CommentarySelling April 1, 2024

Bedroom Count and Septic Systems

Westchester County has a population of about 1 million residents. Most of those folks who inhabit the 914 area code live in homes that are connected to public sewers, but there are a hefty number of properties, especially in the northern part of the county, that are on septic systems. I’ve said before that there’s no practical difference between the two types of waste management for most people, in that you go, you flush, you live your life. But one aspect of properties on septic that is often misunderstood yet under discussed is the impact on bedroom count.

In general, the number of legal bedrooms for homes on septic is not based on the number of rooms, but on the capacity of the septic system. I once had a listing with what appeared to be 4 bedrooms that was well over 3000 square feet that was considered a 2 bedroom home. We couldn’t call it a 4 bedroom because the septic system was a 2 bedroom septic. There’s a fantastic article on the official requirements here.

The reason for the bedroom count being tied to the septic capacity and not the actual room count is the presumed use for those living in the home. It stands to reason that a 2 bedroom home will have far fewer inhabitants-and therefore use far less water- than a 4 bedroom home.

I said all that to say this: If you have a home that presents itself like a 4 bedroom house but the official septic capacity is for 3 bedrooms, I cannot list it as a a 4 bedroom. You might have the thirstiest septic system in the county. You might have raised a family of 12 in the house with no issues whatsoever. It doesn’t matter. We have to list properties by their official characteristics. Even if I tried to fudge it and sell a 3 bedroom home as a 4 bedroom, the buyer’s due diligence would find the discrepancy and they could attempt to negotiate or, worse, get spooked about the misrepresentation and walk away. I could also be liable for an ethics grievance for not rendering a true picture of the facts on the home. It simply isn’t worth it.

What I can do is refer to the 4th room as a possible 4th quarters or say that the home lives like a 4 bedroom. But I cannot, in the official bedroom count, dissent from what the building department and certificate of occupancy say. The certificate of occupancy, or CO in the biz, should specify the bedroom count, and if it doesn’t, then the building department should have an official bedroom count. What your municipality says is the final authority.