What is a Bedroom?

Real Estate Appraiser with Preferred Appraisers, Inc. (NJ) 42RG00094600

I am periodically asked if a room qualifies as a bedroom. There are a number of sources I refer to for the answer. First, is the International Building Code (IBC).

"The International Building Code (IBC) is a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC). It has been adopted throughout most of the United States. Since the early 1900s, the system of building regulations in the United States was based on model building codes developed by three regional model code groups. The codes developed by the Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA) were used on the East Coast and throughout the Midwest Since the early 1900s, the system of building regulations in the United States was based on model building codes developed by three regional model code groups. The codes developed by the Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA) were used on the East Coast and throughout the Midwest of the United States, while the codes from the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) were used in the Southeast and the codes published by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) covered the West Coast and across to most of the Midwest. Although regional code development has been effective and responsive to the regulatory needs of the local jurisdictions, by early 1990s it became obvious that the country needed a single coordinated set of national model building codes. The nation's three model code groups decided to combine their efforts and in 1994 formed the International Code Council (ICC) to develop codes that would have no regional limitations.

After three years of extensive research and development, the first edition of the International Building Code was published in 2000. The code was patterned on three legacy codes previously developed by the organizations that constitute ICC. By the year 2000, ICC had completed the International Codes series and ceased development of the legacy codes in favor of their national successor.

Legacy codes

•·     BOCA National Building Code (BOCA/NBC) by the Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA)

•·     Uniform Building Code (UBC) by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO)

•·     Standard Building Code (SBC) by the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI)

Per the International Residential Code of 2006, "Bedrooms have minimum dimensions, light, ventilation, heating and emergency requirements. No requirements for closets as furniture may substitute for such.

A bedroom shall have a floor area of not less then 70 square feet. (R304.2)

Bedrooms shall not be less then 7 feet in any horizontal direction. (R304.4)

Bedrooms shall have a ceiling height of not less then 7 feet. The required height shall be measured from the finish floor to the lowest projection from the ceiling. (R305.1)

For a room with sloped ceiling, at last 50% of the required floor area of the room must have a ceiling height of at least 7 feet. And no portion of the required floor area may have a ceiling height of less then 5 feet. (R305.1)

All habitable rooms shall have an aggregate glazing area of not less then 8% of the floor area of the room. Natural ventilation shall be though windows, doors, louvers or other approved openings to the outdoor air. Such openings shall be provided with ready access or shall otherwise be readily controllable by the building occupants. The minimum are that can be opened to the outdoors shall be 4% of the floor area being ventilated. (R303.1)

Emergency escape and rescue openings must have a sill height of not more then 44 inches above the floor (R310.1). The size of the opening should be at least 5.7 square feet (R310.1.1), measuring no less then 24 inches in height (R310.1.2) and no less the 20 inches in width (R.310.1.3).

Bars grilles, covers, screen or similar devices are permitted provided the minimum net clear opening complies with R310.1.1 thru R310.1.3, and such devices shall be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge or force greater then that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening.

Smoke detectors shall be located (in addition to other areas) in each sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms (R313.2). They should be connected in such a manner that the actuation of one alarm will activate all of the alarms in the individual unit.

When winter temperatures are below 60 degrees F every dwelling unit shall be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68 degree F at a point 3 ft above the floor and 2 feet form exterior walls in all habitable rooms at the design temperature. The installation of one or more portable space heaters shall not be used to achieve compliance with this section."

Of course not every property we encounter in the market place fits nice and cleanly into this definition and more critical to appraisers and real estate agents is how HUD and FNMA require these rooms to be defined. They are also interested in market acceptance so where the IBC may say that the presence of a closet is not required however the market may demonstrate limited acceptance of bedrooms without closets within a particular market segment or locale. In those cases an appraiser may approach the problem by still characterizing a room as a bedroom but adjust the value based upon a cost to cure, if curable, or a market derived adjustment to value.

Fannie Mae Guidelines state that "dwellings with unusual layouts, peculiar floor plans, or inadequate equipment or amenities generally have limited market appeal. A review of the room list and floor plan for the dwelling unit may indicate an unusual layout-such as bedrooms on a level with no bath, or a kitchen on a different level from the dining room. If the appraiser indicates that such inadequacies will result in market resistance to the subject property, he or she should make appropriate adjustments to reflect this in the overall analysis. On the other hand, if market acceptance can be demonstrated through the use of comparable sales with the same inadequacies, no adjustments are required

Functional depreciation (which is traditionally referred to as functional obsolescence) is a loss in value that is caused by defects in the design of the structure-for example, inadequacies in such items as architecture, floor plan, or sizes and types of rooms. It also can be caused by changes in market preferences that result in some aspect of the improvements being considered obsolete by current standards-for example, the location of a bedroom on a level with no bathroom, or access to a bedroom only through another bedroom."

FHA Guidelines state that "as a rule basement space does not count as habitable space. If the bedroom does not have proper light and ventilation, the room can not be included in the gross living area. The following requirements apply to the valuation of below-grade rooms: The windowsill may not be higher than 44 inches from
the floor. The windowsill must have a net clear opening (width x height) of at least 24 inches by 36 inches. The window should be at ground level; however, compensating factors may allow less. In all cases, use reasonable care and judgment. If these
standards are not substantially met, the basement area cannot be counted as habitable space.

All bedrooms must have adequate egress to the exterior of the home. If an enclosed patio (solid walls) covers the bedroom window, it is possible that the bedroom
won't qualify as a habitable bedroom. Security bars are acceptable if they comply with local fire codes. Occupants of a bedroom must be able to get outside the home if there is a fire. Bedroom windows with security bars require a quick release mechanism for emergency egress."

 In summary, the classification of a room as a bedroom largely rests upon market acceptance and safety issues relative to egress. Other physical short comings can often be accounted for by either market based or cost to cure based adjustments to value.


HUD 4150.2 , Appendix D

HUD 4905.1, General Acceptability Criteria 

International Building Code (IBC) International Residential Code of 2006

FNMA Selling Guide, Appraisal Guidelines, Part B, Subpart B4, Chapter 1, Section.4

ANSI, Gross Living Area Measurement



Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Dana Hollish Hill 04/16/2013 01:23 AM

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Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

It is good to know. Yet, it will not stop sellers and their agents call almost any room as a bedroom( dens, basement rooms, etc.). I even saw a balcony that was converted into bedroom without permit, of course. I asked why? Because the price for SqFt is $700!

Apr 16, 2013 02:24 AM #1
Dana Hollish Hill
Hollish Hill Group, KW Capital Properties - Bethesda, MD
REALTOR and Productivity Coach

Great post. So many buyers are confused when they see rooms listed as bedrooms that probably shouldn't be listed that way. I took a lot of your resources and wrote this post. 


Let me know if I've written anything that seems wrong to you. 

Feb 03, 2015 02:22 AM #2
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