What is a bedroom?

This is like my post the other day about 1/4 baths except today I am going to write about what a bedroom is and it is complicated.

On the MLS a room listed as a bedroom must have an egress window and a closet.  I am not sure why it has to have a closet but those are the rules and I don’t make them.  We do see homes that are listed as three bedroom homes that do not have three bedrooms.


It is possible to have a room that is being used as a bedroom that does not have a closet or an egress window but that just makes it a room used as a bedroom not a bedroom.

Then we have the term “legal bedroom” which doesn’t mean all that much.  A legal bedroom in St. Paul has an egress window that is a window large enough for a firefighter to go through in full gear and a closet.  

There isn’t such a thing as a illegal bedroom and it is legal to sleep any place in your home that you want to.  There is such a thing as a non-conforming bedroom which is a room that can be used as a bedroom but it is missing the closet or the egress window or both.  These rooms are often listed in the MLS as a den or sometimes they are listed as a bedroom but there is a note indicating that it is a non conforming bedroom. 

The loft in the picture may show up on the MLS as having no bedrooms because it is one large room with one or more bathrooms in separate rooms.  Some of the larger lofts house several people and sleeping areas are walled off with partitions.  For some reason the sleeping areas do not qualify as non-conforming bedrooms, they are not bedrooms at all.  Some lofts have raised sleeping platforms.  They end up being called bedrooms but most do not have closets or egress windows.  

Real estate is local and locally regulated it is possible that the term bedroom means something different in other parts of the country.  The definition of a loft is not universal either. 

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14 Replies to “What is a bedroom?”

  1. Our rules say that bedrooms must have a closet. That’s fine until you walk into a historic shotgun house where the original home typically had only a hall closet. Bedroom storage was in an armoire, not a closet. For those homes, we just count the number of rooms that *could* be bedrooms and use that.

    It’s funny how different the rules are from region to region. I’ve never heard of conforming and non-conforming bedrooms nor the rule about firemen fitting through the windows. Interesting stuff, T.

    1. Teresa Boardman says:

      I live in an ancient home and it is the same way. They did not have as much stuff or as many cloths 150 years ago so they did not need as many closets.

  2. Here, to have a “legal” bedroom there has to be a window (not sure if there is a size requirement) and a closet. I have however had subsidized housing decline a room because it was off another room, so you also have to have a door to a common area, such as a hall way.

  3. I’ve found here in Arizona that agents will include a den or office (non-conforming bedroom) in the bedroom count, because they’re afraid buyers looking for 5 bedrooms won’t look at their listing that has 4 bedrooms and a den unless it actually says 5 bedrooms. Do you see the same, Teresa?

  4. Teresa Boardman says:

    I suppose that happens here but most of the buyers that are looking for 4 or more bedrooms and are buying a modest priced home will settle for the den or bonus room.

  5. Isn’t there also a square-foot requirement for a bedroom? I thought our agent said 80 or 90 feet….

    1. Teresa Boardman says:

      It is possible but if there is such a requirement, at some point a room is too small for a bed. I don’t know who is making it a requirement and I have never heard that number before but I don’t know everything.

      1. The nursery. It is usually to small for a twin bed and a dresser. So you have the crib until they grow out of it then it has to become an office.

  6. Teresa, the issue of an egress window to be a true bedroom is an appraisal issue particulary with FHA/VA.

    1. Teresa Boardman says:

      An egress window is a safety issue.

  7. My inspector of 10 years says there is no rule anywhere he has ever found that says the bedroom has to have a closet to be a legal bedroom. Structure tech home inspections.

    1. Teresa Boardman says:

      I usually call them non-conforming bedrooms and I think that is what we are supposed to put in the MLS. In St. paul a legal bedroom has to have an egress window.

  8. Since most cities adopt the State of MN building code (which is basically the ICC Building Code), unless a city (in this case St Paul) specifically created an ammendment saying that a closet is required in the building of a bedroom, then most people are confused. ICC and State of MN building code does NOT require a closet. Always check your city code – don’t trust someone’s blog.

    1. Teresa Boardman says:

      Building code may not require a closet but to call a room a bedroom when we are selling a home it must have a closet.

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