The Small-Space Renovation You Should Never Do If You Care About Resale Value

published Jun 9, 2021
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Studio apartments usually offer open floor plans with lots of potential for interesting layouts. Some are even so spacious that they seem larger than the typical one-bedroom apartment. Square footage aside, though, studios are not one-bedroom apartments, and this makes a difference when it comes to resale value. While it might be tempting to hire a contractor to build some walls in a studio, read this first.

What Studio Dwellers Should Consider

Ellen Sykes, a broker with Warburg Realty in New York, says that while one-bedrooms do generally fare better with resale value because of that separate sleeping space, not all studio owners should dive into a renovation. 

“You should only convert where there is a natural space and enough of it for conversion,” she says. An alcove is a good option, but it needs to have a “generous” amount of space. “If you can’t move around the bed, it makes no sense,” she explains.

Before you add walls to a studio, Sykes says to consider the following:

  • Where are the windows located? If there is just one, a wall will likely mean cutting off light and airflow to one of the rooms.
  • How will the wall(s) affect the layout? Will you have to go through the bedroom to access the living room or vice versa?
  • What about the heater or the air conditioner? Cutting off temperature control in a room will not be good when the seasons change.

Sykes says that putting a wall up in the middle of a studio will usually cut off the natural flow to the kitchen or the bathroom, and it will make every area within the space feel cramped. So, adding a wall could actually hurt the resale value of the studio.

“In this case, it’s better to have a larger studio with good airflow, light, and a feeling of spaciousness,” she says.

Credit: Franke Chung

When Is a Bedroom Not a Bedroom?

This is not the start of a riddle or a dad joke. If you do indeed go ahead with putting up walls in your studio, you might not actually be able to call the new space a bedroom. While coding varies by state, the International Residential Code lists the following requirements for a room to be considered “habitable”:

  • There must be a minimum of 70 square feet of space and half of the ceiling height must be at least 7 feet tall.
  • There must be two means of egress, namely a door and a window.

It should be noted that many real estate agents will not list a room as a bedroom unless there is a closet and a connected HVAC system, too.

Embrace Your Space 

Don’t give up hope if your studio is not the right fit for a one-bedroom upgrade. Keep in mind that even true one-bedroom apartments can feel cramped depending on the layout. It’s all how you configure the space. If you have a studio that allows for a flexible floor plan, buyers might be more intrigued.

Sykes shares the most “ingenious idea I ever heard of” for making a studio more private: The resident put the bed in a corner and installed a sailboat’s roller furling jib near the headboard. When unfurled, it hides the bed, and when it’s time to turn in, all they had to do was pull on the rope. 

“It’s cheap, funky, and totally cool-looking if you like sailboats, and a great way to get a temporary wall and privacy,” she says.