“California Rambler” . . . “California Colonial??”

“If your parents don’t have kids, you won’t, either.”

So, what’s the 100% guaranteed way to never have a wet basement — something that LOTS of Twin Cities homeowners are contending with right now after another 3″ – 4″ rain in just the last 12 hours?

wet_basementDon’t have a basement.

I just previewed a gorgeous Minnetonka home for clients, and couldn’t find the door to the basement.

Prior to searching for the elusive basement, I’d been surprised at how much of the home’s finished square feet — MLS had it listed at 4,300 FSF —  was on the main and upper levels.

Surprise #2:  the beautiful wetlands just to home’s northwest (= soft soil/high water table).

Then I recalled the furnace and hot water heater just off the first-floor Mud Room.

Starting to put the pieces together, I checked MLS under “Below Ground Finished Square Feet.”

Surprise, surprise, the number was “zero.”

Sure enough . . . no basement.

To Disclose or Not

Normally, Sellers (or their agent) disclose that — but not always.

Which begs the questions:  should the Seller have disclosed that?

At least in the Upper Midwest, most homes have basements, which means that most Buyers expect them.

Ergo, not having one can be a drawback, which Buyers arguably should know about in advance.  See, “Interesting vs. I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g.”

On the other hand . . . it’s not like prospective Buyers aren’t going to eventually notice.

I think the key question is ultimately, “is the lack of a basement a deal breaker for at least some Buyers?”

In other words, if Buyers knew there wasn’t a basement, would they have skipped the showing altogether?

My take:  “yes + yes = disclose” (note:  simply listing finished below ground square feet as “0” isn’t the same thing as disclosing no basement; plenty of homes have basements that are unfinished).

Pros & Cons

Practically, basements in this part of the country are most often used for Amusement Rooms (where the kids hang out), storage, and/or the occasional storm shelter.

Of course, all those things can be created above ground as well, albeit at extra expense (especially in the case of a storm shelter).

Which leaves it up to individual Buyers whether the rest of the basement-less home works for them, and whether the proximity to wetlands — the usual reason to skip a basement — is a good trade.

P.S.:  At least in the Twin Cities, a one-story home built on a slab (without a basement) is known as a “California Rambler.”

Which leaves the question, “what do you call a 2-story home without a basement?”

See also, “Wet Basements:  Who’s Responsible?”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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