When selling your house, does room count matter? What defines a room? And who gets to decide? What does the appraiser say? And how much will it affect my bottom dollar?
Who is defining the room?
Although there is some general agreement in the real estate world on what counts as a room, it can vary by state. It can also vary by who is doing the talking.
Appraisers, for example, operate under a standard called Gross Living Area (GLA), which essentially considers all above-ground space, except attics, even if the attic has been converted to a room, as part of a home’s living area.
Real estate agents will mention a finished basement or attic in marketing, but cannot count it in GLA. An appraiser will consider the value of non-GLA space to the home, but will not count it as part of GLA. This can get confusing to a seller.
Generally, it is agreed that bedrooms, living rooms, dens, kitchens, and dining rooms are counted as rooms. However, if the dining “room” is a space in a larger living room with a table chandelier, it may not count as a separate room. Laundry rooms are not considered rooms. Closets, no matter how large, are not rooms, nor are computer nooks. While it is common to see listings for “3-bedrooms, 2-bath homes,” the bathrooms are not included in total room count.
Sunrooms added after original construction may or may not qualify for room status or GLA. While an agent will describe a sunroom when marketing the home, it has to meet certain standards to count as a room or part of the official square footage of the house. If it is serviced by the same heating and air system as the rest of the house, has an entrance from inside the house, is of the same quality of construction as the rest of the house and it was properly permitted, there is a good chance an appraiser and an agent will include it in square footage and room count. Absent any one of those factors, it likely will not count in square footage. Improperly permitted rooms are not counted without full disclosure of lack of permits.
Rules for bedrooms.
Special attention is given to what is considered a bedroom. According to the International Residential Code (IRC), bedrooms must have two means of egress — one of which must open to the outside of the house. Typically, a bedroom has an interior door accessible from the house and a window capable of being opened to the outside without keys. Half or more of the ceiling must be a minimum of seven feet high. The window must have a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet; it must open at least 24 inches, and it must be between 24 and 44 inches above the floor. These are the safety standards by which builders must construct. The presence of a closet is not addressed by the IRC. Real estate agents and appraisers will likely consider it a bedroom if it has a window, interior door, and a closet.