June 2018

When is a bedroom not a bedroom? What makes an office an office? What dictates the required size of a septic system – the number of bedrooms or the number of bathrooms?

According to current building codes in effect in Chaffee County, two features are required for a conforming bedroom – adequate egress aside from the bedroom door, usually in the form of a window, and a permanent framed closet.

The window must have a minimum openable area of 5.7 square feet and be no higher than 44 inches off the ground.

For older homes, these requirements can be problematic. Building codes are a relatively new concept and are also living documents, open to constant change and amendment.

Buying an older home with a non-conforming bedroom does not mean the new owner needs to bring it up to current code per se, but they may need to if they subsequently apply for a building permit to make renovations, improvements or additions that affect the bedroom in question.

When located in an incorporated city or town, the number of bedrooms in a house has no relevance to its ability to connect to city utilities. In the unincorporated county, however, it is a different matter. It is the number of bedrooms, rather than the number of bathrooms, that dictates the requisite size and capacity of the septic system.

This is worth keeping in mind if an addition is planned at some stage in the future, particularly the addition of a bedroom. If the capacity of the current septic system is at its maximum, adding a bedroom can mean an expensive expansion of the wastewater capacity as well.

This is where the designation of an office comes in. A spare room with adequate egress but no closet can be classed as an office, rather than a bedroom, and as such the septic expansion requirement would likely not apply.

Provided the office continues to be used as an office, there is no issue. However, unsuspecting owners can fall foul of county regulations should they add a closet, thereby changing the designation without realizing the implications.

All this goes to stress the importance of consulting experts and researching the property you are interested in, both for its compliance to current code and the implications of any improvements that are planned for the future.

A quick word about this month’s home sales statistics. All indicators point to a market that is continuing to gather momentum, with the numbers for new listings, home sales and average price all continuing their upward trajectory.

It is also worth noting that homes priced between $200,000 and $600,000 are currently spending less than two weeks on the market, on average.

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