Bedrooms are worth money when buying a selling a home.

Buyers with large families want more bedrooms and a home with 3 or 4 bedrooms and possibly that extra room to be a guest room. And a home with more bedrooms will be worth more money than a home with 2 bedrooms.  Of course, there are diminishing returns on much more than 4 or 5 bedrooms in a home. But, the bedroom count plays a large factor in who will look at a particular home and what a home is worth.

The question becomes, is it required to have a closet in a bedroom? 

Probably, nothing upsets a buyer more to show up for a showing on a house only to find there are one or more rooms without a closet in a bedroom. 

legal definition of a bedroom

Bedroom Definition

What defines a bedroom?

The definition of a bedroom is a little more complex than does the room have a closet.  What defines a bedroom will fall back to state and local building codes.  Most states and cities will follow the International Residential Code or IRC to define what a bedroom must have to meet minimum building codes.

The IRC sets minimum standards for the construction of one and two-family dwellings and is adopted by 49 states and several countries as well.

What Is Required For A Room To Be Called A Bedroom?

First and foremost the IRC is concerned with the safety and health of a bedroom's occupants and not so much with the convenience of a closet. While the code can be quite extensive we will just touch on some of the basics of what makes a bedroom habitable in the eyes of the IRC.

Size

A bedroom must be a minimum of 70 square feet with no one dimension being less than 7 feet.  That would mean a bedroom should be no less than 7x10.  And if the room is occupied by more than one person it must provide 50 feet of floor space per person.

Frankly, by today's standard, a 7x10 ft bedroom would be unacceptable in most home buyers' eyes.

Ceiling Height

Bedrooms must have a minimum ceiling height of at least 7 feet for at least have of the ceiling area.  Often bedrooms added in cape homes or in attics have sloped ceilings.  A minimum ceiling height is required to consider a bedroom habitable.

Many towns also have specific regulations on how much of a room can be under that 7-foot height required by the IRC,

Room Access

A bedroom must have access from the general living area in a home, like a hallway or off a living room.  You can not pass through another bedroom first to gain access to a bedroom or any other room that my be considered private.

Egress

Probably one of the more important criteria is the egress from a room for safety purposes. 

A bedroom is required to have a second form of egress that leads directly to the outside of the home.  That second egress can be in the form of a door or a window that meets certain requirements.  The purpose is the occupants of the bedroom can get out in an emergency and emergency personnel can get in.

If a window is the second form of egress it is required the window is between 24 to 44 inches of the floor with a minimum opening space to get out if the window in an emergency.  The minimum opening for escape should be 20 inches wide by 24 inches high.

Light and Ventilation

A bedroom regardless of whether a window is the second form of egress does require windows.  The window requirements are that a certain amount of light and ventilation is needed to be considered habitable space.

Usually, building codes are looking for the glazing area to be a minimum of 8% of the square footage of the floor dimensions with 4% of the glazing area to be opened for the circulation of fresh air.

Heat

A room that is considered a bedroom must be able to maintain a minimum temperature of 68 degrees throughout the year.

Electrical

Two electrical outlets or one electrical outlet and overhead lights are required to meet the minimum standards for a bedroom.

Massachusetts Specific Requirements For A Bedroom

States and cities can go above and beyond the IRC for bedroom requirements. The IRC is only to set a minimum standard but your state and town can put more restrictive codes in place.

Septic

Here in Massachusetts, we have strict septic requirements.  Homes that are on septic systems rather than town sewer are approved for a certain number of bedrooms.  You cannot have four bedrooms on a three-bedroom septic design.

Smoke and CO Detectors

Massachusetts does have requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms for a bedroom.

Requirements for the type of alarm and placement in Massachusetts is dictated by the age of the homes.  Homes built today must have a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm hardwired and interconnected in each bedroom of a home.

Does A Bedroom Have To Have A Closet?

Though many will be shocked to find out the answer is no, many state or municipal codes do not require a bedroom to have a closet. 

Though you should check with your town specific codes may require a closet in bedrooms in newer building codes.  Building codes are more concerned with the safety and well-being of a bedroom's occupants than they are for convenience.

