The real estate industry is no stranger to "creative" descriptions when it comes to listings. Two areas that tend to be a source of consistent aggravation are total living area (square footage) and room description. There is no required use for most rooms – a bedroom is a den is an office is a pet room. Most rooms serve multiple purposes but there are general industry guidelines for defining a room. And there are clear definitions as to what constitutes living area. While it's good practice for agents to understand this, most simply do not - either due to a lack of training or simple ambivalence.
What constitutes a bedroom? Among other things that depends on the age of the home, location of the home, and how comparable homes like it are viewed. There are neighborhoods across the nation that are comprised of homes built prior to the 1940’s. These homes often have bedrooms with no closets – old central heating systems often lacked ducts in each room. Rather than take space with closets that would lack air circulation, clothes were often stored in armoires, cedar closets, or some similar manner. Consider “railroad” apartments like those in Brooklyn, NY. There are no doors; you enter in the small kitchen and walked through two “bedrooms” back to the living room. Talk about functional obsolescence….but that floor plan was (and still is) common in that market. Applying current standards to these older homes is impractical as consumer demands have changed. This is a perfect example of why it’s critical to use accurate comparables and understand function and the characteristics of homes in the local area.
Problems arise when agents - eager to advertise a home in the best possible light - stretch the truth. A small 3BR home becomes a 5BR home as they call a small dormer a "bedroom" and that small room in the basement a "bedroom". When the appraiser heads out, those rooms will not be called bedrooms even if they're being used as such. Most bedrooms can be expected to have a closet, a window, at least 7' ceilings, a dedicated and securable entry with no "thru" traffic and space enough for a bedroom set. Can a room lacking these still be used as a bedroom? Of course - but remember what the appraiser is going to see.
Agents really need to be careful when reporting living area - square footage. Lawsuits have been brought in some cases where what was advertised and what was present were different. Again, most agents have no idea about how to measure a home either because they were never taught or don't care to learn. Appraisers are held to standard FNMA guidelines when developing the square footage for their reports, a smart agent will understand the process and be accurate when representing that information.
Learn more about how to consider "multi purpose" rooms in a home and How to Measure a Home according to FNMA appraisal standards. The best thing any agent can do is to acurately represent their listings.
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