Can I call this a Bedroom?

bigstock_Tape_Measure_1821179A few years back I took over a listing from another agent who was unable to sell it.  The owners weren’t terribly happy.  They had spent a lot of money staging the place, and as absentee owners, they were bleeding money for 4 long months.  So what was the problem?  Expectations were too high.  You see, the previous agent called it a 4 bedroom house (and priced it as a 4BR house), when it was anything but.  Anybody coming into that house expecting a lot of room was going to be immediately disappointed, and probably leave grumbling about their wasted time, instead of focusing in on the positive aspects of the house.

So, what defines a bedroom?  Within the metropolitan DC market, including Montgomery County, MD, a bedroom can be defined as such:

  • Bedroom must measure a minimum 70 sq. ft.
  • It must have a heat source.
  • At least one appropriate sized window (not less than 24″ high or 20″ wide, and a minimum 5.7 sq. ft. opening width x height, with both sashes operable). I’ve been told that a fireman with all of his gear has to be able to fit through this window.
  • It must have at least one closet– permanently framed or permanently assigned wardrobe.
  • Minimum ceiling height of 7′.
  • It must have a privacy door with a handle to the room.
  • Access to the bedroom must not pass through another sleeping room.
  • Circuit interrupters on electrical outlets.
  • Basement bedrooms may not be used for sleeping unless it meets Housing Code requirements for light, ventilation and emergency egress.  Must get approval from the Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The house I was trying to sell had 2 original bedrooms on the second floor.  One of them had been awkwardly carved into 2 rooms. In doing so, they failed the old “thou shall not pass through one bedroom to the next” rule.  The “4th” bedroom was in the basement, and was legit on paper, but just a tad depressing.  What was my solution?  First, I got the pricing in order.  I then advertised it as a 3-bedroom home.  In the 2-bedroom suite I stuck a note up on the wall stating that it was in fact 1-bedroom, and that the wall could easily be removed to create one large room OR it could remain intact (but not up to code) as 2 rooms.  Oh, and I staged the basement room to the best of my ability, showing the potential for a bedroom (this had not been done previously).  A little paint, some yard clean up, and a few other critical fixes, and the place was ready to go.

It’s about managing expectations (buyers and sellers). It also helps to understand the minimum requirements for a bedroom.

It sold in 5 days.

2 thoughts on “Can I call this a Bedroom?

  • January 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Understanding the requirements of a home you are trying to sell is paramount…for my waterfront homes I do due diligence to ensure all permits, dockage rights & surveys are adequate to support the advertising. Your site is very cool.

  • November 15, 2016 at 11:01 am

    You mentioned that basement bedrooms may not be used for sleeping unless they meet Housing Code requirements for light, ventilation and emergency egress. What are these requirements? Also you noted that it is necessary to get approval from the Department of Housing and Community Affairs. How could I find out if a previous owner got this approval?

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