Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin

The Growing Demand for More Bedrooms

Statistics on home-buying show a strong and enduring trend toward purchasers seeking more square footage, with three, if not more, bedrooms.

Why are more bedrooms such a hot ticket? Those who track buyer preferences say one major factor is the current popularity of an old-fashioned idea: different generations living under the same roof.

“Across all family types, we’re seeing more multi-generational living,” says Jessica Lautz, research director for the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org).

John Rygiol, a longtime real estate broker affiliated with the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (www.naeba.org) says that beside extended family needs, quality-of-life concerns are increasing demand for extra bedrooms.

“People want a ‘guest bedroom’ where a husband or wife can sleep if the other one snores. Also, many folks love an extra bedroom or two for their hobbies,” Rygiol says.

Is a home with four bedrooms affordable for many buyers? Surprisingly yes, says Jon Boyd, a real estate broker and former president of NAEBA.

As Boyd explains, home values are determined primarily by location, as well as square footage. And the square footage of many four-bedroom homes is often no greater than three-bedroom homes in the same neighborhood. Because of that, he says a fourth bedroom also doesn’t typically add much, if anything, to the home’s utility costs.

Even so, he says that having a fourth bedroom can significantly improve the resale potential of a property.

“Nowadays, a four-bedroom home will usually sell faster than a three-bedroom one in the same neighborhood,” Boyd says.

Here are a few pointers for buyers:

-- Look ahead to the future needs of your household.

Boyd, who heads his own independent real estate company, says it’s not unusual for young couples to fail to factor in family planning when choosing a home.

Maybe you’re expecting your first child in two or three years. In this case, he says that purchasing a place with a bedroom that could serve as a nursery is a better bet than changing houses after the baby arrives.

“Ideally, you’ll want to hold the house you buy now for a period of at least four or five years before you move again,” Boyd says.

Buyers with teenage children should also be aware they may need housing even beyond their date of graduation from college or grad school.

-- Realize that room-sharing can be a viable option for large families.

By the time they reach kindergarten, if not before, most children yearn for a bedroom of their own. Yet if your family is large or you hanker to convert at least one bedroom to a home office, it may not be possible to furnish each child with a private bedroom.

Still, Boyd says buyers needn’t worry if the house they purchase has too few bedrooms to meet their children’s wishes. He sees some benefits to room-sharing, especially for pre-adolescent children.

“My two daughters shared rooms until they were 12 or so. That way they learned to make compromises and to get along,” Boyd says.

-- Consider a first-floor master suite for an elder parent.

Boyd estimates that at least 20 percent of all homebuyers are “talking about an elder parent moving in with them at some point in the future.”

If this is a possibility in your case, he says you should consider buying a one-level, ranch-style home or a place with a first-floor suite, complete with a private bath.

Even if your parents can easily scale the stairs now, they might find it a lot harder later. Having easy access to a bedroom with a full bath can be especially important to those who are elderly or have a disability.

“Because of the aging population, a first-floor master suite can also be a plus for resale,” Boyd says.

-- Make certain that any room counted as a “bedroom” fits the definition.

Given the popularity of properties with plenty of bedrooms, Rygiol says it’s not unusual for home sellers to sometimes stretch the definition when counting their bedrooms.

On occasion, for example, some sellers will place an armoire and a bed in a small den or another spare room and then call it a “bedroom.” Or they’ll count a sitting room off a master suite as a “bedroom.” But Rygiol says homebuyers shouldn’t be fooled by these falsely named “bedrooms.”

“If the room doesn’t have its own built-in closet and a window or door for egress, it’s not a bedroom. The same goes for a room that can only be entered through another bedroom. Remember that neither one of these rooms should count as a true bedroom,” he says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at ellenjamesmartin@gmail.com.)