Basements in Arizona just make where are they?

Real Estate Agent with South East Valley - DRE# SA528757000

One of the questions many of my buyers who are relocating to the area ask is "Why don't Arizona homes have basements?" And's not because we don't have tornadoes, so we don't need the shelter.

arizona basmentI miss basements.  Never thought I would.  Living most of my life in the Midwest, basements were always cold and damp with the constant threat of flooding during heavy rains.  The hum of  the dehumidifier was a constant.  Yep, just about every home has some sort of basement where I come from, many are unfinished storage spaces that hold a washer, dryer and maybe a freezer AND they were a great place to store all your junk.  Yes, I have a lot less junk since moving to Arizona...ok, maybe having less junk is a good thing.

The house I grew up in was built in the 1800's and it had what would be called a cellar.  Dirt floor and you could only stand up straight between the joists.  It smelled like old potatoes and was actually just a little bit more than creepy....but I digress.

Here in Arizona building "down" would create a much more energy efficient house than those that are built "up".   Heat rises, you know...and when it's 115 degrees outside you can bet your AC is going to work overtime cooling those second floor rooms.  If your secondary bedrooms were in the basement they would just naturally be cooler.  So, why aren't more builders digging basements in Arizona?

Common lore has it that basements are too expensive to build in Arizona due to the presence of rock and caliche in our soil which involves additional expense to dig through.  But the truth of the matter is, this type of "hard dig" is required only about 3% of the time and builders know ahead of time whether this is the case.

builderThe truth of the matter is in the midwest and other areas of the country where the ground freezes, foundations have to be poured below the frost line which can be up to 4 feet deep, so it doesn't cost that much more to go a few feet deeper to create a basement.  Here in Arizona, builders only have to dig 18 inches to pour the foundation, so a substantial cost and time element would have to be added to add a basement.

A basement dig will add about 30 days to a new home construction and typically, this will add a minimum of $50,000-$60,000 to the cost of the home.  This cost is for a fully complete basement...with walls, flooring, probably a bathroom...everything.

Besides being cooler, unfinished basements are a great place for storing junk.  Unfinished basements are a rarity in Arizona.  There just aren't many builders that offer an "unfinished basement" option in the area...primarily due to city ordinances that disallow it (I'm not sure why this is).  The last I heard, Scott Homes in Gilbert was the only builder offering an unfinished basement plan.

I don't know why more buyers aren't clamoring for basement homes.  Maybe it's because in a culture where "bigger is better", some home buyers don't like the fact that a home with a basement may have 3000 square feet but look like it has only 2000.

Personally, I think future buyers are going to be a lot more interested in energy efficiency than anything else.  So come on home builders...start digging!

Here's a list of builders that have offered basement may be worth a call to see if they still do...and of course, I'm happy to do the research for you!

BSI Real Estate
Beazer Homes
Classic Stellar Homes
Continental Homes
Forte Homes
Fulton Homes
Golden Heritage Homes
Great Western Homes
M/I Homes
Monterey Homes
Ryland Homes
Scott Homes
Sivage Thomas Homes
Southwest Homebuilders
T.W. Lewis Company
Toll Brothers
VIP Homes

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Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Ha....good point...I'm not sure either...

Jun 01, 2010 02:27 PM #1
Craig Chapman
Call Realty / Access Appraisals - Mesa, AZ
The Value Guy

Good points.  From what I've seen over the years, it seems that mostly, the only basements being offered were very expensive per sq ft compared to the rest of the house.  The builders like to explain it costs a lot to excavate, & so on, but what I found out in 2002 when I built my own custom home & was my own general & subbed the work out was this.  I put a 600 SF basement under part of my house at a minimal cost. It was the cheapest Sq Ft I could have added.  It is very economical to heat & cool. It took the digger 1/2 a day to dig it out.  The cement guys were there quickly to put in the forms & with in a week or so we had all the cement poured for the basement. I think there is a real demand for affordable green homes with basements here in AZ & the builder who steps up to the plate to deliver will sell, sell, sell. 

Its kind of like the hybrid cars.  If they sold them for a cost where it was a real savings to people, most people would buy them, but they price them so high, it washes out most of the savings & so few do buy.   Same thing with the basement homes, mostly the builders price them so high, it discourages many from buying.  It should not be hard to figure out.  Hope some smart forward looking builder gets it right. 

Jun 04, 2010 12:56 PM #2
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