What Defines a Bedroom? Neither the Real Estate Commission nor MLS Will Say

As a broker, I get to decide what constitutes a bedroom. We get no guidance or rules about that from either our MLS (REcolorado) or from the Colorado Real Estate Commission.

This week’s featured listing is a good example. When my seller purchased the condo in April 2017, it was advertised as a 2-bedroom unit, which is what the county assessor calls it. But that “second bedroom” has no window and no closet, measures only 9’ by 10’, and has double glass French doors between it and the kitchen area.

I could not in good conscience market that condo as anything other than a one-bedroom unit with a study.

I could “get away with” marketing the study as a “non-conforming” bedroom, but there are no definitions for that term, either. The term “non-conforming” is most often used for basement bedrooms which don’t have egress windows, although I’ve only used it when, for example, there was no bathroom on the same level or no door giving the room privacy.

On the other hand, I have seen basements listed as having a bedroom when the only door to that bedroom was the door at the top of the stairs. The most outlandish example I can recall was when an open loft overlooking the living room was listed as a bedroom, perhaps because there was a closet — but the nearest bathroom was downstairs. 

I don’t sense any interest on the part of the MLS (on whose Rules & Regulations Committee I have sat for over a decade) or the Colorado Real Estate Commission (to which I’ve applied for appointment) to come up with a definition of “bedroom.” As with other terms such as “raised ranch” or “garden level,” it’s left to the managing brokers (like me) or the listing agents themselves to decide how to describe the homes they market, and it’s up to buyers to make their own decisions to buy a home, irrespective of how it has been described on the MLS.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my definition of a bedroom: It must have walls (no open lofts!), a window to the outdoors, its own door to common space, a 3/4 or full bathroom on the same level, and, optionally, a closet. The window does not have to qualify as an egress window. The closet is optional only if the room is big enough to allow for a piece of furniture (a wardrobe or armoire) that can serve as a closet. It has to be big enough to support a bed and dresser without being crowded (at least 9’ by 12’ or about 100 square feet).

It’s a judgment call as to whether a room without all those criteria should be called a “non-conforming” bedroom. I do take stock of whether the county assessor calls it a bedroom, but, as I said, the assessor called the study in my condo listing a bedroom, probably because the builder called it that on their plans. (Builders, like brokers, have their own ways of seeing things, and no one is there to contradict them.)

Buyers ask to see a listing based on its description in the MLS, and I’ve had a buyer get really annoyed when we went to see a 3-bedroom home (which was their minimum requirement) only to discover it was a 2-bedroom home. I shared that buyer’s annoyance in the feedback I provided, but that listing continued to claim three bedrooms.

Some brokerages contribute to the problem of inaccurate property descriptions by not allowing broker associates to enter and manage the MLS data for their own listings. That’s not how Golden Real Estate operates. As managing broker, I want my broker associates to enter their own listings on the MLS, and I usually will look at those listings and give my feedback or make changes directly on the MLS, which I’m able to do as their managing broker.

We have an office policy of providing maximum (not just accurate) information on each listing. That means entering data in all applicable MLS fields and not just  the mandatory ones. Many optional fields are quite important, not just useful, to buyers. These include each room’s dimensions and a general description of each room. A quick check of 71 current listings in Lakewood showed that only 13 of them included room dimensions and descriptions. A couple of them only listed bedrooms and bathrooms, not living rooms, kitchens, and other rooms. That’s because you can no longer just indicate the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, you must list each of them and the floor they are on, but you don’t need to enter dimensions or descriptions.

To me, describing the rooms is just as important as the “public remarks,” which is that one paragraph which you read on all the consumer websites to which each listing is populated (Zillow, Redfin, etc.). In describing each room, we like to list the floor covering (hardwood, tile, etc.) plus things like the view out the window, coved ceiling, ceiling fan, walk-in closet(s), access to deck or patio, fireplace (gas or wood), en suite bathroom, wainscoting, and more.  Sellers deserve no less.

Room dimensions and descriptions help to sell a home, so we owe it to our sellers to take advantage of that opportunity. It’s a shame that the majority of listing agents leave these non-mandatory fields blank.

Author: Golden Real Estate, Inc.

Golden Real Estate is a prominent member of the Denver/Jefferson County real estate scene. Based in Golden, we service both Denver and Jeffco, representing both buyers and sellers. We're well known for Broker Jim Smith's weekly "Real Estate Today" column published in the Denver and Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section each Thursday. The column also appears in several weekly newspapers and is archived at www.JimSmithColumns.com. We have nine agents, all of whom are Realtors and EcoBrokers. Our office is Net Zero Energy since December 2017, and several of us drive electrics cars. Known for our sustainable practices, we accept polystyrene (aka "Styrofoam") for recycling, keeping 200 cubic yards per year out of area landfills.

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