Remodel Recoup: Bath Changes that Pay Back


    Learn how to design a bathroom with wide appeal.
    Design a bathroom with the greatest return on investment.

    Remodeling is on the rise, and with the downturn of the housing market, it's no wonder. Depending on what you do, remodeling can be a sound investment, especially when it comes to the bathroom. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2008-09 Cost Vs. Value Report, a bathroom remodel recoups 74.6 percent, one of the top home renovations when it comes to recoup value. And compared to last years report, an upscale bathroom remodel actually went up in recoup value, coming in at 70.7 percent.

    When remodeling, the best rule of thumb is to always design a space that fits your style and functional needs. However, if pleasing prospective buyers and getting the greatest return on investment is a top priority, keep in mind these experts' advice when renovating your bathroom:

    Remodel Recoup: Bath Changes that Pay Back

    Stay neutral

    Consider sticking with white fixtures and a neutral color scheme if you really want to play it safe.

    Neutral-toned walls and tiles are more versatile, and lend future homeowners more design options.

    You can always add color in the details, says Diane Saatchi, of the Corcoran Group real estate agency in East Hampton, N.Y. Add vivid colors and patterns with accessories like towels or artwork.

    That said, if you fall in love with a bold-color sink, go for it. It's your remodel, after all.

    Keep it simple

    "From a design perspective, clean and simple is always more marketable than anything that's ornate or off the wall," says Coco Clayman-Cook, an agent with Prudential California Realty in Beverly Hills.

    For the floor, ceramic tile tends to bring the greatest return on investment, says Spence Bowthorpe of First Star Construction in Holladay, UT.

    Just add water

    Full baths maximize a home's marketability and value. Showers should be separate from tubs when possible, particularly in the master bathroom. Walk-in showers with multiple showerheads are even more appealing, especially if you're doing an upscale redesign.

    Among Saatchi's East Coast clientele, steam showers have surpassed whirlpool baths in popularity. "But keep mind that there are tub people and there are shower people," she says. If you install only a shower, make it a roomy one at least a 5-footer-so the next owners have the option of removing it and putting a tub in its place.

    Hi-ho silver

    For the best return on investment, choose nickel or chrome faucets. Traditional finishes tend to be more versatile than gold or bronze.

    Shower power

    Handheld showerheads facilitate cleanup and are considered a "must have" by many remodeling professionals and homebuyers. Handshowers with slide bars combine sleek good looks with function and flexibility.


    Pause for reflection

    "Anything you can do to make a bathroom feel bigger is a plus," Bowthorpe says. A wall-to-wall, counter-to-ceiling mirror will make a small space seem much larger.

    A wall-to-wall mirror works well with a double-sink vanity because the reflective surface unifies the shared space. Clean, contemporary bathroom designs generally call for unframed or beveled mirrors.

    Bathroom designers seeking a more furnished look are mounting framed oval or rectangular mirrors above the sinks.

    Small changes, big difference

    If you're looking to remodel without spending big bucks, consider making small changes to the space. Many bathroom features are relatively minor, and still high on a buyers wishlist. Dual sinks, particularly in the master bath, plus recessed medicine cabinets, dimmer switches, a shower light, solid surfaces such as natural stone or acrylic, and ample storage space are all very pleasing to prospective buyers.

    Other small changes include repainting your cabinets rather than replacing them, and swapping out knobs, towel bars, and other accessories for a fresh, updated feel. Small changes can make a big difference and leave a smaller dent in your wallet.

    Everything in its place

    Bathroom storage is important to potential buyers, and the more the better. If you have the option, install niches or cabinets along the wall to keep things orderly.

    Vanities add a cozy, furniture appeal to the bathroom, and provide storage space below the sink. If you're looking for that little extra feature to separate your bathroom from the rest, consider a shower storage unit.

    Keep it consistent

    Ideally, a bathroom should feel like an oasis. But that doesn't mean you should forsake the style of the house to which it's attached. Consistency is key: "Don't put a rustic timber mountain look in a 1950s-era brick ranch house," Bowthorpe says.

    To build or not to build

    Adding another bathroom to your home can add a lot of value and increase your list of potential buyers. But not all homes need another bath. Try to see your home as a buyer would see it.

    If you have a four bedroom, one bathroom home, then an additional bathroom may add more value than a remodel. But if your home has three bedrooms and two baths, an addition may not be necessary. Think about what your space will be used for and build accordingly. In general, you recoup more cost from remodeling than building, but it depends on the home.


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