“Den Could Be Used As Second Bedroom”

Condos | April 26, 2013

Yes, and the palm of my hand could be used as an ashtray, but that doesn’t make it practical.

I can’t stand when listings mislead buyers into thinking there are 2-bedrooms, or a den that isn’t a den…


I’ve covered the concept of a “den” in a condominium about a dozen times before.

I don’t think we need to go over this again, since we’ll all get frustrated, and we’ll end up lynching a developer or two.

But today I wanted to talk about two similar falsifications that I’m constantly seeing on MLS.

Picture the following two captions:

Den Could Be Used As Second Bedroom

Currently Not Set Up As 2-Bedroom But Easy To Convert Back

These are mutually exclusive, although I suppose, somewhere, there’s a condo where both apply.

Consider the first quote for a moment.  “Den could be used as second bedroom.”

First and foremost, thank you for telling me how to live.  Thank you for explaining how a room could be used.  What else can you tell me?

“Kitchen could be used to cook food.”

“Bedroom could be used for sleeping.”

“Closet could be used for storing clothing.”

“Bathroom could be used for getting really greased-up, using Axe deodorant body-spray, looking at yourself in the mirror for excessive amounts of time, popping your shirt-collar, going out to some fancy night club and failing to impress women with your knowledge of cars, and then coming home alone to cuddle your pillow.”

And so on…

The fact remains that most dens could not actually be used as a second bedroom.  You may as well have somebody sleeping on the couch, because you’re not really gaining any advantage by sleeping in most condo “dens.”

Consider this as the average condo den:


So look at this space, and try and picture it as a bedroom.

It can barely fit a 2-person couch, which, if a person sat on, would be about 30-inches from the screen, and yet we’re supposed to picture an actual bedroom?  A bedroom has a closet.  A bedroom has  a window.  A bedroom can fit, um, you know, a bed!

This is actually a decent condo den, too!  Think about all the awful dens that you’ve seen on MLS, and now think about “Second Bedroom Can Be Used As A Den.”

Basically what they’re saying here is this:

“If you want to rent your in-suite storage locker (read: den) or tiny room where you jam a couch, to an International student who doesn’t know any better, a down-on-his-luck friend who needs a place to live, or somebody who you really don’t like, then just hang a cheap IKEA curtain in place of a wall, and call it a BEDROOM!”

That’s what I get from this.  “Den could be used as second bedroom.”  Yes, it could, if you lower your standards enough…

But the second caption bothers me even more!

Currently Not Set Up As 2-Bedroom But Easy To Convert Back

This drives me crazy, as often, listing agents will put the condo on MLS as a 2-bedroom, but you arrive only to find that it’s a 1-bedroom, where the second bedroom has been opened up to the living room, turned into a dining room, or it was only a 2-bedroom on floor plans, was never used as such.

If I were a single man, and I were into online dating, I would put this on my profile:

“Currently set up as a single bachelor who eats pizza on his couch, but easy to convert to a loyal boyfriend.”

Or maybe something like this:

“Currently a modest 7 out of 10, but easy to convert to a 10 out of 10.”

That sounds about right.

Because the word “easy,” in itself, is quite easy to use.

Define, “easy.”

You might think it’s “easy” to perform ten plastic surgeries on an ugly dude to turn him into a 10/10 like Brad Pitt, if you’re, say, a plastic surgeon.

You might also suggest that it’s “easy” to convert a 1-bedroom condo back into a 2-bedroom condo!

Maybe “easy” sounds something like this:

“Simply remove the hardwood flooring, and anchor the aluminum studs to the concrete.  Then frame in two walls to separate the living room from the “former second bedroom,” and run electrical wire through the walls.  Then drywall, then tape, then plaster, then sand, then paint.  Then install electrical outlets, light fixtures, and build a closet.  Then install a track on the floor and above the threshold, and install two sliding doors.”

That’s “easy” if you’re a professional contractor with a free weekend.

But in reality, it’s not easy.  There is nothing easy about building a second bedroom out of space where a bedroom was never intended.

Think about all the people who bought 2-bedroom condos off of floor plans, but altered the floor plans to suit their own practical needs, and in the end, decided that one bedroom was sufficient, and a larger living room, or larger master bedroom made more sense than a tiny little 2nd bedroom that nobody would ever use.

When it comes time to resell, these people figure, “Well, I paid ‘2-bedroom money,’ so I want to get that money out when I sell!”

Then they list the condo on MLS as a 2-bedroom, and insert the words “Currently Not Set Up As A 2-Bedroom But Easy To Convert Back” in the remarks for brokers.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a condo, listed as a 2-bedroom, and my clients and I have searched high and low for the secret passage to the non-existent second bedroom.  You almost feel stupid at some point, as you open a closet, hoping to find a 10 x 10 space.