Does a bedroom have to have a closet?

The Practicality Of A Closet In A Bedroom

While many older homes may not have closets in a bedroom, modern buyers expect a bedroom to have a closet.

I can't tell you how many times a buyer shows up to a home with a bedroom without a closet and gets angry and says a bedroom legally has to have a closet.

As a home seller do not rush to find any old room to be a bedroom. Especially if it doesn't make sense.  Buyers don't want a bedroom in a converted porch off a kitchen or a bedroom in the basement with no windows and a closet.

If you truly have a bedroom with no closet it may be a smart idea to disclose that in your real estate listing

When your listing your home for sale be realistic about what is truly a bedroom and what is not. Both from the standpoint of legal issues and misleading a buyer.

Legal Issues

One thing to bear in mind is if you call out a room as a bedroom and god forbid something should happen like someone being hurt in a fire because there was not proper egress a buyer could pursue a legal claim against you.

While these types of suits are unlikely if you promote your home a certain way it could fall back on you. Work with your agent to get the bedroom counts right on your real estate listing.

Other Issues

Again while rare, I have had a client's home's occupancy permit revoked for not meeting requirements upon a fire inspection that is required in Massachusetts for a home sale. 

While the situation was resolved by removing anything in a room that made it look like a bedroom it was a major hassle and my seller almost lost a buyer over it days before closing.

infographic of what the legal requirements of a bedroom are and whether it needs a closet

 

What To Call An Extra Room That Might Not Fit The Definition Of A Legal Bedroom?

As a home seller, you may have been using a room as a bedroom that does not qualify as a bedroom.  So how do you call out that room?

Some buyers certainly want that "flex" room that can be used as an office, den, gym, playroom, craft room etc...

Work with your listing agent to define that extra room that will appeal to as many home buyers as possible.  The appeal can be very regionally specific.  Right now after the aftermath of Covid-19 many home buyers are looking for that extra room that can be used as an office.

Presenting Your Bedroom In Its Best Light

Because bedrooms can be so valuable you want to show off your bedroom's potential. Here are some tips that can make you buyers fall in love with your bedrooms.

  • Make your bedrooms look like a bedroom.  Some sellers have that spare bedroom that becomes a catch-all room with no actual bed in it.  If you have a room that should be a bedroom show it off as a bedroom
  • Edit the room to make it spacious and have a good flow.  A bedroom doesn't need much to define it as a bedroom.  It needs a bed, a nightstand and a dresser.  That's about it.  Make sure you leave enough space to comfortably navigate the bedroom.  Often for convenience, we stuff dresser and other furniture in a small bedroom to make storage more convenient.  Remember how you live in a home is very different than how you show a home.
  • No headboard?  Buy some pillows so you can create a headboard with pillows instead of just a bare wall.
  • Organize your closets.  Get rid of the items you aren't using and store away out-of-season clothes.  Show the buyers you have plenty of bedroom storage.
  • Light it up.  Make sure during showings all windows and drapes are open and blinds are up.  Don't make it look cavernous if possible.
  • Declutter all surfaces.  No one wants to see your nightstand or dresser cluttered with personal items.
  • Keep it gender-neutral.  Choose neutral colors that can work for any gender.

Summary

Bedrooms are an important part of a homebuyers wants and need list.  As a seller and your want to make more money don't mislead a buyer into thinking there are more bedrooms than there really are, it just alienates the buyer when they actually show up.

Like any home renovation where you are trying to improve the value of your home, check with the local building codes to make sure your bedroom addition or conversion meets the local building codes of a bedroom.

At the end of the day, a bedroom does not need to have a closet to be a bedroom, but there are definitely some safety requirements to make it a legal bedroom.  Does that include a closet....no!

 

Is That Room Really A Bedroom, it doesn't have a closet? is provided by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Realty.  If you are looking for an exceptional buyer's agent or an outstanding listing agent in Essex County or Northern Middlesex County in Massachusetts call me at 978-360-0422.  I will put my 20 years of experience and success to work for you.