fewer rooms = better house? am I missing anything?
March 17, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

What are the implications of remodeling away bedrooms?

My partner and I own a smallish house with four tiny bedrooms and not enough living space.

Right now we can't afford to add on. Instead we are considering taking out or moving walls to end up with two decent-sized bedrooms and a significantly larger kitchen and living room. The design concept, so far as we've gotten it, is more open-plan/loft style.

We have no plans to move. We like the location, and there's enough space for an addition if we can afford to in the future. I would like to grow old and die in this house! We have a mortgage with a solid institution. We're not underwater but not fantastic LTV either.

I'm planning to have a chat with the staff at our city's planning department before filing permits. My partner has construction experience, so this will be a mostly DIY project. We'll bring in experts (incl engineer if necessary) as needed.

Is there anything about the "taking out two bedrooms" aspect that I'm missing? Is the city or county going to freak out? What about our mortgage-holder? What should we be prepared for?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Is there anything about the "taking out two bedrooms" aspect that I'm missing? Is the city or county going to freak out? What about our mortgage-holder? What should we be prepared for?

An updated, smallish, two-bedroom "starter" home sounds like a better option for re-sale, as family sizes are shrinking. If the bedrooms truly are "small", I can't imagine this hurting your resale value much; in fact, locally, when we renovated my grandparents' house to turn 4 tiny bedrooms into 3 and creating a proper "master" bedroom with the space, it upped our value.
posted by Hiker at 8:04 AM on March 17, 2010

It would seem to me as long as you have any structural covered there should be no problem. People drastically remodel their homes all the time, if you have the permits the city and county doesn't give a crap, and the mortgage company is counting on you paying off your loan weather you trash the resale value or increase it.
posted by edgeways at 8:04 AM on March 17, 2010

....structural ^concerns covered.... (sheesh)
posted by edgeways at 8:05 AM on March 17, 2010

Unless your house is a protected heritage site, I can't see why the municipal government should have a problem with it. It is additions that are problematic because they can cut off your neighbour's view or spoil their garden by blocking the sunlight or whatever.

Having more bedrooms does increase the worth of the house, but in your case whatever you "lose" by eliminating two bedrooms should be recouped by enlarging the living rooms.

One thing to be careful about, besides making sure the renos are properly done — be sure to create a decent amount of storage space. That's one of the things that make a place liveable and comfortable and easy to keep tidy.
posted by orange swan at 8:06 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

It could very well decrease the value of your home. Depending on the zoning laws, you may not be able to add bedrooms back in the future.

The city shouldn't care if you remove them, but they may care if you (or someone) adds them back in the future. In these parts, things like lot size, type of septic system and proximity to the nearest well all affect how many bedrooms one is allowed to have. I'm limited to two on my lot, because of my septic system. My neighbor, with the same size lot, has three bedrooms because he had three before the zoning laws were changed. Were he to sell his house he'd probably have to replace the septic system which may or may not limit him to a two bedroom. It's possible none of this will matter in your part of the world, but it's something you should look into. It might matter down the road.

You might not care, you might not need the bedrooms, and you might have no plans to sell the house, but some day it could be a hassle to add bedrooms.

I don't know if your mortgage holder will care. I suppose as long as the value of the house is worth what you owe them they might not care, but you might not have as much equity in it. Also, what they don't know won't hurt them.
posted by bondcliff at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

be sure to create a decent amount of storage space. That's one of the things that make a place liveable and comfortable and easy to keep tidy.

... great point.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2010

We used to live in a historic district of homes mostly from the 1880s to the 1910s. Several neighbors remodeled to change having many small bedrooms to fewer large bedrooms with more storage space (those old closets were tiny!) and larger, more modern bathroom(s).

