One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive from sellers revolve around how they’re going to list the details of their property. While newer homes are a bit more straightforward in their square footage, number of bedrooms, and other features, the Bay Area has a lot of older homes that were built 50, 60, or 70 years ago. If you’ve lived in one of these luxurious older homes for the last 20 years, you may not know all of the details about the permits that were filed when the property was built, remodeled, or improved upon.
Take for instance a trend that was incredibly popular in older Bay Area homes. A lot of these older homes have attic spaces with high ceilings, sometimes as high as seven or eight feet high. With such a large space upstairs, lots of homeowners put up some drywall, insulated the space well, and turned it into an additional bedroom.
Additionally, there are a lot of homes in our area that have guest houses or granny units, or some other type of living space that isn’t directly attached to the home. When you have one of those spaces on your property, do you include the bedrooms and bathrooms that are in the guest house in your listing? Do you add that square footage to the overall square footage of your property? There are a lot of moving parts to consider here, and I believe that the best way to understand it is to look at a personal story.
A Real Life Example
Several years ago, I had a home that had three bedrooms and two bathrooms that we had decided to sell. When the property was first constructed, it was a two-bedroom home, but an addition that was later built on added a third bedroom and some other square footage to the property. All the additions were permitted, so we could legally list the property as a three-bedroom home. Unfortunately, the addition rendered the second bedroom unusable.
You see, in order to get to the third bedroom, you had to walk through the second bedroom. Obviously, no one wants to sleep in a room that people are walking through to get to their own sleeping quarters. Yes, we listed the property as a three-bedroom home because according to the assessor, that’s what we were selling. However, when buyers came to check out the property, they were quickly turned off by the awkward layout of the property.
We faced a real struggle when trying to sell this home, and we went months on the market without closing a transaction. With the holidays approaching, we decided to pull the property off the market and relisted it later on, sometime between the middle of February or early March. However, we changed our strategy. Instead of listing the property as a three-bedroom home, we listed it as a two-bedroom. We left the square footage the same because obviously the home didn’t shrink, but we dropped the mention of a third bedroom. Perhaps most importantly, we listed the home for the exact same asking price as we were asking when it was being sold as a three-bedroom home.
The difference in the results that we received was staggering! Suddenly, instead of complaining about the awkward layout of a home where you had to walk through one bedroom to get to another, buyers were amazed that our second bedroom had a bonus space. Many asked if it was a home office, and we simply presented it as a space that they could use for anything that they wanted.
What Does That Mean for You?
Ultimately, this means that you will need to talk to your realtor about the best way to market your bonus space. Every situation is different, but there are some factors that you will need to consider with your own.
Take for instance the attic that was converted into a bedroom that we spoke about earlier. Before you can list that attic space as a bedroom, it’s important that the local assessor has approved that classification. If that’s not the case, you can run into serious issues by listing a home as having more bedrooms than the assessor says it has.
If you have a home where you have to walk through one bedroom to get to another, I believe that you will be better served by listing the room as a bonus space. Obviously, this may be in contradiction to the assessor’s report on your home, but you can list fewer bedrooms on your property, you can’t list more.
Finally, what if you have a guest house, a granny suite, or some other type of additional living space on your property? Under no circumstances should you include those bedrooms, bathrooms, or square footage when listing your home. When buyers start looking for homes, they’re most likely looking for a certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms, or a minimum square footage that is contained within the primary residence. If a potential buyer is looking for a property that has a guest house or a granny suite, they will specify that in their search. If you try to include the information about these additional living quarters with the information about your home, you will end up turning off more buyers than you attract.
So, what is the best way to market the bonus space in your home? That’s largely contingent on how the bonus space is laid out, where it is, what it has to offer, and how the space was permitted. If you have additional space in your property, you should certainly make sure that your real estate agent has a plan for marketing that space. There are thousands of potential buyers who are looking for a home in the Bay Area with an office or some other type of bonus space. Creating a strategic approach to listing your home and marketing that extra space can certainly help set your home apart from the pack in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the country.