Real Estate

When a home is almost three bedrooms (but technically only two)

Imagine a house that used to be three bedrooms until the owner converted one room into a den. Is there a big hit to value now? Will the appraiser only give credit for two bedrooms? Let’s consider some thoughts below. Anything to add?

1) Big deal for value: First off, there can be a huge difference in value between a property that has three full bedrooms and one that only has two bedrooms with no other space that could possibly be used as a bedroom (such as a den). A three-bedroom unit simply has more utility and marketability, so when appraising a classic two-bedroom property I definitely want to take an “apples to apples” approach in my comp selection by finding other two-bedroom homes since those ones are most similar in appeal.

2) Buyers see the bigger picture: Sometimes we see homes that technically only have two bedrooms because a buyer selected a builder’s “den option” or maybe a seller removed a closet in the third bedroom. We’d be right to classify these homes as 2-bedroom properties, but at the same time my sense is if there’s an extra den or office that can be easily converted to a bedroom, buyers see the bigger picture of the house without getting too stuck on one less closet. Thus we can probably compare a house like this with other three-bedroom homes more than classic two-bedroom homes. Though we have to consider any impact to value for the lack of a closet.

EXAMPLE 1: A seller closed up a bedroom closet to use the space as an office and is now concerned an appraiser is not going to give him credit for the extra “bedroom.” Since there isn’t a closet, an appraiser will likely label the home as two bedrooms, BUT the appraiser will also recognize the house can very easily have an extra bedroom with the addition of a closet. Since the house is so much closer to being a three-bedroom home, it would be very limiting to only use classic 2-bedroom comps (see #3 below too). In other words, buyers see the big picture of a house and they probably aren’t going to expect a massive price reduction over one simple closet being removed.

EXAMPLE 2: I was asked how to value a 2-bedroom house that was close to 3000 sq ft and there were no other “comps” that size with only two bedrooms. But the thing is this house had extra space that could easily be converted to a third and fourth bedroom with the addition of closets. In situations like this it’s so easy to get locked into a rigid comp search and only look at two-bedroom homes. I’m a big fan of “apples to apples” where possible, but sometimes we have to step back and look at properties like buyers do. In this case there were multiple offers on the home because buyers were seeing the bigger picture of value rather than getting wrapped up in two closets missing. It’s possible this home could still sell at a discount, but let’s not start comparing it with significantly smaller two-bedroom “comps” either because that’s not what buyers are doing.

3) Logic and adjustments: Whenever we see a difference in bedroom count it’s easy to give a canned value adjustment. So without any research we hear, “The value difference between a 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom home is $20,000.” Okay, maybe that number works sometimes, but let’s step back and think like logical buyers. If looking at a home that has a den option that is otherwise similar to a traditional bedroom, it might cost around $2,000 to add a closet. In a situation like this does it really make logical sense to give a $20,000 negative adjustment? In other words, would buyers truly penalize a property at $20,000 because there is technically no closet? I would venture to say most buyers are probably not going to expect a huge price discount for such a minor cost-to-cure.

4) The market might not care: Sometimes the market doesn’t show much of a price impact for only having two bedrooms. We see this in 55+ communities, but we might also see it with architecturally interesting properties where prospective buyers might not need extra bedrooms. This is a good reminder to step back from being trigger-happy about giving the same value adjustment since the market doesn’t always make an adjustment.

5) Pro tip on downsizing: I recommend not turning a 3-bedroom to a 2-bedroom house. I see this happen when an owner wants a larger master bedroom, but it’s a quick way to lose marketability (and maybe value).

I hope this was helpful or interesting.

Think Like an Appraiser Class (I’m teaching): By the way, I’m doing my favorite class on Dec 7 from 9am-12pm called How to Think Like an Appraiser. We’ll talk through comp selection, making adjustments, tips for talking about value, and what to do in various scenarios. Details here.

Questions: What is #6? Do you have any stories or examples to share about the value difference (or lack thereof) between bedrooms? Anything else to add?

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