What defines a bedroom?

In North Carolina, there are actually 4 and sometimes 5 criteria that must be met for a room to be legally considered a bedroom.

The first condition, which most people know, is that the room has to have a built-in closet. (Unless the house was built prior to the World Wars – until that time people generally didn’t have nearly as many clothes as we consider normal now – and most of those clothes were kept folded on hung on wall pegs.)

The second criteria is for safety – there must be another way to exit the room in case of an emergency. An yes, a window counts as means of egress.

The third criteria is that space must be finished to the same standard and heated and cooled like the rest of the house. So you can’t just hang a clothes pole between two studs, and stick a bed and a fan in unfinished space and consider it a bedroom lol.

The fourth criteria, which many agents forget, is that at least 70% of the ceiling must be at or above the normal ceiling height of 7 feet. I often see this rule violated by Listing Agents when I’m showing homes to buyers – they will call a bonus room with a closet a bedroom, even though the room is built into the eaves so it fails this criteria.

The last criteria only applies to properties on a septic system, which is a privately maintained system for dealing with dirty water produced by the residents. Septic systems are sized based upon the average usage of X number of people – a 3 bedroom septic system is sized for the average use of 6 people and has a tank capacity of 1000. A 4 bedroom system is sized for the average use of 8 people and will have 1250 tank capacity.
So a house with a 1000 tank capacity can only be listed and sold as a 3 bedroom house. I tell my home buyers that if we found a home with 10 ‘bedrooms’ that was on a 3 bedroom septic system, it would be a 3 bedroom house with 7 bonus rooms with closets. This criteria is also very frequently violated – a house can only have as many bedrooms as its septic system capacity allows.

Mimi Francis

Author of The Referral Orchard: 7 Simple Steps to Grow Endless Sales. Real Estate Expert & Owner of A Better Way Homes. Proud Realtor® that works with Buyers, Sellers, & Investors. Call Me Today📞 ☎❗

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