The Real Price of a Guest Room: What an Extra Bedroom Costs in SF, Chicago & 32 Other Cities

published May 25, 2017
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(Image credit: Jill Ruzicka)

There’s truly nothing better, to me at least, than sharing your home with family and friends. That’s a big reason why my husband and I sought out a two-bedroom space when we went home shopping last year: We knew we wanted to use the extra space as a guest room to be able to host out-of-town family and friends when they visit. We’re not the only homeowners who made an “extra bedroom” a priority, either. There are more bedrooms than people in the United States—to the tune of around 33 million. And even though they can’t all be guest rooms, I’d bet my mortgage that there are still a whole lot of empty mattresses out there.

An extra bedroom isn’t inherently a bad thing, of course. If you know you’d like to start or grow your family one day, an extra bedroom is more of a placeholder than anything. Or maybe you need an extra room for an office or a hobby room. Or, you know, you might just want a place to host guests once in a while. As long as you can afford the extra space, why not, right?

What an Extra Bedroom Adds to Your Mortgage

If you’re shopping for a home that has more bedrooms than you need, you know on some level that the extra leg room is going to come with a price tag. But seeing the price may shock you.

“Even though many families may be prepared to spend extra for a larger home, just how much more may come as a surprise, especially for those living in coastal markets,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist. Zillow’s recently released Cost of Moving Up analysis crunched the numbers to determine the average premium on extra space in 34 American cities. Moving from a one-bedroom to a similar two-bedroom home in San Francisco—to use one of the country’s priciest markets for example—will add around $1,200 per month to your mortgage. Unsurprisingly, money goes further in the midwest; in Chicago, you can upgrade from one bedroom to two for just $15, or from two to three for around $144.

Interested in the data where you live? You can use Zillow’s interactive tool to check out the cost of moving up in your market, or see all the data in a chart here.

Even if an extra bedroom comes cheap in your neck of the woods, it’s smart to consider that there are also other costs associated with owning an extra bedroom, such as decorating the space as well as heating and cooling it.

Calculating the Cost Per Use of a Guest Room

If you’re home shopping and planning on using an extra bedroom as a guest room, it might pay off for you to take on a little cost-benefit analysis before taking the plunge and signing on the dotted line.

I wanted to use my own two-bedroom home as an example here to show you how you can weigh the true cost of a guest room, but Zillow’s data reveals an “N/A” where the added cost of moving from a one- to two-bedroom home where I live in Atlanta. (Whether that’s the result of unavailable data or that the figure is too low to count, I have no idea. But in my experience, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it’s the latter—we didn’t feel like two-bedrooms cost much more than the 1-bedrooms we saw during our search.) So instead, let’s look in Denver, one of the middle-of-the-road cities in Zillow’s report:

  • Cost per month of adding a second bedroom in Denver: $329
  • Annual cost of that guest bedroom: $3,948
  • The average daily rate of hotel rooms in Denver: $172
  • Nights you’d have to host overnight guests to break even: 22.9

You can do the math the other direction, too, estimating how often and for how long you usually host overnight guests, then using Zillow’s data to calculate a cost-per-use for your guest bedroom. If the number comes back looking like the evening rate at the swankiest resort in town, it’s better for your bottom line to put your guests up in a bed and breakfast when they visit.