How Is a Bedroom Defined in Real Estate?

Windows are a requirement in most bedroom definitions.

Windows are a requirement in most bedroom definitions.

It’s perfectly acceptable to set up a bed and sleep in any part of your house where you feel comfortable. However, merely snoozing in a room doesn’t transform it into a bedroom. For real estate purposes -- listings, appraisals and property taxes -- your local housing authority defines a bedroom using a very specific checklist of requirements.

International Residential Code

Although the International Residential Code, or IRC, isn’t a binding legal definition, many housing codes use it as a guideline. Under IRC standards, the bedroom must be at least 70 square feet in size and at least 7 feet wide. Ceilings can’t be lower than 7 feet, 6 inches. If the ceiling is sloped, at least half of it must meet minimum height standards. A bedroom must also have a window to provide light, ventilation and an emergency escape route. Windows must be at least 8 percent of the square footage of the room.

Local Building Codes

State codes aside, nearly all municipalities set their own standards when it comes to a legally-defined bedroom. In metropolitan areas with many suburbs and unincorporated areas, slight variations in code requirements for a bedroom may vary significantly within a few miles. You'll need to check your area building codes for the guideline for standardized bedrooms.

Agents' Definition

Real estate agents don’t always use a strict interpretation of building code when it comes to bedrooms. According to Bob, they typically classify any room with a window, a closeable door and a closet as a bedroom.

Non-Conforming Bedrooms

Sometimes real estate listings also mention “nonconforming bedrooms.” These rooms are usually areas large enough to comfortably serve as a bedroom, but don’t meet code standards. One example is a bedroom in a basement with windows you couldn't get out of in an emergency. If an appraisal lists a non-conforming bedroom as legitimate, the assessed value of your home may be artificially inflated.


About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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