Game room or theater in basement space

12 Replies

We are new to the STR business, having just purchased a 5br 3ba home in Sevierville/Pigeon Forge, TN area. The home has been doing well as vacation rental for 15 years prior to our purchase, but we are making some improvements. The pool table currently in the house is not in great shape and probably will need to be replaced soon. My question is, should we buy a new one or build a home theatre in the room currently occupied by the table? Which do renters prefer and give us a better return on investment? There would still be room a small arcade/game area in another part of the basement.

If your STR has fast internet, I would suggest a home theater with either a smart TV or an HDTV with a Roku. You could even put a kegorater in there. I've built 4 of them myself.

All of the above. Pool table is par for the course around here. If you have room get a giant tv a couch and re cover that pool table.

@Luka Milicevic thanks bud

@Christina P. Kegerator is bad idea. They’ll already be drunk enough from the local moonshine. And you don’t want to encourage them to stay inside. Get them out. We are huge hikers and have done every hike in the park and we can offer our knowledge to guests. Unfortunately it’s rare anyone asks us about hikes. Hardcore hikers would never spend money on a cabin lol. But the guests that do are sure to leave an amazing review.

I see you’re from Michigan. Be careful of this “basement” as Luka will agree basements basically don’t exist in Tennessee. It’s much more likely this is a crawl space posing as a basement. Which for one thing is not legal livable space, and another it will likely smell bad and have pipe issues because the pipes are supposed to be IN the crawl space, not under it. Sometimes you’ll even see a crawl space on top of a crawl space and sometimes they’re hanging off the side off the mountain. Both of which are sure to lead to cracks or “foundation issues.”

Folks rent them as livable space on cabins every day out here, just known what you’re dealing with. Local home inspectors see it so often they probably don’t even realize you wouldn’t know it’s a crawl space and might not even mention it.

I bet the pool table is just fine you can get it recovered for about $300 just pick up the phone and give them your door code.

Most importantly..... in this area if you don’t self manage you will lose money. The local PMs charge 40% or you can use evolve at 10% and stay 50% empty.

Here if you need me!

Thank you all for the input. This forum continues to be a great resource and the members are so helpful.

There isn't room to do both a theater and a pool table. We do have a large TV and sofa there now and that may have to do. The pool table has a broken leg and will probably need to be replaced, so it is not as simple as just recovering it. 

I saw some of modified crawl spaces you are talking about when we were house hunting. This is not that. I use the term basement since one wall is partially below grade and the kitchen and main living area is on the floor above. The rooms have full ceiling height and there are windows and an outside door and the plumbing is in the walls/ceiling. It is more like the first floor. The main entrance (kitchen level) is actually up a flight of stairs.

Going with a property manager for now at 30% plus linen, pest, etc. So closer to 34- 35%. Self managing is not an option right now since my husband and I both work full time. Maybe in a few years once we know better what we are doing. The rental history is strong and we have run the numbers and should be making a good profit even with the manager. Hopefully. I know I need to manage the manager to make sure we are getting results.

I self managed from a distance from the get go. Now I have 5 of them in your market. And I have a day job. Which I only do because I enjoy it.
Self managing is easy. Very. Very easy. And fun. And I bring in huge numbers and go on vacation often.

It doesn’t take a few years to learn. It takes a couple of apps which download in about 2 seconds. But I get it it’s not for everyone!!!!

What does the upstairs living room look like?  If you already have an area with a big TV/Netlifx/Hulu and plenty of seating, then putting a theatre in the basement would be redundant.  

A game room would offer something different from the upstairs, with a pool table, board games, darts, shuffle board painted on the floor, comfy couches, etc.  Maybe a mini bar with an ice machine and popcorn maker. We thought about putting a keggerator in our beer-themed Airbnb but due to maintenance and liability concerns opted for a wine fridge instead. 

However if the upstairs living room is smaller or you don't have a TV/appropriate seating, a movie theater would be my choice. 

What are your thoughts about a mini-gym? A treadmill, elliptical, and maybe some weights/kettle bells? It's something we haven't done but have been considering for one of our unfinished basements. 

I would either just replace the felt on the pool table (cheapest option), or I'd go with the media room.  Even if the upstairs living room has ample seating and a large tv. Most of the vacations in a rental this size in this market are going to have a bunch of kids and the adults will want to have a separate living area.  Kids can be downstairs watching movies, adults can be upstairs watching ball games etc.  Media rooms have become a big selling point in this market.

I'd steer clear of the gym stuff.  That's just asking for more headaches in my opinion.  A. someone's kid drops a heavy weight and breaks their foot and you're on the hook for it or B. (more likely option) you're just putting more things in the house for guests to break and then complain about being broken.  Not worth the headache.

Originally posted by @Jenessa NeSmith :

What are your thoughts about a mini-gym? A treadmill, elliptical, and maybe some weights/kettle bells? It's something we haven't done but have been considering for one of our unfinished basements. 

 Pigeon Forge is definitely NOT the market for a mini-gym.  This is the South on vacation who go eat at Grandma's Fried Chicken and Hee-Haw's Pancake Kitchen.  Could be a good idea for longer-term business travelers, but that's not this market.

Pool tables are standard for the market if the cabin has space.  I do agree that if there's already a good media-watching space upstairs, game room is probably the way to go.  My cabin with a pool table gets what I think are a surprising number of compliments on it.

I agree with the sentiment that if you have a viewing space, then you would probably get more value from a game room. That is especially true if it is configured in a way to add a pullout to sleep another 1-2 people.

A lot of people combine the spaces if they can't decide.  If you go over to the avsforum there are 1000's of pictures of people who have done both.  Projectors can be bought pretty cheap used and so can pool tables and couches.  Foosball tables too.  It's pretty easy to get an awesome setup for not much money.  For instance off craigslist/ebay you could get:

1080p projector for under $500

row of three home theater chairs for $500 or less

Tornado foosball for under $500

Pool table sometimes for free if you move it

paint the wall for the screen and add a border, or buy a screen on amazon for $200 to $300

You can build a pretty amazing basement setup for not much money.