How Luxury-Home Owners are Redesigning Traditional Living Space

by Carole Ellis

If you work in the luxury-home sales business, you may want to start being just a little bit more flexible. Don’t worry: the issue is not that you need to start doing more yoga; actually it’s more of a matter of living-space preferences. According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, owners of high-end, luxury properties are opting to reduce the number of bedrooms in their homes in order to leave more space for rooms for other types of activities and amenities, such as enclosed outdoor living spaces with ornate gardens, gyms, and “hobby rooms” for pursuing scrapbooking, art, or collecting.

The decision to trade off bedrooms for other types of space is paying off for these homeowners, although the market is very select and it is very important for an owner opting for this type of design decision to be comfortable with the idea that they may spend longer on the market when they do decide to sell. Homes with higher living-space-to-bedroom ratios tend to spend longer on the market (about 15 percent longer than their similarly-sized counterparts) but may sell for about 31 percent more. The key, say experts, lies in creating extremely attractive spaces that utilize light, design elements, and incorporate unique things about the home and its location in order to attract a high-end buyer who doesn’t necessarily believe that they need three or four bedrooms in addition to the master.

One example of a high-end property with an atypical number of bedrooms sits on the beach in an area of California that is definitely high-end: Malibu. The property, which boasts 3,218 square feet, has a single loft bedroom that sits over a double-height living area and features an enormous wall of glass overlooking the ocean. The owner notes that not only can the inhabitant of the master loft watch the sun rise and set from bed, but there are also often pods of dolphins playing right there in the property’s “front yard.” The home is not new, having been built in 1979, and the current owner inherited from an uncle who lived in it with his wife until his death. The couple did not have any children, but the current owner does. The home was initially listed in 2014 for $8 million, and the price has been lowered repeatedly as the home has been put on and off the market. It has been listed at $5.95 million since January of this year. The current owners would like to add a second bedroom, but local codes could make this difficult since changes to the exterior of the home and the plumbing must be approved by the city.

The issue with any property with an unusually low number of bedrooms is that if the design of the property is such that it does not allow for space to be converted to a bedroom, then anyone who needs more bedrooms will simply not be able to make the purchase make sense. On the other hand, more traditional living-space structures, such as a room dedicated to a hobby or an office but that could theoretically be remodeled to be an additional bedroom, may make a property more universally appealing while retaining the allure of flexible space. However, going this route does limit the amount of create design that an owner can put into a home.

WSJ noted that the market for luxury homes with two or fewer bedrooms is relatively small and that 97 percent of homes for sale for $1 million or more had at least four bedrooms. Just over half of all buyers 35 to 44 years of age also want a home with four or more bedrooms, while other age groups want at least three. However, for the very small subset of high-end buyers who do not have a strong desire for a large number of bedrooms, the attraction of a well-designed space without the “waste” of additional bedroom space can provide a powerful allure.

Would you buy a one- or two-bedroom home for more than $1 million?

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