Renovation Question

Help a PoP Reader out, he writes:

“I am currently renovating my 1,475 sf rowhouse in Historic Anacostia, and wonder if this proposed change would help or hurt me in the long run:

Right now there are 3 bedrooms upstairs, but all of them are very small and there is no clear “master bedroom”. The bedrooms are all in a row along a hallway, and right now I am considering eliminating the center bedroom and turning it into walk-in closets for the other two bedrooms. Only two of the bedrooms have closets right now, but the closets are extremely small (about 3ft X 3ft each).

I am also thinking about combing the front two rooms to create a larger master bedroom.

Eventually I will sell the house, and need to know if having 3 bedrooms will get me a higher price simply because there are more, or if I could get an equally high price with only two bedrooms, although in the second scenario each bedroom would have sizeable walk-in closets. I am leaning towards the changes because it would make the house more “modern-person-friendly” despite technically having less rooms.

Any and all suggestions and advice would be much appreciated! Thank you!”

My answer: I say you do whatever you will most enjoy. Who can predict what will happen down the road? Within reason, you gotta do what makes you happy? But I super curious as to what others think.

10 Comment

  • We did something very similar to a formerly abandoned townhouse about 5 blocks from Logan Circle. We turns three small bedrooms into one big one, one medium one and a glorious bathroom. For the years we lived there it was wonderful until we started having kids. Then it felt crowed. regarding resale – we did great but we sold during the height of the market – the bathroom, modern kitchen and a garage were the big draws for teh 3 offers we got. The couple that bought the place – just put it on the market because their second kid is coming soon. Good luck.

  • Someone did the same thing to our house several years ago. They made a killing on the sale, but also turned it into a beautiful house from what was essentially a shell. Since then, it has had two owners- a single person, and now my husband and I. I can see that it somewhat limits the population of future buyers, but we love the huge closet and beautiful master bedroom. I would say that if you’re in an area where most buyers will be larger families, then think about leaving the rooms, but if most of your buyers would be singles, couples or people with small families (one kid), who also want all of the other amenities of a newer home, like central AC, a nice kitchen etc, then make the renovation. The room set-up you described is ideal for a lifestyle that doesn’t really exist anymore- back in the day when people had single beds and three sets of clothes (two for work, and one for church). Charming, but unrealistic for today’s buyers. In my opinion.

    That being said- you are still turning your home into a 2 bedroom from a 3 bedroom, so its going to be priced on the higher end of the 2 bedroom range someday, but if its nice enough, it will be justified.

  • Would there be any way to take some of the middle BR space and add a bathroom? It could be expensive to do, but adding a bath while taking away a BR might help you keep the value of the house more.

    Another thought, a friend of mine has a 3BR house that sounds laid out like yours. The middle BR is connected to her BR by a doorway that she took off and opened a little. She uses the middle BR like a dressing room and has her dressers in it and the small closet. Her BR feels bigger b/c of the extra space by not having much furniture in it. When she goes to sell, she’ll put the door back and have 3BRs again.

  • Technically, if a room doesn’t have a closet it’s not considered a bedroom (just a den, I suppose). So, really, you’re not changing the number of true bedrooms, just what you can advertise it as…and it sounds like someone who really needs 3 bedrooms wouldn’t like the 3 bedroom configuration place in your house right now anyways, so you should totally do the renovation.

  • dclounger, in DC, a closet is not required to make a bedroom-it is a window that differentiates between a den and a bedroom.

  • I have a similar quandary. My house’s set up is rather odd: it’s got four “bedrooms” (not technically, but work with me), but only the bedroom in front and the sunroom addition in back have exterior windows. So there are two interior rooms that now look directly into the sunroom (they used to look outside before the sunroom was added in the ’20s). It’s fine now that it’s just me and my husband (and baby this summer), but it’s not quite ideal and I worry it will hurt us when we try to resell. That said, I’m not sure how to convert it into a normal 3 BR, and 2 BR seems like it would hurt the value (and we’d have no place to put guests once baby is here). I’d love to hear from a real estate pro about this.

    So in response to your question, I guess I would keep the 3 BRs. But I’ve also got babies on the brain.

  • AJ- a friend has a similar situation- only its with a bathroom. The bathroom used to have an exterior window, but when they added the pop-out, it was going to be covered. So- I don’t know if she did this after-the-fact, or it was done when the pop-out was added, but in place of the old bathroom window, she put a window made of those thick glass block cube thingies, so it’s not really a “window” but has a window feel, and lets light in. It helps that the exterior window of the pop-out it directly in line with this “window”, so natural light comes in.

    I don’t know if this makes sense in writing, but if it does, it might be an interesting way to make one of those rooms into more of a livable space, so it doesn’t feel like a cave.

  • Thanks, everyone! Very helpful. Come check out Anacostia sometime!

  • Never Ever convert a 3 bed sfh to a 2 bed unless you got it for a really low price. You can convert a 5 to a 4, a 4 to a 3, but never a 3 to a 2. When people want a detached SFH they are most likely buying it with the intention that one day they will have a family with two kids (Regardless of whether or not they actually end up having two kids).

    Whats going to happen is that buyers agents are going to look at your house on the mls and see that it has 2 beds instead of 3 (if that is the norm for the neighborhood) and they wont even takek the time to bring buyers to the property. Your buyer pool will be very small and it will hurt resale.

    Dont take my word for it, go to any bookstore and get any real estate book on renovations, flipping etc. 2 bedrooms SFHs just dont sell unless that is the norm for the neighborhood.

  • JustJ is right if we were talking about a detached SFH. But the poster asked about a very small townhouse and was hoping to make it more livable while not hurting his value. when we turned our third 8 by 10 bedroom and a very small bathroom into a glorious 10 by 18 bathroom with a corner spa tub, two person shower, two sink vanity, separate water closet area and washer and dryer closet…the bathroom sold our house. It’s perfect for a couple who don’t want kids and wants the convenience of being close to everything and the luxury of a high-end renovation. JustJ is correct to look at what is moving in your neighborhood, who is buying and why…good luck.

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