What is a Basement Apartment?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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A basement apartment is an apartment that is situated below street level and may take up all or part of that level of the building. Although this level of a building is generally considered to be the least desirable level for residential use, basements are frequently used as living spaces in dense cities. The habitability of a basement apartment depends largely on how well the apartment is designed to maximize use of natural light sources and how well it is protected against moisture. An apartment on the basement level of a building that has little natural light and lots of moisture in the walls and floor can quickly become uncomfortable, even uninhabitable. There are, however, basement apartments that are well protected against the elements and very nicely designed so that they are actually quite comfortable to live in.

In some cases, a basement apartment will have both a front door and a back door. In these cases, the front door usually functions as the entrance from the street and the back door opens up into a yard. The yard may or may not be shared by people living in units above the basement apartment. In some cases, when these yards or gardens are exclusively used by the residents of the basement apartment, residing on this level might be desirable. This is especially true in large cities where access to green space, especially private green space, is limited.


In the world of real estate, it is common for the basement level of a building to be referred to as the "garden level." It follows that, when this sort of language is being used, a basement apartment is referred to as a "garden apartment" or "garden level apartment." The reason for this is simply that people often think of a basement as being a dank, dark place, whereas a garden is usually thought of as a lush space full of light.

In addition to being common in dense cities, it is also becoming more common for people to build basement apartments into their homes, either when building a new home or when remodeling an existing residence. Having a basement apartment in one's home offers space for guests or a space that can be rented out. Building a rental space such as a basement apartment into one's home is often a way of helping to offset one's mortgage or to develop a source of income.


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