“What value does putting a front door from basement to street adds to your property?”


“Dear PoPville,

Question–a rental property I saw has an English basement front door. The facade is similar to our Eckington home (which has no front door to the street). I’d love to get one built in. I understand permitting and so on. But I’m not clear on costs and so forth. Do you have any guestimates on costs to put one in and do you know anyone you can refer me to that does good work at a fair cost? Any thoughts on how one might quantify what value putting a front door from basement to street adds to your property?

It’d also be nice to know how the door compares with an egress window. I’m wondering if/where it makes more sense to put in an egress window or spend the extra for a door.”

26 Comment

  • It’ll be very expensive to dig out and do all the requisite structural work to create a basement front door where one didn’t previously exist. I’m not sure about cost, but easily 10k+.

  • Re Value: I think the big question is whether your english basement could conceivably be used as a rental property (e.g. are ceilings high enough and is there a bath + kitchen)? If it’s just for the convenience of having a door from the basement, but the basement could not legally be rented out or occupied by anyone other than the owners, then I don’t see it bringing nearly as much value.

    • Lots of English basements that aren’t legal rentals do in fact get rented out.

      • Sure, but is the OP really willing to risk a huge up-front expense to maaaaybe sorta kinda rental down the line? Seems extremely silly to me and I wouldn’t risk my own money to do that.

        • to maaaybe HAVE a sorta kinda rental

        • I guess it depends whether the OP actually wants to rent the basement out, and whether the basement is otherwise already rentable (kitchen, bathroom).

        • It is completely legal to rent out an English basement that does not adhere to the standards of an apartment. Your lease just must indicate that it is a roommate situation with boundaries. DCRA tried to come after me for this situation but when I showed them my lease agreement they backed off and dropped it. You also need to let your insurer know what you are doing, and there are some risks a homeowner takes with a roommate that you do not get with a registered apartment.

  • As a renter, I’d tell you that if you’re leasing out your basement people are going to be willing to pay MUCH more for a private entrance, than they would be for a shared entrance or an egress window. I would expect to pay several hundred a month LESS if something didn’t have a private entrance.

    • Similarly, I would be willing to pay a lot more for a front entrance than a back one (can’t tell from your post if there is already a back door out of your basement). Alleys creep me out, and I would not want to have to walk in and out of one at night to get into my place–I’d pay more to have a front entrance.

  • My current house already has a separate english basement apartment with front entrance, but I had thought about doing this at my old house. The estimate I got was $10K. Another friend of mine who was thinking of doing the same also got an estimate around $10K. I’m sure that is a starting price though.
    As far as value added, It is immense if you want to rent it out. A front entrance is much more desirable to a renter than a back entrance or having to share your entrance. Currently we are using Airbnb to rent our apartment and we would not be able to command the price we do if not for the separate front entrance and full apartment (full kitchen, one bed, one bath).

    • Not to mention if you actually have a “walkout” basement entrance that’s not some under stair door that you have to lean over to walk in – that’s a lot more attractive and feels much less like a basement. When I first moved to DC, I looked at some English Basements and only really considered ones that were more ground-level than basement. It’s a big difference.

  • MIL recently installed a fire-compliant egress window in Montgomery County to make it a legal basement in-law suite. Also added a few walls to create a real bedroom in the open basement, plus drywall and painting This required a dig out, installation of window, adding a drain to remove water, flip cover over egress shaft. No stairs.
    Total cost was just over $10K. Used her usual handyman and a couple of his “guys.” The dig out was a PITA.

  • With separate bathroom and kitchen, it would add at least $30,000 in value when you go to sell because the buyer would assume they could command at least $1,000 (up to $2,500 if it has a couple bedrooms or is really nice apartment). I rented a basement apartment with separate entrance for $2,400 a month on 11th & T.

    • I was going to say that seemed high but Zillow says that’s par for the course except for 1 cheap 2bdr in that area.

    • Does your basement have stairs? Its definitely desirable to have separate entrance, but also getting rid of the stairs connecting main house with basement makes it even more desirable (which I doubt the OP thought about).

      • If a unit has connecting stairs, it can’t get a Certificate of Occupancy and therefore can’t be a legal rental… but I doubt tenants care all that much about stairs/lack of stairs.

        • If it has connecting stairs, can’t you still rent it out as if it was a “roommate” situation?

          • Yes, but the room/house still has to pass DCRA inspection, and most basement rooms don’t have tall enough ceilings to qualify.

          • You still need two forms of egress to legally rent out a basement, even in a “roommate” scenario. So either a front or back door off the basement or a large enough window that passes legal requirements in an egress shaft (this is in addition to the internal staircase that goes up in to the main house – Egress #1).

  • With a door and an egress window you can get a CofO for it. So legal cash. And if you do that then many lenders will allow you to count up to 75% of proven rental income as income on a financing application. So increased $ options. It’s a good deal if you’ve the necessary ceiling height, IMO.

    • For a C of O, you’d also need to have separately paneled electrical systems — the panel controlling everything in the basement would need to be in the basement, and the panel controlling everything in the upstairs would need to be upstairs.

      • The main house panel doesn’t necessarily need to be upstairs. It just has to be accessible 24/7 to the main house without entering the basement apt. I solved that by putting it just inside the rear door to the basement apt. then installing a glass pocket door that can be locked between the small foyer and the apt.

  • It all ready has the required legal egress. It’s already fully finished with the kitchen, stainless steel appliances, and a bathroom. It has a separate bedroom with a large bedroom window. The certificate of occupancy and basic business license paperwork has already been filed.

    It is below ground in the front of the house. It is above ground in the rear of the house. There is a rear door that exits to the alley.

    I’m just trying to figure out or quantify the impact or effect of putting an egress window or a separate English basement door leading to the street.

    • The only benefit creating a “legal” rental unit will give you is a higher property tax. Yours sounds like mine. A back door private entrance, starts from the interior first level to the basement, and an egress window. Rent it out as a roommate situation, your house already has a CoO.

  • It need not be widely expensive. Get some bids!! Well worth it