What is a bedroom? Seems like a simple question, but far too often it is answered incorrectly by sellers and even their agents. This simple mistake can lead to buyers wasting time looking at properties that don’t meet their needs and improper valuations based on the number of bedrooms in a home.
It is a common misconception that any room can be called a bedroom if it has any or all of these features:
- Interior door
- Electrical outlet
Building codes typically require most of these features in their design criteria for a bedroom, but just having them still does not make a room a bedroom.
So, what is a bedroom? To be an official bedroom, it must have a building permit that identifies the room as a bedroom. If it isn’t permitted as a bedroom, sellers should identify the room based on how it is currently permitted and then suggest alternate uses.
Why do cities and counties that issue building permits care about how many bedrooms are in a home? They often use the number of bedrooms in a community to estimate population density and the required capacity for public services, such as water and sewage.
Why are home sellers constrained to properly identify the permitted use for each room in their home? Truth in advertising. Also, buyers need to know if they may have problems in the future if they try to add more bedrooms or remodel a bedroom that is not properly permitted. Cities that have reached maximum capacity for infrastructure – such as water, sewer, etc. – based on the number of bedrooms in a community may be slow to issue building permits that add bedrooms.
As mentioned above, valuation is another important consideration. It is reasonable for a home with more bedrooms to be valued higher. Appraisers typically research permits when evaluating a home, sometimes surprising sellers with a lower valuation when the number of permitted bedrooms is lower than what they believed.
If you’re thinking about selling a home, ask the local building department – or other appropriate agency – for copies of all permits on file that pertain to your property. If you’re thinking about buying a property, ask the seller for permits or obtain them from the building department yourself.
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