Bonus Rooms – More Expensive Than You Think
Go into any show home parade in the city today and you are almost certain to find a "bonus room" above the garage. They’re wildly popular with buyers and builders alike, but buying a home with one could be costing you more than you think.
One of the biggest factors affecting home design in the last 40 years in Calgary has been the ever shrinking size of the lots. Where once we had districts full of single level "bungalows" and "bi-levels" we now see almost exclusively "two storey" homes and the reasons are obvious. In my current home in the suburbs I can literally touch both my house and my neighbor’s house at the same time. It was only natural that attaching the garage and then building over the garage to increase space would become more common.
2nd level floor plans have been creeping further and further out, and in the newest communities they actually extend beyond the front of the attached garage! You could build anything there, but who wants 5 bedrooms upstairs? The bonus room is the answer and people love them! What normally would be in the basement and would often require the home owner to develop, the family room, is now ready made and move-in ready.
The rub is that the total space available in the house is actually shrinking and most people don’t realize it because of the confusing way this city discloses house sizes. The Calgary Real Estate Board, for reasons I’ll never understand, forces Realtors to only include "above grade square footage" as the "Total SQFT" field of the MLS.
Basements are expensive to build. They require a larger lot and more concrete, and therein lies the secret to builders profits and your loss because you can’t build basements under garages. Combine this with the mysterious practice of excluding basements when calculating house size and you begin to see how people may be getting less house than they think when they buy one with a bonus room.
Take the following example of two homes, both of which are advertised as having a Total Square Footage of 2000 sqft, remembering that you can only build basement under the main floor, not under the garage:
If you buy a home with a developed basement or you plan to develop the basement then you will want to pay particular attention to the MAIN FLOOR square footage. Unfortunately you can’t search for that on the Internet but it is a field all Realtors have access to search. Whenever you have need to search the MLS, let me know and I can setup an automated profile with specific criteria which sends listings to your email.