In real estate a “captured room” is a room that can only be accessed by going through another room. Captured rooms can make the house less usable, thus less valuable.

Does it matter? Whether a captured room matters, for value, depends on whether it changes the way people can use the room.

Types of captured rooms and how much they affect value

A bathroom that can be accessed only through a bedroom:

  • It increases value if there is another bathroom off a hallway nearby. In that case, the bathroom is useful as a private bath for the people living in that bedroom. This is called an “en suite bathroom” or a “primary bedroom bathroom” and used to be called a “master bathroom.” The one in the hall is sometimes called a “family bathroom”. There are also bathrooms that have two doors – one to the hall and one to a bedroom. These are called “California bathrooms.”
  • It reduces value if that bathroom is the only bathroom in the apartment or condo. It may reduce value if it is the only one on that floor. It reduces value because that bedroom is less private, because people must come through the bedroom to use the bathroom.

A staircase that can be accessed only through a bedroom:

How much it reduces value depends on the use of the upstairs space: the more use, the worse for value. It also depends on the bedroom use.

  • It reduces value of the bedroom because other people need to go through the bedroom to get upstairs.
  • It reduces value of a finished upper floor because it reduces access to that area without disturbing the bedroom occupant.
  • It reduces value some — but not as much — if there are enough other bedrooms. Then that landing-bedroom can be used as a less private space, like a study or family room.
  • It doesn’t reduce the value if the attic area is rarely used. An unfinished storage attic may have a stairway to it in a closet in a bedroom. This is a neutral — or even a small positive – compared to an attic with only a hatch, or a hatch with a folding staircase.

A bedroom that can only be accessed through another bedroom:

This is a classic “captured bedroom.”  These are double bedrooms where you must walk through the front one to get to the back one. A bedroom with a captured bedroom behind it is worth less than two bedrooms.

  • Captured bedrooms reduce value because the front bedroom has limited privacy, and the back one has limited access.
  • These rooms work fairly well for two adults who might want a sleeping space in the back room and a dressing area or study area in the front room.
  • They also work for two children, who have the back sleeping space and front play or study area.
  • If there are enough other bedrooms, these double rooms can be very useful. However, for value, bedrooms with their own access to the hallway are more valuable than a captured bedroom.

Bathrooms with limited privacy:

Bathrooms need to be added in places where the water and sewer lines are, so it makes for some strange choices. Every once in a while, we see badly thought-through additions of one kind or another. They are weird, and they reduce the value of the bathroom.

  • Owners who are short of space to add a first floor bathroom sometimes add it into a back or side mud room. This creates an outside door that opens into the bathroom. People coming in that way pass through the bathroom on the way into the kitchen. This is an unpleasant way to enter a house. It also makes the bathroom feel not private.
  • Owners sometimes need to add a bathroom in front of a bedroom, and some of these designs can’t accommodate a hall door for the bedroom. This makes access to the bedroom through the bathroom. I have seen this more than once, so clearly more than one person had that bad idea.
  • Bathrooms with no walls. Yes, my agents and I see them!
    • Mostly, they are in basements. Most of these bathrooms started as toilets in basement. Then someone added a sink. Then, they didn’t get around to adding walls. Basement toilets were installed – back in the day – to be an early warning sign that the sewer line is backing up. (They had occasional use as a toilet, too.)
    • Back in the 1980’s and somewhat before that, taste was at a low point. In the 90’s, I saw houses with wall-less bathrooms in the primary bedroom, whole-room hot tub spaces with mirrors, and even a shower with a glass wall visible into the bedroom. People thought this was sexy. Well…
  • Bathrooms with windows that show too much.
    • When a bathroom is added or reconfigured, some windows are too low for privacy. Use your imagination, folks.
    • Adding a bathroom to a pre-existing porch sometimes leads to bathroom windows that open into a kitchen, dining room, or family room, or other social spaces. This creates a lack of privacy and a serious need for a good exhaust fan.