Real Estate 101a - What is a 'Bedroom?'

By
Real Estate Agent with Preview Properties, Skagit, LLC

Welcome!  This is a series of articles that I've cooked up to describe the basic terms that appear in Real Estate transactions. 

Recently, I had new 'first time' buyers that I took out on a tour to show properties... and I realized that most of the common terms that we take for granted are... well, unclear to most first time buyers!

Disclaimer: All of the stuff that follows is according to Washington State Real Estate law, rules, and practices and etc.  Other states may have their own interpretation of this and similar terms.  Right?  Right.

So for this installment of Real Estate 101: What, exactly, is a 'bedroom?'

The legal definition of a bedroom, for the purposes of Real Estate is simple: it is a room, attached to the main structure of a single-family home, that has two crucial features:

  1. It has a door that can be closed.
  2. It has a closet.

Simple, eh?  Well, not really.  And here's where we get into trouble... and where some Real Estate agents may (intentionally or otherwise) misrepresent a property that they've listed.

What if it's a good-sized room, currently used as a bedroom, but it doesn't have a closet?
Nope.  Per definition, it's not a bedroom.  A bedroom must have a closet.  In this case, it's a 'bonus room' or 'recreation room' or 'sitting room' or 'home office room' or something like that.  But not a bedroom.

What if there's a room with a closet, but somebody removed the door?
That's a bedroom.  Assuming the door can easily be replaced, and someone hasn't knocked out a lot of wallboard and plaster to make the entry wider... to the point where it's unlikely that a door can be re-installed.  This is a gray area.  Many Listing Agents would still call this a 'bedroom.'

What if there's a room with a closet, but it can only be reached from outside the house, meaning a door that opens to the great outdoors?
That's a bedroom.  Weird, eh?  This is attractive to owners who want to rent one or more rooms, but it's still a bedroom.  Hope that there's a bathroom that can be accessed from such a room!

What if there's a room with a closet, but it's in a separate building out in the backyard?
That's not a bedroom.  That's an 'outbuilding' that has a room with a closet.  It's not counted in the 'bedroom count' of the single-family dwelling.

What if somebody converted a closet by removing the door(s), and putting up shelves - to make it like a 'home office' storage space where you could put books and stuff?
That's still a bedroom.  A pickup-truck-visit to Home Depot could turn it back into a Real Closet in an afternoon's time.

What about old 'Victorian Era' homes - where closets were never a consideration?  Where a 'closet' was seperate furniture that you placed in the room to make it a bedroom? 
This is another gray area.  There are many 100-year-old homes that have no closets in any of the rooms - yet 2, 3, 4, or 5 of the rooms were clearly intended to be 'bedrooms.'  But by definition, none of these rooms are 'bedrooms.' 

What about attic space that's been finished... nice floors, walls and ceilings... and a cute little stairway that leads up to it?
Does it include a closet?  If so, that's a bedroom.

What about the same attic space that doesn't have a stairway?  Instead, you have to pull down a ladder to get to it?
Nope - not a bedroom.  That's part of the attic.  Even if it's nicely finished, and has a closet.

Well, there you have it.  Bedrooms are complicated things.  How many bedrooms do you really have in your home?

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Anonymous #7
Anonymous
Pat

Really?  That's my problem too. I bought a 3 which is technically a 2.  We'll just add a small closet in the guest bedroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2008 10:36 PM
Anonymous #8
Anonymous
kris b.

my house is 89 years old. the county lists it as a 2 bedroom however the "2nd bedroom" is fairly small and has no closet. my agent has been a bit concerned about this so i put an armoire in it, but another agent who showed it got fairly upset & threatened to report him to the nw mls. i have actually come across quite a few homes in the area that realtors list as 2 bedrooms even when not all the "bedrooms" have closets. it really seems like a double standard or that not all realtors follow the same rules. i just don't particularly understand why it would need a closet. in many older homes across the U.S. and in other countries, bedrooms don't have closets. they have "built-ins" or just use armoires.

February 18, 2009 12:08 AM
Anonymous #9
Anonymous
electrolock

We bought a house listed as the 2nd floor having 3 bedrooms. The same realtor is now saying she has to sell it as a 2 bedroom because there is no closet in one room. what recourse do we have as far as being taxed for the value of 3 bedrooms and also the same realtor telling us this when we want to sell but not when we bought?

February 07, 2011 06:27 PM
Anonymous #10
Anonymous
Paul

There is no written law saying a room must have a closet in order to be a bedroom. I challange anyone to show me this...

I have done extensive research with New Jersey and my Borough to find that the tax assessor decided, as well as a realtor, to tell me my 3 bedroom is a 2 bedroom. I put them both on the spot to provide me with documentation supporting this. Neither could do so and decided to change my records. THIS IS WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS!! My tax assessor told me it's just a general rule they follow. I'm sorry, but a rule is not a rule if not presented and voted on before the people. My grandmother had an armoire and a dresser. Who are they to tell us we can't list it as a bedroom! My assessor says the house is taxed on square footage, but it was valued higher when I bought it as a 3 bedroom, give me a break!!

 

Sorry for the level of frustration... My wife and I are upset, not only because of our home, but what about the homes being sold as 2 bedrooms. They miss out on all the searches done for a 3 bedroom.

March 27, 2011 08:48 PM
Anonymous #11
Anonymous
Kelly Collins

I have a home where our "master bedroom with an attached bath does not have a closet in it.  Does the attached master bathroom allow this space to be considered a bedroom?

June 01, 2012 03:40 PM
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