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Find some forgotten square footage in the basement

Sometimes, when faced with what we shall euphemistically describe as a  basement with issues, a real estate agent’s natural inclination might be just  to shut the door quietly and tiptoe away, hoping that a buyer will fall in love  with the rest of the house.

But in space-crazed Manhattan,  every inch counts — even a lower level that’s so paint-splattered that it might  have caused artist Jackson  Pollock to recoil.

Except that this homeowner wasn’t using all of that valuable lower-level  square footage — about 800 square feet, total — for any of those rather  traditional purposes. This was a studio for a painter, one whose canvases were  not filled with delicately daubed idyllic landscapes.

“His paint was a mixture of glue and acrylic and shellac and all  sorts of things — it was incredibly sticky,” Swift said. “It was  even all over the powder room, because that was where he cleaned his brushes.”

This lower-level space, which was used as an artist’s studio, presents a serious challenge for the seller. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Swift.

Swift, who also does home staging, convinced the seller that the lower  level had to be portrayed as “livable” and that would-be buyers  needed to be able to realize how they might use the space.

To save costs, the homeowner installed sheet-vinyl flooring over the  existing paint extravaganza in the would-be recreation room.

“It’s not the most high-end flooring, but it looked so much better,”  she said. “Four hundred square feet doesn’t seem like a lot, but to have a  bonus room in New York  — that’s pretty nice. You could have two work stations there, or a recording  studio.”

The hard work came at the hands of a painter who laboriously scraped the  paint splatters that covered every wall surface in the 800-square-foot space,  then applied a neutral color. Two couches that seemed to be too big in their  existing spots upstairs came down to help create the “recreation room”  feeling.

“It’s a 1,600-square-foot duplex, a unique property, with the main  living area and bedrooms on the street level,” explained Kathryn Swift, an  agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in New York.

“Downstairs, there’s a 400-square-foot recreation room, plus a  separate media room or home office and a half bath.”

Sheet-vinyl flooring, some wall-scraping and a fresh coat of paint creates livable space from this space’s previous use as an artist’s studio. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Swift.

The bigger lesson, she said, is that home sellers mustn’t squander a  home feature — in this case clean, usable square footage — in a market that  is hot for that one feature.

“If it’s a ranch-style house where your living is all one level and  you have a sprawling, unfinished basement, you may be able to overlook what’s  down there,” she said. “But this apartment was 800 square feet on the  main floor and 800 on the lower level — half the entire space.”

After the makeover, the owner opted, instead, to rent out the unit, and  found a tenant easily — one who was attracted, no doubt, by the possibilities  of that lower-level space.

And he’s no longer indulging his artistic inclinations in his own  residence.

“Oh, he has a separate studio now,” she said. “That  certainly has changed.”

Article Courtesy of Inman News by Mary  Umberger


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