Why does it matter if the bedroom windows are small or high?

Younger home with large bedroom window, low to the ground

Younger home with large bedroom window, low to the ground

If you are buying or selling an older ranch style house or historic home in Silicon Valley, there’s a good chance that original bedroom windows may be smaller or higher than your home inspector might like.  What is the big deal with the height or size of the windows?  The inspection report may mention ingress and egress.

On this site and others of ours, we bring up health and safety topics from time to time. For example, we shared info on unsafe electrical panels here. In the case of fire or other emergency, children and adults may need to get out and rescue personnel may need to get in. If bedroom windows are poorly configurated, the room could end up being a death trap.

For fire safety, it’s important that:

  • bedroom windows be an escape route for persons in the home (egress) – for this, they must be low enough to the ground and big enough so that children and adults can both get out in case of an emergency
  • emergency responders such as fire fighters, with their large backpacks on their backs, can get in through the same openings (ingress)

When windows are too high, kids, and perhaps adults, cannot get out through them.  And no matter how low or high, if the windows are too small, emergency personnel cannot enter through them.

Bedroom windows and safety: how big and how low do the windows need to be?

There are varied requirements, and exceptions, depending on whether the home is new construction or a remodel. Additionally, there are different rules for basements and 2nd story bedroom windows. Cities and towns each have their own codes, too.  Your best bet is to check with your particular town or city to see what you must do if remodeling or replacing your windows.

In Los Gatos, ground floor windows must be

  • no more than 44″ off the ground
  • at least 20″ wide
  • at least 24″ tall
  • There are additional requirements, though – please see the link at the bottom of this article to view the details.

San Jose’s requirements are similar.

City of San Jose: Window Replacement Requirements

All sleeping rooms and basements – Must meet these specifications:
– Minimum 5.7 square feet opening*
– Minimum height of 24 inches
– Minimum width of 20 inches
– Maximum height to bottom of clear opening of 44 inches
* In order to meet the required 5.7 square-foot opening, either the width or height or both must
exceed the minimum dimensions shown. If bottom of clear opening is le

When remodeling your home and switching from single pane to dual pane windows, many people will be tempted to use the same sized windows with the new replacement set in order to save money, and in many areas, skip the need for permits and finals by not disturbing the stucco.  But rather than target the least expensive way to upgrade your windows, I’d like to suggest making safety a priority.  Upgrade not just your home’s energy efficiency, but its safety too.

 

Ranch style house with original casement windows

Ranch style house with original casement windows – impossible for ingress by emergency personnel.

 

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What is a bedroom worth?

A common mistake among real estate agents and consumers both is estimating a home’s probable value using only the living space’s square footage. But what about the total number of rooms? Specifically, what is a bedroom worth?

Clearly other factors have a significant impact, such as remodeling done (or deferred maintenance that’s taken place), whether or not there are special features such as pools or tennis courts, the quality of the landscaping, or the presence of a view. Some of these are challenging for pinning down a value since they may be unique to a particular property and there may be no similar comparable properties or “comps”.

All homes, though, have bedrooms. We know (almost intuitively) that it will be challenging to sell a 1 bedroom home and that 6 or more bedrooms may sound like a boarding house and have diminishing value for most consumers. (I’ve known 6 bedroom homes to be presented as 5 bedrooms plus a den or home office.)

 

Calculating value - what is a bedroom worth?

 

Recently I ran into this issue again, where some lovely people I was discussing the market with appeared to be looking at their house’s likely sales price based only on square footage and not seeing the highly likely limitation of having fewer bedrooms than most home buyers want. I decided it would be a good study to pull up two and three bedroom sales in San Jose over recent years and check on the average sale price of each – keeping the properties within a fairly close band of square footage and lot size so that it would be a level playing field. (Most accurate would be in a very small area with a very tight range of square footage, but going that narrow likely leaves us with too few homes for a decent pool of data.)

I did a spot check of smaller, older houses in  San Jose 95126 (roughly the Rose Garden, Shasta Hanchett, and St. Leo’s areas) and used square footage of 1000 SF to 1500 SF and small lot sizes of up to 6000 SF. Also I removed sales on busy roads, such as Hedding. Bottom line: the 3 bedroom houses were selling for an average of $897.72 per square foot, while the 2 bedroom houses were purchased at an average of $837.04 per square foot.

What if we looked at a broader area, and not just older houses? The next section covers all of San Jose and also from 2017 to the present.

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