DEAR BARRY: Our Realtor has been showing us listings for several weeks. But last week, we found a for-sale-by-owner property and made an offer to the owner without calling our agent. Since our Realtor spent so much time trying to find a house for us, are we obligated to involve him in this purchase? –Rob

DEAR ROB: This type of situation is a sore spot with many real estate professionals. Your Realtor devoted many hours to your search for a home and now will receive nothing for those efforts. Unless you have a contract with him, you are under no obligation. However, most agents feel that the time and effort they spend showing property to a prospective client warrants some loyalty.

The seller in this case is clearly under no obligation to pay a real estate commission, nor is it likely that he would be willing to pay one. So there’s probably no way to involve your Realtor in the current transaction.

The most fair and respectful way to have handled this situation would have been to inform your Realtor of your interest in the property, rather than contacting the seller directly. The Realtor could then have called the seller and said, "I have clients who are interested in your home. Would you be willing to pay a reduced commission if I bring you an offer?" At that point, the seller could have accepted or declined. If he had declined, you would have been free to make your own offer, and there would have been no misgivings about your relationship with your agent.

At this point, you can choose whether or not to inform your Realtor of the decision you have made. Expressing your concern and extending your apologies would probably be more respectful than to say nothing at all.

DEAR BARRY: I am looking for the legal definition of a bedroom. I bought a house that was listed as a four-bedroom home. Two bedrooms are in the remodeled attic, with short, doorless alcoves for closets. And I’m not sure if these rooms are large enough to qualify as bedrooms. Can you help me to figure this out?

DEAR CHRISTINE: Here are the basic requirements for a bedroom:

1) A bedroom must be at least 70 square feet in area, with no dimension less than 7 feet.

2) The ceiling must be at least 7 feet high above the finished floor. If the ceiling is sloped, 50 percent of it can be less than 7 feet, but no part of it should be less than 5 feet.

3) There must be an openable window for light, ventilation, and fire escape. For light, the window size must be at least 8 percent of the floor area. For ventilation, the openable portion of the window must be at least 4 percent of the floor area. For fire escape, the window must be at least 5.7 square feet in area. The opening must have a minimum height of 24 inches, a minimum width of 20 inches, and a maximum sill height of 44 inches. (Note: There are additional window requirements for basement bedrooms, but this has been discussed in previous articles.)

4) Contrary to popular belief, no closet is required in a bedroom.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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