If you’re a buyer looking at freehold houses right now, you’ll undoubtedly be analyzing several aspects of the home such as size, style, and layout.
When it comes to entry-level, single family freehold homes, aside from location, the layout is the most crucial part of any property.
I’m seeing a lot of 2-bedroom houses listed as 3-bedrooms, and a lot of true 3-bedroom houses aren’t necessarily conducive to “growing families,” as I’m told by some of my buyer clients…
Quick question to start this blog off: does a bedroom in the basement “count” as a bedroom?
And along the same lines: who is counting?
I wrote a blog last month called “Making Sense of the Condo Den.”
In the blog, I referred to the “plus-one,” or the “+1” as it appears on MLS.
The original intention of the +1, before people started using it to refer to a small nook adjacent to the front hall in their condo, was to represent a room below grade in freehold properties.
Living + Dining + Kitchen + Master Bedroom + 2nd Bedroom + 3rd Bedroom = 6 rooms. But there’s a rec-room and a 4th bedroom in the basement, so the house is “6+2” rooms, and the bedroom section of the listing would show “3+1” due to that 4th bedroom below grade.
Of course, that’s how the +1 was intended.
Nowadays, MLS is a free-for-all, with agents doing whatever they please, with little fear of repercussion. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Having already examined the “Condo Den” issue in last month’s blog, today, I wanted to look at how the various floors in a freehold property are laid out, specifically paying attention to the bedrooms.
Having been a father for ten months, and still living in a condo, I can’t profess to be the expert on what it’s like to raise young children and how best to set up your home as a result.
But having worked with many buyers over the years who have one, two, or three kids, I can tell you that the way a house is laid out can be a deal-maker, or deal-breaker.
From what I’m told by my clients – you want to be on the same floor as your kids.
Now this isn’t for everybody, of course.
And it depends on what age your children are.
If you’ve got a 4-bedroom house, with two bedrooms on the 2nd level, and the Jack-and-Jill bedrooms that share a bathroom on the 3rd level, it’s perfect for your 14 and 16-year-old children who want to be away from their parents. Having their own floor, means having their independence.
But for young families? For first-time parents, or parents with two very small children?
From what I’m told, having the bedrooms on different levels is far from ideal.
Consider the following floor plan, which I would call a very “standard” 3-bedroom layout in any entry-level, semi-detached house in Toronto:
Pretty standard, right?
Forget the main floor, as it’s not important in today’s blog.
What we’re looking at is the upper level, where we see two bedrooms separated by a wall, and at the back of the house, there’s a master bedroom.
In this case, the master has an ensuite, so this isn’t really entry-level, but rather it’s a slight step up. A true “entry level” home would have one bathroom shared by Mom, Dad, and the kids.
The point I’m making is that assuming this is a 2-storey house, there are three bedrooms on the 2nd level.
And that is what most of my clients with young children prefer.
Not all of them, keep in mind.
I have one set of buyers right now that I raised this issue with. I told them, “The master bedroom is on the upper level, and I know many of my buyers are looking to be on the same floor as their children.”
They said, “That doesn’t bother us at all. We’ve got an audio/video camera over the crib, and we’re fit – we can climb up or down a flight of stairs.”
But I go with the feedback I get, and judge everything in real estate on a relative basis. If 8/10 of my clients with small kids want to have their bedrooms on the same floor as those children, then I figure it’s a point bringing up with all of them.
Let’s look at four other floor plans with three bedrooms, where the bedroom layout needs to be scrutinized by the buyer to determine if it works for the family.
1) Master Bedroom On 3rd Level, w/Ensuite
In many cases, this is preferable to the layout provided above.
Here we have essentially a “master level” for the parents, with a 4-piece ensuite bathroom. The bedroom is fit for a king-sized bed, and you can picture a slew of built-ins or dressers in a room that’s 13 x 20.
It’s fantastic – 2 1/2 storeys are better than 2, right?
But if you’re a couple with a newborn and a 2-year-old, how do you feel about living on a different floor than your kids?
2) Third Bedroom On Third Level
This differs from the first floor plan because the master bedroom is on the 2nd level, and one of the “Kids” bedrooms is on the 3rd level.
But the difference between the two floor plans isn’t merely a label on who’s room it is.
This changes the entire living situation for the parents.
Having a “Master Suite” on the 3rd floor, and two kids below you, is something that a lot of folks can make work.
But now we have a bedroom down the hall from the master, and then a bedroom above?
That’s just not going to work for a family with two small children. Is it?
I’m asking, because the feedback I get would suggest “no,” but I’m curious to hear from the readers as to whether you’d have your 5-year-old living one level above you.
3) Third Bedroom In……Basement?
This isn’t a 3-bedroom house.
This is a 2-bedroom house, plain and simple.
To call this a 3-bedroom house is like, oh so many other fabrications on MLS.
A client asked me last night, “When it says ‘ensuite’ for locker on MLS, what does that mean?”
I told her, “It means there is no locker.”
Sure, in a 1980’s condo, there could be a massive storage room that acts as a laundry facility, and holds enough food to save for Armageddon. But in a new condo, when somebody says “ensuite” for locker, it means they’re referring to their hall closet as a locker.
Same goes for this silly below-grade basement acting as a “third bedroom.”
By traditional standards, this is not a bedroom. This is a “+1,” and on MLS, under bedrooms, it should say “2+1.”
But on MLS, anything goes.
And it’s up to the buyer, and the buyer agent, to identify what this property is, how it’s laid out, and whether or not it could work for the family.
4) Third Bedroom In Basement…..or….1/2-Storey
This one is interesting.
This is basically the same as #3, but, it adds the 1/2 storey up top.
As with #3, this house has two bedrooms on the 2nd level, and one in the basement that they’re calling a third bedroom.
But, they have a “loft” on the third or 1/2-storey.
So if they couldn’t get away with calling this a “3-bedroom” and it’s actually a “2+1” as was #3 on the list, perhaps they can call that loft a third bedroom, as with floor plan #2?
Define it however you like, but does it work for you and your family?
That’s what you have to decide.
And ultimately, what price are you paying for the home?
Let’s use #4 as an example, for a moment, and pretend that basement bedroom doesn’t exist. Pretend it’s unfinished storage.
Then what have you got?
Is this a “Two-plus-loft?”
Because I’ve seen a ton of east-side houses lately that are 2 1/2-storeys, listed as a 3-bedroom, but where the third bedroom is essentially a finished attic space.
Does that work for a 2-child family?
The shame of it is – most of these are Victorians, which are gorgeous, and yet somewhat impractical. And because of the beauty and rarity of Toronto Victorians, they sell for more money.
Do you want to pay more money for a less practical home?
So let me put it to the readers, both those with kids and those without: how do you feel about the layout of the five floor plans shown above?
If you have no kids, one kid, two kids; young kids or grown kids, let me know what’s a deal-breaker, and what’s not.