20 Comments
May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

we have basements in the mountains of NC, lots of houses are built on the sides of hills. I know the dirt up there is way different because now I live in Chatham County and have tried to dig a hole.

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I’d watch the Chatham County Hole Digging Contest on ESPN2.

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May 9·edited May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

I appraise residential real estate in NC and can say I don't have a whole lot to add, this piece did a really good job of laying it out. Guy I learned under always said "we don't dig basements down here" i.e. what you were saying, we will build walk-outs where the topography dictates it and/or when someone wants but don't dig out walk-ups, by and large. Broadly speaking my view is that with new stuff, it comes down to cost (excavation) and scale as you said. In the past, and I don't have hard data for this, it seems that in so many cases the raw land around here was inexpensive enough that it made more sense to build more out and up with bigger lots than down.

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

I live in the Piedmont, and I have a basement, as does at least one of my neighbors. Admittedly, it is actually above ground, but it is definitely a basement. I'd rather have a basement to put the laundry area in, since it doesn't take up living space in my small 1964 ranch house.

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May 10Liked by Jeremy Markovich

Glad to be a little more informed about the why. Growing up at the coast I always heard the water table argument, although a neighbor of mine whose distance from the water could be measured in yards had a basement.

These days I live in a house with a basement, and if I ever move again I'll look for another one. Despite being a walkout, the temperature was reasonably comfortable year round, even before we finished it and put in HVAC. It's a nice place for a workout room, storage, and is currently functioning as an apartment for a family member.

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I think it’s a swirling mix of many things but cost is the big one. I think they’ve gotten more expensive to build, but that’s just a feeling.

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

We live in a house in the NC coastal plain that has a basement under a small part of the house (the rest is over a crawlspace). It even has a Pittsburgh toilet, which I left in place, because if the sewer ever backs up, it'll back up down there and not in the house. Originally the basement had an oil furnace, the water heater, the electrical panels, and a workshop for the owner/builder. I assume he spared no expense.

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What do we call a Pittsburgh Toilet in ENC? Piedmont Potty? Wilson Water Closet?

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May 9·edited May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

There have been a handful of houses built out here on the Outer Banks with a basement, including one I know of in Waves on Hatteras Island, and a tackle shop on the Nags Head Causeway that had one that has since been filled in. But the vast majority of our homes are built on pilings for very good reasons: https://www.outerbanksbluesales.com/blog/2017/09/02/building-house-sandbar/

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Would love to know what it takes to keep water out of an OBX basement.

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

It's an interesting question, as a home buyer of 8 times over the last 25 years and former real estate broker. When we moved for a job from Charlotte to St Louis, I scoped out all the real estate listings in the neighborhoods we liked and then contacted a realtor (this was before I became a broker, when we moved back from there.) I said we wanted about a 2000 sq ft ranch with a basement. She seemed confused. Then said "um... I don't understand. Where you're from, do they build such a thing as a ranch without a basement? Why would someone want that?" So we talked about how different the soil is, the water table, etc. The house we ended up buying did have the finished basement that was as big as the upstairs, but it seems like their listings out there didn't allow them to include that square footage as usable living space. (We didn't go down there much except when tornadoes came through, but it was a godsend for getting young kids out of my hair. It was a great house, basements are fabulous as a rule.)

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

It's the clay. Our contractor had to stop excavating under a planned addition in the NC piedmont because he was worried the hard clay was going to break his machine. So the "basement" is a foot shorter than planned

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

Houston, TX has a "gumbo" clay soil that retracts in summer and the majority of homes are on slabs, so there is a chance of slab cracking with soil drying. Basically during summer heat and droughts they have to "water their slabs". https://www.housedecorationdesign.com/the-challenges-of-building-on-houstons-gumbo-soil

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

As a transplant from the Midwest, specifically the part near Tornado Alley, it seems odd to not have basements. Those are where you go when the storm gets really bad. (Before that you stand on the porch and watch for the twisters.) Not having one makes the houses here feel incomplete.

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I remember seeing this a couple years back, found it fascinating

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YquWKsi0Q8

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

A house in the Dilworth historic area in Charlotte had an owner who wanted to expand his space. The options were few. He had a lot with a mild down slope. His contractor jacket up the brick house several feet and then excavated sufficient to make a rear walk out lower level. From the street, which is key for the Historic District committee, the house appears original except for three extra steps to the front door and an oddly high foundation wall. Appearance of the home itself is unchanged but an additional living level now exists.

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

No basements in Southern California, where I now live.

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Apparently there was a belief that basements would make things worse for your house during an earthquake, but the opposite is true! https://www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-basement-side-20150509-story.html

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May 9Liked by Jeremy Markovich

Smelly and damp. I grew up in the south and never had one. When I moved North, I had them in 2 houses. I ended up putting a sump pump in one because of water and then air testing in the basement showed it could be toxic and required a special $4,000 system to make the air quality in the basement safe to breathe and avoid cancer. I moved south again and told the builder not to put in a basement. He said “don’t worry, we’re smarter than those folks.” I agreed.

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Southerners: Too smart to be Northerners!

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