Can You Call It a Bedroom?

Can You Call It a Bedroom?

If you work in real estate, you should have a decent idea of what adds value to a home and what doesn’t.

Even if you don’t work in real estate, you may still understand that remodeling a  kitchen will (usually) increase your value more than, say, adding a closet.  For anyone who doesn’t know, there are typically three major types of rooms that will get you the most bang for your buck when updating a house:

 

Kitchens & Bathrooms

 

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Kitchens are easy to identify-  there’s usually a set of appliances, counters, cupboards, faucets…  we don’t really need to explain what a kitchen is.  Having an updated kitchen will basically always add value to a home.

 

For the most part, it’s pretty easy to tell if a room is a bathroom or not.  Is there a toilet?  It’s a half-bath.  Is there a toilet AND a shower/tub?  It’s a full bath.  Full baths are typically worth more than half-baths- and that’s all you need to know about bathrooms.

 

…but what about bedrooms?  What makes a bedroom a bedroom?

 

Real Estate Appraiser

Just because your sofa is comfy enough to sleep on doesn’t mean your living room counts.

 

 There are four

major requirements

that a bedroom

must meet to be

considered a

bedroom.

 

 

 

 

 

1. The length and width of a bedroom must be at least 7 feet in both directions.

70 sq ft is the assumed minimum in most cases, but technically speaking, 7×7  length by width is the absolute bare minimum for a bedroom (although I’d still rather not stay in one that small.)

 

Real Estate Appraiser Real Estate Appraisal Bedroom2. A bedroom ceiling must be at least 7 feet tall.

When it comes to attic or upper-floor bedrooms with slanted ceilings, technically only 50% of the ceiling has to be at least 7 ft. tall.  Based on this, you actually could have a little 7 x 7 x 7 room added onto your house and call it a bedroom, as long as it has…

 

3. A bedroom must have two methods of exit.

It must be accessible from inside the house, and then have another entrance or exit.  Usually, this is a window and a door.  It could be a balcony exit, a walk-out exit from a finished basement, or even just an entrance to another room in the house.  Just two ways in and out.

 

4. A bedroom must have a method of escape (different from the entrance/exit).

The ruling on this is different depending on where you live, but it’s still more specific than the two methods of entrance/exit mentioned above.  Some states require this exit to lead directly to the exterior of the property (typically a window), some do not;  but the escape must lead to a path from which you can access the exterior.  If this method of escape is a window, it must at least 24 inches from the floor, measure at least 24 inches high by 20 inches wide, and have at least a 5.7 sq ft opening.  Let’s say a bedroom with no windows has two doors- one leading to its private master bath, and leading to the hallway.  If the state requires an exit to the exterior of the property, there are technically two entrances to the room, but no method of escape.  If this describes your house, then… sorry- it’s not a bedroom.

 

[Update] 

We received a question about the required height for window exits.  A windows is technically required to be BETWEEN 24″ and 44″ inches from the ground, however as long as your average person can climb through in case of an emergency, the maximum height is often overlooked.

 The largest exception to this would be in split-level homes or basement bedrooms, where below-grade windows are typically much higher from the ground.  These windows don’t count as exits- unless you want to squeeze through a window 5 feet from the floor while your house is burning down.

[Update]

 

 Doesn’t a bedroom need to have a closet…?

It’s a common misconception that a bedroom NEEDS to have closet to qualify as a bedroom.  The International Residential Code doesn’t actually require it, so if you have a kid who’s afraid of the monster in the closet, he can take the room without one.

Is closet space worth the risk of letting in monsters? Your call.

Is closet space worth the risk of letting in monsters? Your call.

 

Ultimately, it depends on the architecture of the home.  In homes built in the last 50 years or so, it’s pretty common for bedrooms to have a closet, and it would be unusual to label a closet-less room a bedroom.  If a property is more than 50 years old and has no closets in any of the bedrooms, does it technically have “0” bedrooms?  Of course not.  It all depends on the property.

 

 

 

 

Washington Appraiser Jonathan Montgomery is the founder and president of the The Real Estate Appraisal Group, and has been a real estate professional since 1998. He has been a broker, an investor, and currently works full-time  as an appraiser.  He enjoys handling real estate appraisals in Washington D.C., Southern Maryland, and Northern Virginia. 

 

 

 #treagroup #realestate

11 Comments

  1. Great article. Many sellers and agents need to read this article!

    Reply
    • We couldn’t agree more Anh- we also feel that more real estate APPRAISERS should read this article too. It’s good to make sure your real appraiser is familiar with this rule. If they’re inexperienced, they might label your 5 bedroom single-family as a 4 or 3 bedroom.

      Reply
  2. Good article. A lot of my clients get hung up on the “must have a closet to be a bedroom” issue.

    Reply
    • I’d imagine some clients could be pushy there. We’ve seen a “study” in a comp photo before that had huge windows and led to a private bath, yet had no closet. I would’ve happily slept there.

      Reply
  3. Excellent details. Very important to know about the two methods of escape; a basement w/o a back door should never be used as a bedroom. Thx.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed the article. Below-grade bedrooms can still be safe in some split-level homes, or any property with a walk-out basement. While there might not be a door, as long as the bedroom is on walk-out level then the windows should work alright. As long as there are windows. Hopefully there are windows.

      Reply
  4. This is a great article. I have seen many “bedrooms” that simply aren’t – and I have actually had a client (a buyer) who was very upset at one house that had one of the unbedrooms… Thanks!

    Reply
    • Those agents who try to call a study or rec room a bedroom are definitely out there, then they hide behind the no-closet-rule for justification. Usually you can tell if a room can serve as a bedroom by asking a simple question, and “could I sleep in that room?” is not that question. “Would I WANT to sleep in this room?” is the question- if the answer is yes, it’s probably safe to call it a bedroom.

      Reply
  5. Great topic and well explained Jonathan. As an appraiser, I’m always being asked, “Does this count as a bedroom?” My answer is usually, “If the typical buyer would consider it a bedroom, then I would consider it a bedroom for the purpose of a reasonable comparison.”

    Reply
    • Gary, exactly. I remember seeing comp photos on one property that was listed as a 2 bedroom, yet the “study” had large windows, was very spacious, and had a door to a private full bath. For the purpose of a reasonable comparison, there was no doubt calling that a bedroom would upset a buyer.

      Reply
  6. Jon, This is a great article with such a pragmatic approach to defining a bedroom. I really appreciate you sharing this with Realtors.

    Reply

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