If you own a studio apartment, you might have thought about renovating it into a one-bedroom to woo more tenants or a bigger pool of buyers. While a one-bedroom can potentially command a higher price, it’s not always a certainty. Before you hire a contractor to add those additional walls, let’s take a look at whether a one-bedroom upgrade is a good idea for your studio.
What to consider before converting a studio to a one-bedroom
It’s important to remember that studio apartments — particularly smaller units — were built that way for a reason. The open floor plan, much loved by artists and other creative types as a work/living space, allows for inhabitants to make the most of the whole space rather than being relegated to tiny rooms.
Adding a bedroom is never as easy as simply adding walls and a door to the space. A true bedroom has a door and a window, providing two means of egress. And according to the International Residential Code (IRC), the room must also be at least 70 square feet, though this minimum bedroom size varies by state. Some real estate agents will argue that a bedroom must also have a closet, but it’s not mandated by building code.
Of course, real estate listings in certain areas — here’s looking at you, New York City — will often overstate the nature of a one-bedroom apartment. In some units, the “bedroom” might simply be a small, dark, walled-off area that can perhaps fit a bed. This might seem like real estate listing semantics, but if the space is not a true one-bedroom, you might not be able to get the rent or price you were hoping for.
For this reason, some experts say don’t even think about converting that studio unless there’s at least 500 square feet to play with. Studio apartments in luxury buildings often have square footage and natural light to spare. Indeed, there are units that rival the size of some one- and even two-bedroom apartments. When the studio resembles more of a loft in size, it might be better to look at other ways of staging the space instead.
Even if your studio is perfectly primed for an upgrade, there’s one more thing to consider: the co-op board or HOA. Aside from any required construction permits, you’ll need permission from management to make the conversion. If you don’t get the nod of approval and go through with the construction anyway, you’ll likely have to remove the walls. That will add up to a big waste of time and money, so don’t do anything until you have express permission from the powers that be.
What to do instead of adding a bedroom
If the size and configuration of the studio don’t make sense for you to convert it to a one-bedroom, there are other options for making better use of the space. Here are some ideas that might attract tenants and buyers to your studio — perhaps even more so than a small one-bedroom.
Create an alcove
Instead of full walls to close off the room, consider building an alcove with partial walls to delineate the sleeping area. This might work best in smaller apartments, where potential room layouts are limited. However, in larger spaces that allow for several different kinds of space configurations, tenants or buyers might want to try a different layout than the one you have.
Add a closet/more storage space
Tenants or buyers will always be happy for extra storage space in an apartment. Walk-in closets are always a welcome sight, and they can even be used as walk-in pantries or Zoom rooms. Having more space to tuck things away will give reluctant studio inhabitants the ability to keep the main part of their home tidy.
Build an office
If you do have space for a bonus room in the studio — which doesn’t require a window to be called such — think about turning it into a home office. Tenants and buyers who have found themselves working from home will appreciate having extra private space to work during the day — and then being able to close the door when the working day is done.
The bottom line
Just because you can put up walls to create a new bedroom doesn’t mean you should. A one-bedroom won’t necessarily command more rent than a studio if the room is too cramped. While your ultimate goal as an investor is to get the most ROI for any renovations you do to a property, you might be better leaving well enough alone in a studio.