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I hope you won’t think less of me when I tell you that I spend a lot of time in other people’s bedrooms.

I’d say I’m normally there with at least another couple but that probably wouldn’t make it sound better.

Whether I am selling a house or a condo or helping clients buy a property, we often end up talking about bedrooms.  How many bedrooms, what type of windows they have, size of the closets and so on.

At least once a week, I have a conversation with a client about the definition of a bedroom.  When I am working with someone to sell a house or condo, the number of bedrooms matters a great deal.  Is it a three bedroom, plus den house that is too small for a prospective buyer with three kids?  Or is it a four bedroom house that is just right?

When I’m working with buyers, the questions tend more to be along the lines of “This isn’t the 2nd bedroom is it?  Seriously?” followed by head shaking.

Given the impact that number of bedrooms has on the value of a property, I took it upon myself to find out the exact definition.

There isn’t one.

At least not for the purposes of buying or selling a home.

Here’s what I found out by looking at it from the perspective of real estate boards, municipalities and the provincial government.

Real Estate Boards

I spoke with the good folks at the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), as they run the MLS system that displays listings in most of Southern ONtario.  They confirmed that they do not have an official definition of a bedroom that Realtors must follow.  They suggested that I would have to be able to justify why I think it was appropriate to call it a bedroom if I was challenged on it.

When I researched it further, other real estate boards were similarly not interested in defining what makes a bedroom a bedroom.  Some suggested that Realtors familiarize themselves with the requirements of the municipality where the property is located to ascertain if a bedroom qualifies as a legal “bedroom”.  So I did that.

Municipalities

A search in various municipalities revealed answers focused mostly on boarding houses and low income housing.  A typical answer is found in the Toronto Municipal Code, which sets out minimum size requirements (floor area and ceiling height) for “habitable rooms that are used for sleeping” as follows:

  • For rooms used by only ONE person, the minimum floor area of a room used for sleeping shall be six square metres.
  • For rooms used by TWO or more persons, the minimum floor area of a room used for sleeping shall be four square metres for each person.

For parents in Toronto, this gives the perfect explanation to a toddler as to why they can’t sleep in the room with mommy and daddy.

“You see honey, unless we renovate the room to add an additional four square metres, we’d be violating the Toronto Municipal Code.  Do you want mommy and daddy to go to jail?  Off to your own bed now.”

Provincial

Finally, I looked at the Ontario Building Code where again the focus was on floor area:

(1)       Except as provided in Articles 9.5.7.2. and 9.5.7.3., bedrooms in dwelling units shall have an area not less than 7 m² where built-in cabinets are not provided and not less than 6 m² where built-in cabinets are provided.

This means that a bedroom has to be just over 75 square feet with no built in cabinets/closet or just under 65 square feet with built in cabinets/closet.

I am quite certain that many Realtors haven’t looked into this matter and rely on what many people say are characteristics of a bedroom (it has to have a window, it has to have a closet) when deciding if a space qualifies as a bedroom or not.

By understanding that MLS listings are not required to follow a definition for bedrooms and knowing that municipalities and the province are mostly focused on floor space, I better help my clients navigate the sale and purchase of properties.

If you or someone you know want a Realtor who takes the time to educate themselves on matters that impact sale prices, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.  I’d love to be responsible for what comes next.

Regards,

Jeff