Home Buying in 02050>Question Details

Ryan F., Home Buyer in Marshfield, MA

What are the requirements for a legal bedroom in MA?

Asked by Ryan F., Marshfield, MA Sun Jul 6, 2008

I am looking at a home that is listed as having two bedrooms. The town assessment says two bedrooms. One bedroom is normal sized, the other is 9x7 and has no closet. Is that actually a bedroom?

Help the community by answering this question:


This is an appraiser item only. There is no building codes that I am aware of that requires a closet for a room to be designated as a bedroom (sleeping area). I have even researched and found that this is a dubious requirement from appraisal community and it is not from FHA/HUD from what I can see.

As a home inspector/building inspector as long as the room meets the requirements for a sleeping room in the codes it can be a bedroom. There is no requirement for closets. If in the building plans the room is designated as a bedroom it is one with or without closet.

I think the appraisal community needs to realign with the codes to stop this confusion.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 8, 2013
In Massachusetts, there is a standard in order to properly size a septic system under Title V for homes not on the town sewer line. For example:

"The Definition of a Bedroom: The definition of a bedroom for the purpose of sizing a subsurface sewage disposal system (proposed or existing) is as follows:
a. Any room or enclosed addition with at least 70 square feet of floor area, and a window, other than a kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom or hallway space, or any room that meets the definition of a bedroom in Title 5, 310 CMR 15.002. b. Any room other than a kitchen, dining room or living room in excess of 300 square feet that meets the definition of a bedroom shall be considered two rooms.
• Any dwelling with six (6) rooms shall be construed to have three (3) bedrooms. • Any dwelling with seven (7) rooms shall be construed to have four (4) bedrooms. • Any dwelling with eight (8) rooms shall be construed to have five (5) bedrooms. • Any dwelling with nine (9) rooms total shall be construed to have five (5)
bedrooms. • Dwellings that have ten (10) rooms or more shall be determined by dividing the
total number of rooms by two (2), and rounding down to the next whole number."

Appraisers and assessors may use another definition, for example:

"A bedroom is a room, attached to the main structure of a single-family home, that has two crucial features: (1) It has a door that can be closed. (2) It has a closet, with or without a door."

When marketing a home, you'll often see real estate agents describe a home differently from either of those definitions. If a room looks like it could be used as a bedroom, they suggest it is a bedroom. That's why, for example, sometimes you'll see a statement such as "four, possibly five, bedroom home."

Thus, according to Title V, the second room would not be a bedroom because it is only 63 square feet, not 70. And, it would not meet the standard definition used by appraisers and assessors because it does not have a closet.

But it wouldn't keep some agents from calling it a "possible" bedroom.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
Hi Kathy: Where did you find the appraiser assessor definition above? ty Chris Ryan
Flag Mon Sep 30, 2013
Thanks for the information everyone. The town calls it a 2 bedroom. With a room that small, there's no chance of putting a closet in there, so I figured it's not really a bedroom. I know that building code calls for a minimum of 70 sqft, so I didn't know if appraisers followed the same guidelines.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 7, 2008
Chris (sorry to jump on your post as well Ryan),
Thanks for recognizing me! And for the compliments. If you ask 5 appraisers, you'll get 5 different answers, no doubt. Sometimes if you need to call it a bedroom (like if all 3 bedrooms have no closets and you can't call it a 0 bedroom), an appraiser might make a $500 (or so) adjustment per bedroom for "functional utility" and call it the price to put it a closet in that bedroom. Pretty universally, if the bedroom empties into another bedroom we can't call it a bedroom. Must open into a common area (hall, den, etc...). Need to see a full-size window in there and need to be "mostly" above grade. Like I said Chris, it varies from individual to individual.

What does the Town of Marshfield call the home? Glad I'm considered helpful and sorry again Ryan for stomping on your post. As an appraiser, it sounds like you're looking at a 1 bedroom home.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 7, 2008
Question for Mike. (Sorry to jump on your post Ryan!)
You are an excellent resource here and always helpful in your responses. Do appraisers have a "standard" that they must follow in determining whether a room is a bedroom? I have an antique listing in Marshfield that has two bedrooms with no closets. The appraisal the seller gave me includes these two rooms as bedrooms. But you say that without closets they are not bedrooms. Is it possible two different appraisers could come up with a different bedroom count for the same property?

Thanks for your help!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 7, 2008
As an appraiser, we want to see (1) a closet, (2) a "normal" size window (not a basement-type window), (3) egress into a common area (can't go through another bedroom to get to it) and (4) above grade. Size doesn't matter so much, so although 9x7 is small, if all the other conditions were present, I would call it a bedroom.

Hope that helps.

All My Best,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 7, 2008
Michael, Why do appraiser use a closet to define a bedroom? Is this for ease when doing an appraisal. I am curious when this became defined this way in your community.
Flag Thu Sep 19, 2013
Hi Ryan,
Melissa pretty much covered it. If you'd like to email me directly with the address I will send you the public record for the property. However, the public record isn't always correct so you should verify it with the town. I work and live in Marshfield if I can be of any help.
Chris Head
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 6, 2008
Hi Ryan,

Short & Simple...The three main things are: does it have an egress (exit)? Is the room "above grade"? And if the home has a septic, it must be designed to handle two bedrooms.

Building code today say there needs to be a closet and have minimum square footage requirements. But, if the home was built prior to this, then it could be grandfathered in.

These requirements can change from town to town, but this is basically what I have come across in MA. The town hall is your best source for your answer.

Best of Luck!
Web Reference: http://MelissaBMancini.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 6, 2008
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