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:
- It has a door that can be closed.
- 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?