This past week was my coffee-klatch date with some of the builders in town, where we toss around thoughts for what is going on in the local real-estate market, buyer trends in what is desired in today’s housing, and other important stuff, such as the good old days, when creating and selling housing stock was much simpler.

One of the main discussions on the table was how most homebuyers today prefer homes with nice-size basements–preferably finished–to add to the existing interior living space in whatever size home they are looking to purchase.

Now this might not ordinarily seem to be much of an interesting subject. “So what if most people want basements?” you say. “This is nothing new; just give them basements.” Well, this might sound easy in concept, but this has become a real problem for those looking for housing in the Five Towns as well as builders looking to build housing customized to the desires of the purchasing public.

Because the Five Towns is located in an area surrounded by water, such as Mott Creek, Reynolds Channel, Lee Lake, and even the Atlantic Ocean, building basements in many locations around town has always been a challenge. Add to this the many locations in town with very high underground water tables, and the challenge becomes even more complex.

In past years, builders either took the cheaper and less difficult way and built splits, hi-ranches, or regular ranches on slab or crawlspace, thus avoiding the problematic issue of digging a basement, or took the more expensive approach and built basements to go with homes they could market at a higher price to absorb the extra cost of the added basement. Even those builders taking this approach to add the premium basement typically needed to add sump pumps to keep those basements dry because of the high water table or possible occasional flooding in low-lying areas during a storm.

Fast-forward to 2012. New regulations coming from different governmental agencies now preclude any basement construction in many of our Five Towns locations. Though builders need to become more creative in how to engineer needed storage space within their new construction as much as possible to replace the loss of those valuable basements, they still have not really come up with alternatives to the missing living space provided by a large basement that is desired by today’s buyer.

How to provide additional living space in new construction within the parameters of the lot sizes the builders are using while staying within the zoning codes allowed by the villages and townships has now become a big challenge that is affecting all builders wanting to do new construction within the Five Towns.

For the present time, it seems that the builders are trying to shy away from any buildable lots where they cannot build a basement, rather than taking chances on building new construction without those basements, which has been tried somewhat and found to be very difficult to sell.

We’ve reached a time when finding building lots with the ability to dig basements is becoming harder and harder, and new solutions in home styles and layouts must be created to compensate for the loss of these basements and make the new construction desirable for the homebuyer. Finding this elusive solution is now going to become the future challenge for builders in our area. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to

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