In the past, many basements were unfinished, uninviting, dingy spaces used primarily for storage and laundry.

Walkout basements can be dramatically different --  warm, inviting spaces where families enjoy spending time.

What makes basements walkouts are doors --  typically sliding glass doors or French doors -- that enable homeowners to "walk out" of their basements into their backyards without going upstairs. Also called “daylight basements,” walkouts typically are found in houses built on lots that slope from the front of the house to the rear.

It’s hard to generalize about finishing or remodeling basements or walkouts because it varies a lot, said Mark Bales, president of Lifestyle Basement Refinishing.

Sometimes homeowners who want more living space decide to finish or remodel a basement rather than move to a bigger home.

Some homebuyers buy new homes with unfinished basements. They focus on getting the home they want but initially may not have the funds to finish the lower level, Bales said. “Sometimes they wait to see how the house is working for them” in the main living areas before tackling basement finishing.

Trends in basement finishing include family rooms (sometimes enhanced with a stone accent wall or columns, rec rooms, fireplaces and wet bars).

Some upscale lower levels have large flat-screen TVs with surround sound, theater seating and wet bar for watching sports or entertaining, said Rich Rodenburg, associate broker, agent and co-owner of Nebraska Home Sales.

Regardless of the level of finishing, potential homebuyers want a clean, dry, well-lit space with as little odor as possible. Some buyers are concerned about mold and the level of radon, a potential carcinogen, he said.

When remodeling or finishing a walkout basement, don’t eliminate all of the storage space and be sure to add a bathroom, Rodenburg said. “A fireplace is nice,  but it’s further down the list of what many home buyers want in a finished lower level.”

Although the square footage of a lower level can’t be included in the total square footage of a home in the Multiple Listings in Lancaster County and many other areas, “a finished lower level adds value in the eyes of the buyer,” he said.