Sometimes, you'll see a real estate listing touting a "bonus room" among the home's highlights. What's so special about this extra room? Let's take a look at what can and can't be done with the space -- and how to woo buyers if you've got room to spare in your own property.
What a bonus room is -- and isn't
No matter the size of the bonus room, there's one thing it definitely isn't: a bedroom. This isn't a subjective opinion. While building codes vary by state, here's what the International Residential Code's requirements are for a room to be "habitable":
- The room must have a minimum of 70 square feet of space.
- At least half of the ceiling height must be at least 7 feet tall.
- There must be two means of egress: a window, plus a door accessible from common space such as a hallway.
- The window must be at least 24 x 20" with a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet. It must be installed no more than 44 inches above the ground and at least 24 inches above the ground; this is so that small children can't fall out.
You'll notice a closet is not included on the list. This is because it's considered a convenience rather than code. However, in real estate parlance, a room cannot be considered a bedroom without a closet, and there should likely be an HVAC system connected for comfort, too.
While a bonus room isn't a bedroom, it's still an extra room in the house. So what can you do with one? Here are some of the ways homeowners can transform a bonus room into something more functional than just an empty room:
- Home office
- Zoom room (for work or school)
- Workout/meditation room
- Reading nook/library
- Walk-in closet or pantry
- Craft room
- Recording or podcasting studio
- TV/gaming room
With a little imagination, a bonus room can be used for a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the household.
Rack up 'bonus' points with a reno
If you've got a bonus room in your home, it's worth your while to finish it so that it can be safely used as living space -- again, not as a bedroom -- or storage space. In some areas, finished rooms over garages (FROGs) are popular, though bonus rooms have been known to pop up in attics or basements, too.
The cost of finishing a room will vary, depending on the size of the room and materials, not to mention the existing condition of the room. For argument's sake, let's say the space needs to be refinished much in the same way a basement or attic might. According to HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI), the average basement renovation ranges from $7 to $23 per square foot. The average attic redo costs $50 to $200 per square foot.
Keep in mind that you're converting the space so it's a usable room, though not a bedroom, so you'll likely be on the lower end of these cost ranges for redoing a bonus room. The full cost of the bonus room, however, will be determined by what goes in it, from shelving for storage to gym equipment for your workout.
The bottom line: Win over the work-from-home crowd
Prior to the pandemic, a bonus room might have puzzled homeowners. Now that people need more space to accommodate work, school, and everything else under the same roof, a bonus room is a prize for homeowners.
If you're an investor who's staging a home for sale, don't forget about the bonus room. Now that we're all spending more time at home for work and play, this extra room does indeed have its added benefits. Investors staging a property for sale would be wise to pick a function for staging so that homebuyers can see the big potential with this bonus space.