Does a Bedroom Need a Window To Be Legal?

Does a Bedroom Need a Window?

Does a Bedroom Need a Window To Be LegalMarketability is the name of the game in real estate. If you can make your listing sound better than the other homes for sale you may be able to sell it quicker or for more money.

Bedrooms are one of those features of a home that sounds good if there are more of them. I get calls all of the time from real estate agents asking if a certain room can be considered a bedroom.

While buyers expect a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a home, after you get to a certain number the additional value of more of them begins to diminish. For example, a large number of homes have three bedrooms, however, as the number increases to 4, 5, or 6 each one contributes less and less to the overall value.

Two Components to Value

Of course, there are other ways to look at this as well. There are two components to the value of a bedroom including the utility of the room to be used as a bedroom and also the actual square footage that it occupies in the house.

Even though you may not be able to call a room a bedroom it will still contribute to value by virtue of the fact that it has square footage. The value will be accounted for whenever adjustments are made for the difference in square footage between the subject and sales.

What Does The Market Say?

During an appraisal assignment, the appraiser will look for market trends to determine what is common and expected in the area. If the majority of homes have 3 or 4 bedrooms there probably will not be any significant value differences between the two.

For example, if the home being appraised has three bedrooms and a comparable sale has four there may not be any adjustment made for the difference in bedrooms, however, there may be an adjustment for variations in square footage. The exact amount of the adjustment will be determined by analyzing the sales to determine the contributory value of the extra square footage.

Problems usually arise whenever the number of bedrooms is significantly less than what is expected in the neighborhood. So if we use my example above where 3-4 bedrooms are typical and you have a home that only has one bedroom then you will probably see a negative reaction from buyers.

Building Code Requirements For Bedrooms

So now that we have the details of how appraisers look at bedrooms out of the way we can look at our original question: does a bedroom need a window? For this, we’ll need to see what the International Residential Code (IRC) says. The IRC sets regulations for one and two-bedroom dwellings.

Among other things, it includes specific requirements for components such as building, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical items that are used in construction. The following are items that pertain to rooms that are to be called bedrooms.

  • Must have a minimum of 70 square feet (sf) of area
  • Cannot be less than 7 feet (ft) in width
  • Cannot be less than 7 ft in height
  • If the room has a sloped ceiling the portion that is 5 ft or higher is all that can be included and no less than half of the floor area can have a ceiling height of less than 7 ft.
  • They must have windows with sizes of at least 8% of the floor area and the windows must be able to be opened by occupants (for safety reasons in case of an emergency). This means that they cannot be fixed pane windows or painted shut and unable to be opened.
  • The window sill cannot be higher than 44 inches (in), cannot be smaller in area than 5.7 sf, and the height cannot be less than 2 ft or width less than 20 in.

As you can see, the IRC includes very specific guidelines that include the need for the room to have a window if it is to be called a bedroom. The bottom line is that if the room does not have a window it cannot be called a bedroom.

This may or may not affect its value depending on how many other bedrooms it has. As I stated previously, an analysis of the market to determine what is typical would help with this question.

Question

Do you have any other questions about bedrooms and whether a room can be considered one? If so, leave a comment below and as always, thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. Nice post as always, Tom. I saw a house the other day that had 5 bedrooms and no closets 😉

  2. Paul Oliver says

    Other factors to consider when determining if a room is a bedroom- whether the room has closet space; whether there is direct egress to a hallway without having to access another bedroom or enclosed room.; and whether there is a privacy door in place. Usually what is typical for the market that the property is being appraised in will determine what is a bedroom and what is not.

    • You make a very good point, Paul. I think the most important factor is to look at what is typical and expected in the area. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Your articles are great. What exactly is the IRC and what part does it play in an appraisal?
    I guess I’m asking if it is a Guideline or something more?

  4. Chuck Robertson says

    Great article, Tom! Not all requirements are to be found in HUD documents.

  5. Thanks Tom. I always thought a window of adequate size or door to the outside would suffice. Granted, it would be very odd to only have a door and that wouldn’t happen in new construction especially, but it may be technically okay?

  6. Good stuff as always Tom! Thanks for providing the IRC guidelines, there are many misinterpretations floating around out there.

  7. Really great article. Thank you for sharing this info.

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