It's frustrating. Listing agents generally do whatever they have to in order to sell a listing. I reminded my buyers that the MLS listings are not a legal document...merely an advertisement. And all advertising is slanted towards selling a product...
Unfortunately, the advice I must offer you is 1) Trust nothing 2) Check out everything. As a buyer, take nothing for granted and check EVERYTHING out yourself.
Best of luck to you.
There's a lot of good information on the posts below. I hope that now you can get a good idea of why that happens. I understand your frustration. That's why every time I'm working with a buyer from out of town I preview the property first and most of the time even send them extra pictures before they come to visit that house. That way they always know what to expect. This is what buyer's agents are for, make sure you have a hard working agent on your side and you'll never waste your time again.
I hope this helps and good luck.
That said, keep in mind that tax records, which are often used in MLS listings, are notoriously inaccurate as property stats often don't get updated after construction/remodeling. And don't assume that because it looks like a bedroom and acts like a bedroom it is legally a bedroom.
A potrero house that looked and felt like a bedroom but the ceilings were low and many buyers suspected it wasn't legal. Because I had the same concerns and I wanted to be telling people the truth I had the owners pull the records from the building department and it turned out the prior owners had pulled permits and it was legal.
Another house that the city showed as a 1200+ sq ft single family home but in actuality was about 1900 sq ft and had a separate lower apartment was in fact a legal 2 unit building that the city had never updated the records
Another single family home that had three bedrooms on one level that almost no one would ever have suspected as anything but permitted turned out to be only legally a 2 bedroom because the add on was done without permits.
Keep in mind that when you buy a home with unpermitted additions, that does not mean you are not responsible for them. Supposing you get into a dispute with a neighbor and they know it's unpermitted and call the city. Most cities are required to investigate, and they could require everything from simply retroactively permitting the work to dismantling it. That, and impact on resale are why it matters.
With regards to your specific question, in San Francisco there are many "2 Bedroom" lofts that have an upper loft bedroom that is not enclosed. Most of them are probably legal 2 Bedrooms because that is how they were permitted, and most of these can easily be enclosed. You can also ask the realtor about a place you are looking at and if they say anything but an immediate and resounding, "yes," when asked if the 2nd bedroom is legal it probably isn't. Either way, if you're concerned Check with your local building department.
Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
The reason Realtors put a "two" bedroom when it's really a loft is because when most buyers/ agents are searching they will not look for one bedrooms plus a loft going through the fine detail when a one bedroom plus a loft (just having that space is okay) will work.
They need to disclose in the public or private agent remarks what it truly is though. If you are looking online and come across one I'm not sure what the problem is unless you take time to look at one and it was wrong than I can understand your frustration.
As for price I always try to get the highest possible price for my sellers as I assume those Realtors are as well but a property is ONLY EVER worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it no matter what.
Agents will often say that a loft, bonus room or office can be used as a bedroom, and that is certainly not a misrepresentation. But calling a home permitted as, for example, a 3 bedroom 2 bath home with a loft as a 4 bedroom 2 bath home is certainly a misrepresentation because the number of bedrooms will affect its appraised value. Fortunately, every appraiser I know checks government records to identify permitted room counts and will identify unpermitted or misrepresented spaces in their appraisal report. I highly recommend you do the same before submitting an offer on any residential property.
The definition of a bedroom is often an area in which people take liberties by becoming creative. Passing one off as a "loft" is a prime example.
You are correct, by most definitions bedrooms include: a door, a window, and a closet. They also should have their own access point...meaning not passing directly from one bedroom to another without passing through a hall or another living area.
The number of bedrooms in a home should be able to be clarified by referring to the local tax records.