Homes are a collection of rooms that serve different purposes. But as you go on house tours, you may discover a different kind of room — one that serves no specific purpose, which leaves it open to many possible uses. These rooms that can’t be categorized are called bonus rooms.
- Bonus rooms are additional rooms in a home that aren’t bedrooms, kitchens, family rooms, or other rooms with a specific purpose.
- Creative ideas for using a bonus room include an in-home office, a library, or a home theater.
- You should weigh the pros and cons of bonus rooms before you buy a home that has one.
Bonus Rooms Defined
A bonus room is a multipurpose room in a home that isn’t classified under another room type. Bonus rooms can be a converted attic, a basement, or an above-garage space. Sometimes they are just rooms too small to legally be called a bedroom. Bonus rooms are difficult to define, but that’s part of their appeal because they can be tailored to the homeowner’s needs.
In many ways, it’s easier to define a bonus room by what it isn’t. A bonus room isn’t a family room, living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, closet, hallway, bathroom, or half bath.
You may see a bonus room listed by other names, including:
- Finished room over garage — or FROG.
- Flex space.
- Loft space.
- Extra room.
- Spare room.
Bedroom vs. bonus room
You may wonder why bonus rooms can’t be listed as bedrooms. After all, an extra bedroom typically increases the value of a home by $40,000 — and there’s nothing stopping you from sleeping in a bonus room.
The reason why a bonus room doesn’t qualify as a bedroom in real estate is because most states have legal requirements for bedrooms. Here’s a look at some of those requirements:
- Size. Size requirements vary by state, but you can expect between 70 and 80 square feet to be the minimum. If a room in the home is smaller than that, then it can’t qualify as a bedroom.
- Ceiling height. Typically, at least half of the bedroom ceiling must be 7 feet or taller. Many bonus rooms are converted attics or lofts with low or slanted ceilings.
- Horizontal length. A bedroom usually must be at least 7 feet long to fit a bed.
- Window size. A bedroom must have a window that’s at least 5.7 square feet. Some bonus rooms are above garages or underground with no windows.
- Two means of egress. Egress is a way to get in or out of a room, which includes doors, windows, and skylights. This is often required of bedrooms for safety reasons.
- A heating or cooling element. If a bonus room is above a garage, then the room is unlikely to have air conditioning. However, ceiling fans and windows that can be opened qualify as a cooling element.
Does a bonus room count on property taxes?
Bonus rooms are included in your property taxes — but not explicitly.
Your property taxes are based on your home’s value, as well as your state, county, and local government tax rates. The higher the value of your property, the more you’ll pay in taxes.
Bonus rooms give you more livable and usable space, which adds value to your home. This may also increase your home’s property taxes.
Does a bonus room count toward square footage?
Whether a room counts toward square footage depends on various factors, such as whether the room is aboveground, if it’s finished, and whether it has two means of egress. For example, many states don’t count a basement toward a home’s square footage if it’s entirely belowground.
In general, a bonus room will count toward square footage if it’s part of the gross living area, which means it must meet these requirements:
- Be finished.
- Be above-grade.
- Be livable.
- Complies with local regulations for ceiling height, accessibility, and amenities.
Creative Bonus Room Ideas
Bonus rooms might not legally count as bedrooms, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful in other ways. In fact, the versatility of a bonus room is one of its most appealing parts.
Here are some creative bonus room ideas:
- Office. A bonus room can make for an ideal office. If you have a few outlets and space for a desk and chair, you’re good to go.
- Guest bedroom. Visitors can stay in a bonus room even if the space can’t legally be considered a bedroom.
- Nursery. You can put a crib, changing table, and other furniture in a bonus room to turn it into a nursery until your child is old enough for a full bedroom.
- Meditation room. If your bonus room lacks windows or is insulated from noise, it can be a great place to escape from the world and meditate.
- Laundry room. As long as there are electrical outlets and water pipes nearby, you can turn a bonus room into a laundry room.
- Music studio. Add some soundproofing, and you can use your studio to play music without bothering the neighbors.
- Bar. A refrigerator, a counter, and some storage can turn a bonus room into a relaxing place to have a drink with friends or family.
- Workshop. Bonus rooms that are above garages and aren’t fully finished can be a great place for crafts or do-it-yourself projects. You won’t have to worry about dirtying the carpet or splattering paint on the walls.
- Home theater. A bonus room without windows is ideal for a home theater.
- Walk-in closet. If you don’t have enough closet space in your bedroom, a bonus room can become a walk-in closet.
- Playroom. Install some padded flooring, and you could use your bonus room as a place for your children to run around and play.
- Storage space. Unfinished, small, or oddly shaped rooms can be great for storage.
- Home gym. A basement with concrete floors can be a great place to work out and not worry about damaging the floor.
- Home library. Your bonus room can house books instead of people.
These are just some of the possible ideas for a bonus room transformation. Let your imagination guide you toward what would enhance your time at home.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Home With a Bonus Room
There are lots of creative ways to make bonus rooms useful, but it’s also important to consider their limitations.
Advantages of a bonus room
Some benefits of having a bonus room include:
- Added home value. Bonus rooms aren’t bedrooms, and they might not count toward square footage, but these spaces are still useful and can increase the value of your home.
- Flexibility. A bonus room is what you make of it, and there are few limitations to how you can use one. Your imagination and creativity will provide lots of options.
- More privacy. You can transform your bonus room into a haven from a crowded home or noisy neighborhood, depending on where it’s located on your floor plan.
Disadvantages of a bonus room
Bonus rooms aren’t perfect, so you also have to think about their drawbacks, which can include:
- Odd size, location, or shape. If the bonus room is too small, has a low ceiling, or is an odd shape, you might struggle to find a way to use it effectively.
- Missing elements. A bonus room typically lacks doors, windows, or closets, according to Praveen Khare, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Cambridge, Massachussetts. If you want those elements, you might be out of luck or need to add them yourself.
- Additional maintenance. The more rooms you have, the more time you need to spend cleaning and maintaining your home. Bonus rooms mean more work to keep your home in good condition.
Should You Buy a Home With a Bonus Room?
Bonus rooms can be valuable additional space. It’s fun to think of exciting ways to use one, such as building a home library, gym, or music studio.
However, if you don’t have a good plan for how to use the space, buying a home with a bonus room might not be worth it. A bonus room can make a home more expensive compared to one that lacks a bonus room. It also requires additional cleaning and upkeep, which means spending more time on household chores.
Bonus Room FAQ
Before you buy a home with a bonus room, it’s important to make sure you understand how they work.
Whether you can turn a bonus room into a bedroom depends on a few factors. For example, if local laws require bedrooms to have a window, but the bonus room is an interior room, making it into a bedroom will be difficult. If the room simply lacks finishing or needs a ceiling fan installed, you may be able to turn it into a bedroom.
Most sellers will be excited to mention a bonus room in their home listing.
“A bonus room can be found either by a floor plan of the property or inspection,” Khare says. “It will also will be described on (the multiple listing service) by the listing agent.”
You can also ask your real estate agent to do some research on the home you’re looking at.
The Bottom Line on Bonus Rooms
Bonus rooms are additional spaces in a home that, for one reason or another, don’t meet the legal definition of a bedroom or qualify as another type of room, such as a kitchen, closet, or bathroom. Despite this, bonus rooms are valuable spaces that can be used in many different ways. If you’re thinking about buying a home with a bonus room, make it a fun project to discover what kind of space will bring you the most joy.