Den Vs Bedroom – What’s the difference?
What defines a bedroom is a common topic of debate among those who write real estate marketing descriptions and those who read them.
MLS® Definition of a bedroom
According to the multiple listing service the fundamental difference between a bedroom and den is a built-in closet. A bedroom on the other hand must have a built-in closet but not necessarily an outside window. Regardless of whether it has a window or not, the closet is what defines a bedroom, while a den can simply be a room without a closet or window.
BC building code definition of a bedroom
According to the BC building code, a bedroom must have a window and closing door, but a closet is not needed. Neither source defines a smallest size per room type, but one would assume a bedroom would be big enough to house a bed. Or would they? Remember the Vancouver Olympic Village “bedrooms that are too small to fit a bed” scandal detailed in this Globe & Mail article?
So, what is a den?
The term “den” in real estate descriptions is broad. If you look in the dictionary however, a “den” is just a room. You may see the term “open den” which typically (but not always) refers to a three-walled nook or alcove. Some will post open dens to mean a den that has been converted—for example, a trend right now is the dining room to home office conversion, defined by built-in cabinets or furniture. These they may not meet the three wall criteria.
To further confuse things, the Real Estate Board does not have a searchable category for “dens”. There is no straight forward way to include “1 bedroom plus den” in your search criteria. This results in many realtors filling out the listing forms intentionally listing a den as a bedroom, so their posting will not be overlooked by buyers in need of an extra room. Many buyers searching for 2 bedrooms could do just fine if they had a room without a closet and would want to search 2 bedrooms and 1 bedrooms with dens.
The ongoing challenge
I recently received an angry phone call from a potential buyer because I had a 2-bedroom unit listed for sale and the second bedroom was set up like an office. I had told the seller they should stage the office to show as a bedroom but being a person who works exclusively from home it was something they were not willing to do. Without a bed in the bedroom it is hard for buyers to see if it will fit a bed, and this particularly angry caller did not believe a bed would fit.
Not true, of course. Anyone could use a tape measure and see an 11 x 9 room could easily accommodate a double or queen bed—and the bedroom in question had a window and built-in closet. But the caller’s belief was no bed, no bedroom.
With the challenges of defining Den vs Bedroom, a recent trend with junior bedrooms and it’s no surprise why the concept of bedrooms and dens are confusing to even seasoned home buyers.