Select Page

In the past, basements have at times been thought of as something of an afterthought in considerations of the value of a home. Frequently unfinished and used primarily as storage space, basements are traditionally not included in the listed total square footage of a house on the market. However, in recent years, many developers have used underground levels in a variety of new and impressive ways to increase the value of upper-class homes.

One of the cities best exemplifying this phenomenon is London. As above-ground expansions have been increasingly restricted by local ordinances, wealthy homeowners have turned to so-called “iceberg” basements in order to expand their homes. Named after the fact that icebergs have most of their volume underwater, iceberg basements are disproportionately large underground additions to existing homes.

A number of wealthy Londoners have sought to add considerable space to their homes in this way, including billionaire Jon Hunt. Hunt, the founder of the British real estate agency Foxtons, was recently granted permission to add a colossal subterranean addition to his home near the residence of the French ambassador, including a tennis court, a swimming pool, and a car museum.

Giant basements have also recently gained popularity in California. A 2008 restriction on the size of houses in Los Angeles only applied to above-ground space, so iceberg basements have gained popularity with people seeking to increase the size of their homes. However, a number of similar projects have also been completed elsewhere in southern California. For example, in Orange County, one house was recently built with a basement containing 5,000 square feet of space. It contained, among other things, a driving range for golf aficionados. In addition, one Beverly Hills mansion long under construction by developer Mohamed Hadid will use reflected lighting and crystal panels to give an underground Turkish bath the appearance of having a skylight receiving outside lighting.

Another notable example of an extremely large California basement is the underground portion of the mansion known as Hacienda de la Paz. This massive home in Los Angeles County consists of six levels. Of these, one is above ground and five are underground. The underground facilities include a ballroom, a Turkish spa, and a wine cellar.

The construction of extraordinary new underground additions to houses has become increasingly common in recent years. The many examples of this trend demonstrate how desirable a feature an impressive basement has become among buyers of upscale homes, suggesting that larger-than-life underground levels may continue to be a factor in the real estate market for many years to come.