn't realize why for a moment or two.

Robert & Lisa, it is a wise thing to address this, for your own safety and for resale later on.

Tammy, LOL... I know what you mean, I was not happy down there either.

JoAnn, don't know which would be better, an egress window (which would let more light in) or a bilco door.

Judith, all we can do is point it out, but it really bothered me!

Hella, for future use, yes indeed.

George, I was surprised, I don't see it often.

Richard, me either. I admit my own basement doesn't have a second egress, but we use it for NOTHING.. seriously. Makes a great bomb shelter....

Kasey, I was more than a little uncomfortable, that's for sure!

Steven, pointing it out is all I can do, but I certainly would. And of course it is a dicey subject, as it probably was up to code. But when you list is as finished space, or anyone thinks of using for anything more than a big hole under the house, you need to put it up to today's standards, for safety reasons! And resale...

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 8 years ago

Wow, I don't think I've ever seen a basement with NO exit of any kind.  Even the older homes around here have the little non-egress windows that could be expanded....

Posted by Janna Scharf, Coeur d'Alene Idaho Real Estate Expert (Keller Williams Realty Coeur d'Alene) over 8 years ago

I think code calls for a window if you plan to use the space as a bedroom. Current codes should be checked to see what is in and out of compliance.  Two words: Fire saftety.

Posted by Sussie Sutton, David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers (David Tracy Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Andrea, word to the wise is always for the buyer's agent to explain the limitations of such a room- safety first !

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Janna, this also had those tiny little non egress type windows. But they are useless...

Sussie, if you have kids and want to use it as a playroom, I would rethink the whole no second egress thing, no matter what code said!

Ginny, it really is our job to do that. I really felt funny down there when I realized that.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 8 years ago

Andrea, unfortunately that is very common in my area in older homes.  Many have finished off basements and have included an egress at that time.  If using the space as a family room or a play room, I'd want to make sure that there was another way out too.

Posted by Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528, Real Estate Salesperson (Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956) over 8 years ago

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