Renovating for Resale: Bathroom Features Buyers Look For

Renovating a house for sale is an entirely different ball game than renovating a house for aging in place. Instead of choosing features that will suit you and your family for years to come, you need to choose those that will please both yourself and future buyers.

This can be a challenge, especially when deciding which bathroom features will remain relevant and desirable. Here, bathroom experts, designers and home sellers weigh in on the topic.

Why Update to Sell?

Updating the bathroom might feel like a small change in a large home. But, bathroom updates can drastically change someone’s opinion of your home — which can make or break a purchase.

And if your home has only one bathroom, your time and money is better spent installing a second, rather than renovating the existing. Architect Steve Straughan, design coordinator at KAA Design Group in Los Angeles, stresses the importance of having more than one bathroom. A second bathroom will enhance other selling points in the house to make it more attractive to buyers.

In fact, adding a midrange bathroom to a home has a return on investment of 60.6 percent, according to a cost and value comparison chart by Remodeling Magazine.

It’s important to note too that just because you’re updating doesn’t mean you need extravagant changes. “Small-scale renovations are slowly becoming just as popular as large-scale projects, as seen with bathroom remodeling becoming more common than kitchens,” explains 2018 National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Chair Joanne Theunissen.

This proves that a less expensive update that improves the function of a bathroom can be more effective in terms of resale than a purely aesthetic change. Updating your bathroom can also give you time and space to clear out clutter and junk, which can make things easier when it’s actually time to move. Since minimalist bathrooms are popular, clearing the space of will ensure it makes a great first impression.

Meanwhile, it’s best to avoid renovations that aren’t going to increase your home’s value significantly. These include extras like skylights, says Andrew Syrios at Bigger Pockets. Such additions really don’t do much to make the home worth more, and are often viewed as potential problems.

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Dabble with Details

In a space as small as a bathroom, details mean everything. And when potential homebuyers are viewing your home for the first time, you want to make sure they like what they see. That’s why real estate investor Nancy Wallace-Laabs recommends replacing broken fixtures and sub-par tiling before trying to sell. “Consider re-grouting tile; remove and replace caulk around the shower, tub, and toilet areas; and maybe it is time to replace the toilet for a more efficient and modern look,” she advises.

Also think about the hardware in the bathroom. Does everything work together in a unified style? Are there any broken elements that could stand to be updated or replaced? Hardware is just as important as fixtures when updating the bathroom to sell a home. “New drawer knobs, pulls, and faucets in a matching style give a room a cohesive, modern look,” says Valerie Kilfrin at HomeLight.

These changes are important because they amp up the visual appeal of the bathroom. And, visuals such as tile, colors and fixtures are the most important element when buying a home, adds Roomscapes Luxury Design Center president Cameron Snyder.

Spruce up The Sink

Every bathroom needs a sink. Consider elevating this utilitarian feature to help future buyers visualize themselves in your home.

Modern, sleek sinks are much more likely to attract buyers than those that are outdated. Real estate broker Rebecca Knaster says a contemporary sink is the most important first step in getting the best bang for your reno buck. She adds that the sink is often the very first thing people look at when they enter a bathroom.

Double sinks are another feature that can amp up your bathroom’s selling power. These sinks are typically thought of as something that’s reserved for kids bathrooms and jack and jill spaces. But according to leading industry design retailer European Cabinets, double sinks are an emerging essential for families of all sizes, partly because they provide more counter space.

This sentiment is echoed by the team at the Discover home improvement blog. Double sinks are listed as one of the five most important improvements to make when updating a bathroom. In addition to steam showers, heated floors, shower seats and storage, double sinks were noted as increasing value and appeal to buyers.

Resale renovation in progress. Industrial worker installing bathroom ceramic tiles

Additional Storage

When you’re considering buying a family home, storage in the master bathroom is key. This is why it’s so important to consider the needs of your future buyers and incorporate extra shelving and storage units wherever possible.

Freshome’s Jae Curtis agrees in the importance of upgrading storage options whenever possible. She adds that small improvements can create major changes in a person’s lifestyle by making things more organized and accessible. “Extra cabinets, built-in shelving and organizers make the difference between a cluttered cave and a serene retreat. Opt for upgrades that build out the space you have and help you keep your bathrooms totally organized,” she writes.

Linen closets, in particular, are one of the most in-demand bathroom features, says NAHB economist Carmel Ford. According to 2019 Data from the National Association of Home Builders, 78 percent of homebuyers noted a linen closet as an essential feature in the master bathroom. This is partially because people like to keep things tucked away and organized whenever possible. The study also found that a bathroom linen closet was the top feature that recent and prospective home buyers wanted in a home.

Freestanding Soaking Tubs

Bathtubs have always been popular, but the size, type and style of tub differs over time. While large jet tubs were all the rage in the past, they’re no longer something that current homeowners look for.

“Whirlpool jet bathtubs are on the decline. They’re hard to maintain and break down frequently,” explains real estate agent Jacki Shafer. She notes, however, that homeowners shouldn’t remove all the tubs in the house, as soaking tubs are still a strong option when there’s space.

Some homeowners are opting to replace outdated jet tubs with walk-in showers; others are adding freestanding tubs in their place, says Stephanie Cernivec at radiant heating systems provider WarmlyYours. If you don’t have a tub in your bathroom, adding an elegant clawfoot soaker can seal the deal with prospective buyers. Simply adding shower hardware can make these tubs more versatile and accessible, too.

In addition to adding sophistication and beauty to your bathroom, freestanding tubs can make your home more likely to sell. Why? Because homebuyers are much more intrigued by sleek bathrooms than other elements around the house.

“A slick bathroom is always a strong selling point, for example, while incomplete landscaping may not make much difference to your bottom line,” explains the team at Members Equity Bank. Setting your sights on functional, appealing bathroom updates can help you win over potential buyers and maximize your sale price.

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