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A basement is an underground -- or partially underground -- lower level of a home. Basements can be finished into living spaces or unfinished. In the Northeast and the Midwest, the majority of single-family homes have basements.
A basement can tell a home inspector a lot about the state of a home. For one thing, it gives him or her a good look at the foundation and support beams of the house. Bowed or crumbling walls indicate a likely foundation problem. Cracked beams or those with evidence of insect activity are also a problem. In addition, basements often have water problems, especially in low lying areas. Lastly, a basement frequently houses the building's mechanical systems, such as the furnace and water heater, and the inspector can access these important systems while checking out the basement.