Without more information on your neighborhood and your market, it's not clear if it would significantly reduce (or maybe even increase) the value of your home. Your mortgage holder shouldn't care as long as you keep making your mortgage payments. It may affect your PMI, if you are paying that.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:16 AM on March 17, 2010

From a less-monetary standpoint, if doing this type of remodel makes you happier to live there, and it's ok structurally, then do it. You can't own a place and live in it ALWAYS thinking about selling it. Make it your own. Isn't that part of the point of buying?
posted by bibbit at 8:36 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since others have mentioned resale value:

In the DC suburbs, 3 bedrooms seems to be the magic number for starter homes, especially if there is no den/rec room elsewhere. Three allows for a Master, and some combination of a guest room/kid's bedroom/home office/study/play room/craft room, etc. In this area, all else being equal, anything three bedrooms or above seems to be roughly price-equivalent, but the 2 bedroom homes generally seem to take a bit of a hit and/or linger on the market.

Also, I suspect the ultimate value will also depend on the number of bathrooms you have... a 2/2 might do fine compared to a 3/1, but a 2/1 would be a tougher sell.

That said, if you're planning to grow old in this house, then a small hit in value would actually help, no? Lower property taxes and all that? You've got to do what makes it most livable for you. (On preview, what bibbit says...)
posted by somanyamys at 8:37 AM on March 17, 2010

Talk to a real estate agent or appraiser if you know one; they usually know what people in a given neighborhood are looking for in terms of bedrooms and style. Also keep in mind that tastes change and if you stay in the house long enough, changes that help the value may become liabilities and vice versa.
posted by TedW at 9:00 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a civil engineer (but not your civil engineer). Do get the structure checked by a qualified professional. Chances are the partition walls between bedrooms are usually not load bearing, but you never know. This can be checked by a careful examination of the basement/crawlspace to see where the foundation is carrying the load and the attic space/rooflines to see where the rafters/trussess are bearing. Anyway my point being if you are not qualified-get a professional structural engineer to ok it. Even if the walls that you want to move/remove are loadbearing you can use coloumns and beams to open up the space.

Most building departments at the local and county level don't really give a damn about what you do internally to a house, this also is true for a lot of historical districts and HOAs. They do care about electrical and plumbing runs because of health and safety issues (this means nothing that will burn down/flood your house and then your neighbors house). Also any work that is not permitted the insurance company will not cover-meaning if you burn down your house due to shoddy building practices you are out of luck. I don't know where you live but most building permits are not that expensive. A rule of thumb for most projects is that design, permitting and inspection will run less than 10% of the overall cost. If you do all the labor yourself it will be somewhat higher buy not that much. Also most states allow you to act as your general contractor without a contractor license as long as you are the homeowner (after all it is your house).
posted by bartonlong at 9:12 AM on March 17, 2010

What bondcliff said times 10. (A great AskMeFi response, BTW.) Don't give up your code grandfather lightly, 'cause you might not get it back.

Not sure I agree with Hiker about the valuation impact -- family sizes may be shrinking in a broader population, but among people with 20% down to buy a detached single-family home it seems to be increasing. 3 kids is the new 2 ("standard" family) and 4 kids is the new 3 ("big" family). A two-bedroom house limits your market pretty severely.

It's a great question vis-a-vis mortgages. I notice nobody has an answer to that -- you should check.
posted by MattD at 9:13 AM on March 17, 2010

Removing bedrooms will decrease the value of the house, but doing this *right* will increase the value of the house. Family size is shrinking and we may or may not be entering a period where smaller houses that make good use of limited space are considered better.

Get a *good* residential architect or even an interior designer to just come in and look at the space for you and get their thoughts. Some may be willing to do it for a reasonable price as just a brief consultation. I can guarantee that they'll say something like "if you put the door here, the room will feel twice as large" and you'll wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. Stuff as simple as changing the way a door swings can have an enormous impact. I can't stress this enough. It will save you money in the long run.
posted by paanta at 9:53 AM on March 17, 2010

If you were planning on selling it, I'd say that you should stick with at least three bedrooms. There's a reason that 3 is standard -- boys' room, girls' room, Mom & Dad room is considered a bare minimum.

But you're planning on staying put? Oh, do what you like with the space. (We're in this position too, which is why, HORRORS, we remodeled our kitchen sans dishwasher.) Yes, a good residential architect can help make sure that you're arranging the space the best way. This should help mitigate any perceived drop in desirability during a refinance, which is the only time this would really affect you.
posted by desuetude at 11:00 AM on March 17, 2010

« Older Should I stay or should I run?   |   Too bad they don't give kids those cute little... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.