"Possible" 4th bedroom - How do they get away with that?

Asked by Kevin, Noblesville, IN Fri Jul 18, 2008

Hi, I am moving from out-of-state to Noblesville and nearby areas, and I've seen something I've never seen before. I do my MLS search for 4 bedroom homes, and the results come back with homes that are stated as 4 bedrooms on the MLS page. Two homes I've seen I've clicked through the pictures, then thought "I only saw three bedrooms", then scrolled down to the room sizes and only 3 bedrooms are listed. Then, only going back through the pictures and reading the picture details does it say something like "Loft - would make a great 4th bedroom". Is that "legal"? (Is there any body that determines what is "legal"?)


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Joe Shoemaker, Agent, Carmel, IN
Wed Jul 23, 2008

Your question opens the proverbial can of worms. Indiana Real Estate License Law and the Indiana Building Code are documents which outline the "laws" as they relate to the sale, lease, exchange and/or construction, etc. of real estate.

Neither of these documents specify precisely how a seller/builder or a seller/builder's agent can describe a room on our various listing services. Our BLC and our local Board of REALTORS® (new name for the old MLS) have rules, though, about how we can describe property, market to the public and present our clients' real estate to the general public.

Article 2 of the REALTOR Code of Ethics says: "REALTORS® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or the transaction."

So...is it factual that the loft might be used as a bedroom? Well... it depends. It's not technically a bedroom without a door, a closet and an egress window. That loft might, with a simple construction project, be converted into a bedroom that fits Indiana Building Code's requirements.

The REALTOR® Code of Ethics isn't a set of laws, either. It's an agreed-to set of principles of behavior. I do wish that more REALTORS® actually read them and did what they said. I could tell you stories for days about the abject disregard for our shared code perpetrated by some practitioners of our profession...

Hope this helps... and hope you have an experienced REALTOR® working on your behalf.
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Joe, what do you do when a realtor lists a home as two bedrooms when it really is a one bedroom with loft?
Flag Fri Mar 11, 2016
Tony Grego, , Indianapolis, IN
Thu Jul 24, 2008
Now I am not the REALTOR, I am the loan officer.

When talking with apprasiors, a room can be counted as a bedroom just like these good folks have listed below.

It requires a door, closet and window.

Hope it helps and if you have any questions on financing I would be more than happy to help
Tony Grego - The Great Rate Place
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Erik Armstro…, , 47802
Fri Jul 18, 2008
From my experience there are a lot of "grey areas" and there are a lot of blatant stretching of the truth just to get more people through the door. I have seen so many situations where legal code contradicts the intent of the builder and personally I go by how I feel the builder intended a room to be.

One recent example was an open house I did for another agent. The master bedroom did not have a closet; instead the closet was a walk-in off of the master bath. Can you call it a bedroom? The intent of the builder was “yes”, but the code says there was no closet in the room so it is not a bedroom.

Another example was one of my own listings. There is an upstairs room where the closet is just outside of the door, but not accessible from that room. You could make a doorway in that room and close it up from the hallway and it would be a bedroom, but I don’t believe the builder intended for that room to be a bedroom. It has been listed as a four bedroom in the past but not since I listed it.

Part of being a salesperson is using your imagination to show people the potential of a property. When you list a property with an agent that agent has a fiduciary responsibility to the seller and their best interests. Maybe a loft could easily be converted into a great bedroom. If you point that out then someone might be willing to buy the property and do the work. Others might not be happy because they have now looked at a three-bedroom feel like their time was wasted. Just tell your agent you want to look a 4 bedrooms and don’t want to look at 3 bedrooms with a bonus room. They should be able to make the distinction without wasting your time.
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Eric Karrfalt, Agent, Noblesville, IN
Fri Jul 18, 2008
After 16 years in sales, I have seen many descriptions of property that may not exactly fit the actual home. Some agents take a "salesman’s license" and fluff the property making it out to be more than it is. Others try to accurately describe it given the limited amount of ad space available. I don't have any quick reference as to any "legal" authority, although an appraiser would probably be a good source. Many terms/calculations/descriptions have been commonly used through the years and there meaning have sometimes changed as new styles of housing have been developed. Terms are also regional in nature. Something commonly referred to on the east coast may be referred to differently on the west coast. When reading ads, remember they are designed to get your attention and hopefully get you to view the property. If you don't believe what is in the ad, you probably won't want that home. Read ads with a grain of salt. They provide good information, but may not always be entirely accurate.

I guess my definition of a bedroom would be 4 walls a ceiling and door plus it would need a closet and a window. Now here are some examples of what might be construed as a bedroom. Lets say you have a finished room in a basement with no window. Is it a bedroom? In many communities, the "loft" is actually a bedroom in a different floor plan. The loft version gave an open room. It is a simple construction project to wall it off if you want a "true" bedroom instead of the loft. While I'm thinking of it, there are other areas of home description open to interpretation. What constitutes a 2/2.5/or workspace area garage? What constitutes sq/ft? Is it gross living area? do you include the basement?, Is it your floor plan? What constitutes a deck? Is it an 8x8 minimal slab, or should it be bigger? Is a covered porch just a slight bump out over the door, or should it be a full canopy?

I guess to sum things up, there are no "ad police". The board of realtors reviews the BLC ads for compliance for fair housing laws, but actual descriptions can vary in accuracy.

Welcome to Hamilton County! Forbes magazine just ranked Hamilton County as the #1 place in the country to live and raise a family. I'm sure you will find we have a lot to offer here.
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