I was in a condo a few weeks back where the sellers had basically designed the unit from scratch by altering the developer’s floor plans.  The unit was gorgeous, and incredibly unique, but it was still just a 1-bedroom.  They had taken a former 2-bedroom and turned the space where the 2nd bedroom was supposed to go into a large dining area, with built-in shelving for plates and glasses.  It was a great unit, but just a 1-bedroom.

Of course, the MLS remarks suggested “Easy To Convert Back To 2-Bedroom.”

What if it was easy?  I mean, it’s not easy; not anything remotely close to easy.  But what if it was?  Would it be worth doing?

As it stands, the unit has a dining area with built-in shelving, a chandelier, crown moulding, a china-hutch, and a host of other dining room features.  How much money would it cost to remove every aspect of the dining room, and turn this into a bedroom?  If somebody paid $15,000 to do so, would it be worthwhile?  Or would they be better served just buying a 2-bedroom condo?

Okay, I’ll concede: it’s nice to have options.

But you can spend all kinds of money on food dye to turn Cheerios different colors, or, you can just buy Fruit Loops.

Maybe you’ll argue “the listing agent is working for the seller by showing that the unit can be used in different ways,” but I think that’s a stretch.

You wouldn’t take a 4-bedroom house and say, “Second floor can be used as one massive, spacious master bedroom if you tear down all the walls.”

A 2-bedroom condo is a 2-bedroom condo.

A 1-bed-plus-den condo is exactly that.

And a 1-bed condo with a large living/dining, extra closet, and expanded master bedroom is NOT a 2-bedroom condo, no matter how hard you market it as such…

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  1. Jeremy

    at 10:09 am

    I was looking at a fairly nice condo in Waterloo on realtor.ca in which the den *is* actually being used as a bedroom. From the pictures, they appear to have a bunk bed for two little girls and there’s a big curtain that can be pulled across the front of the den. Not an attractive setup though, for noise reasons. The “master” bedroom is upstairs but open (half wall overlooking the main room and no door from the stairs).

  2. Paully

    at 9:14 pm

    You left out “get the required building permits,” from your “easy” description. Schlepping down to city hall to navigate an unknown bureaucracy must be easy, no?

  3. Floom

    at 10:57 am

    You’re on fire today – at least a half dozen great quotes here! I really enjoyed this post.

    Question for you, I viewed a 1 + den (listed as such!) where the den was 1) freakishly large 2) had a window 3) had 3 complete walls…This unit could actually be convertible to a 2 bedroom, but that would emphasize how small the living & dining area is…is it always better to market a 2-bed? Could you then say “easily opened up to a spacious 1+den?

    1. David Fleming

      at 8:00 pm

      @ Floom.

      Thanks man.

      If this unit was a truly a 1-plus-den, I would list it as such.

      I find that you catch more flies with honey, and to lie on a listing only serves to set buyers’ expectations high, and then let them down in the end.

      I’ve seen units at 438 Richmond Street West where the “den” is a full room, with four walls, a closet, and a DOOR! That’s a bedroom, in my mind! It’s only missing a window, but the whole “every true ‘bedroom’ has window’ theory flew out the window (pardon the pun…) when the loft fad invaded Toronto.

      1. Phil

        at 2:11 pm

        nowadays, more new condos in downtown (not just lofts) have bedrooms with no window than ones with a window… is it allowed to advertise a windowless room as “bedroom”?

        1. Amelia Haynes

          at 12:07 pm

          It doesn’t have to have a winder per se, but rather a ‘source of natural light’ … Think condos with sliding frosted glass doors.

  4. wikito

    at 9:55 am

    When I was in school we bought floor to ceiling styrofoam panels from home depot. About 1 inch think and supposed to be used for insulation. Anyways we converted our living room into a “bedroom”.. making our 2 bedroom into a 3 bedroom..

  5. Amelia Haynes

    at 12:10 pm

    I received an email about this article today, yet I see that it was written in 2013. What’s the deal David?!

  6. Daniel

    at 12:44 am

    Lol you sound bitter!!
    Did you buy a 2bedroom and the 1plus1 unit next to yours sell for more. Lol people can say whatever they want. As long as they follow proper codes and standards. Sad article in my opinion.
    You are also a hypocrite, clearly people who are looking for this know already it’s a small room thanks yeah we can see that.

  7. Jebin Mathew

    at 6:17 pm

    I recently purchased a TH with 3 bedroom and 1 den. I got possession of the keys a week ago. I was told by one of our friends that our TH is not in fact a 3 bedroom but a 2 bedroom since one of the bedroom is missing closet plus a window. I believe through false advertisement I was made to believe I was getting a 3 bedroom. I would like to know if legally I am able to do anything at this moment.
    Thanks for your help in advance

  8. Mohit Sharma

    at 4:42 pm

    Can somebody please tell me that the den room is legal to rent out ?

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