Is a House With a Basement Considered a Two-Story House?

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Key Takeaway

Basements are not considered to be a story. However, certain factors could make appraisers describe them as stories; for example, if over half of the basement rises above the ground or curb level. Also, if a house is built into a hill with a walkout basement, it is considered a separate story. 

If you want to buy a house, there are certain things you should understand before delving into the process of searching. For instance, understanding what counts as a story would help you walk through the murky waters of reality. 

Basements are integral parts of most houses in the US, serving different purposes but most prominently as storage space for household materials. So is the basement considered a separate story?

Most of the time, basements are important components of houses. Thus they become institutionalized into the overall description of the house. However, this little inconsistency may bring about some debates between potential buyers and the house appraisers who described the house beforehand.

This is very understandable because the state of the basement greatly helps decide whether it’s a story or not. 

Is my Basement a Separate Story?

This seemingly simple question creates a lot of controversy, arguments, and counterarguments between different people whose opinions differ.

Generally, appraisers do not include basements of houses as stories when listing houses. Sometimes exceptions are considered. For example if a house is built to the side of a hill, with the side of the basement being exposed. In these cases, if over half of the basement is higher than the ground, appraisers may consider the basement a story. 

For basements with doors above the ground level, their classification falls into that of a story. This is not a common occurrence, as most basements are buried deep into the ground and designed to be inconspicuous.

For your basement to be considered a story, you must finish it, and the space should be livable. This means that no matter how high your basement could be, it isn’t a story if it isn’t habitable. This is one criterion on which most realtors and appraisers agree; this counts greatly in the grand scheme of things. 

Is a Walkout Basement Considered a Story?? 

A walkout basement is created when a house is built to the side of a hill, thus making the basement not entirely embedded into the ground. In some instances, one side of the basement is locked into the ground while the other is open. Houses with walkout basements are not common in all parts of the world, but are common in hills and mountainous regions. 

Because most walkout basements possess windows and entry points, most realtors and appraisers consider them as seperate stories. However, the basement must be designed, finished, and furnished before it is considered a proper story on its own. 

What is Considered a Two-Story House?

With all the differing opinions, we’d love to paint an image of what is universally considered a two-story house.

Generally, a two-story house is one with two full floors above the ground. This technique is simple. For instance, a ranch home with a basement isn’t considered to be a two-story house.

In this instance, a full floor is a floor with walls at least 8 feet tall in the entire story. This means that if your second story has slanted walls like the attic, which uses the roof as walls, then it isn’t a full floor. Therefore, it may also be considered a half story.

A two-story house has clearly defined properties that you cannot miss if you look at it.

If you consider things like the basement being a floor on its own, the definition of a two-story house becomes complex and confusing, so it’s good to stick to the general definition.

What Makes a Basement to be Considered a Liveable Space?

There are a few conditions that, if found in your basement, you can consider it as livable space and probably as a seperate story.

For most appraisers and realtors, a finished basement that matches the rest of your house is a great liveable space. Usually this space does not count in your house’s total square footage.

Nevertheless, to be considered a liveable space, your basement must possess a few requirements which would be: 

  1. Your basement must meet a minimum height level requirement to be considered livable space. The reason is due to the observation that a person would require a high ceiling to be more comfortable if it’s used as a bedroom.
  2. The basement must have a source of heating and lighting to count as a livable space. These are one of the few necessities which are required for a person’s comfortable living. 
  3. Proper finishing must be applied to the walls and ceilings for a basement to count as a livable space. The reason is that finished walls and ceilings carry this peace and calm that most people need to relax and settle in. Also, nicely done walls and ceilings help the mind get to sleep faster and improve sleep quality. 
  4. Excellent insulation and water-proofing should be done in the basement to prevent excess cold and moisture from plaguing the room and its inhabitants.

Finished basements greatly add color and integrity to your house. So rather than leave it in the state, you should try doing something nice with the space. When it comes to selling your house its a tremendous value add to have an extra liveable space.