By Ben Hurley
The quality of a bathroom design comprises as much as 15 percent of a home’s value. Real estate share their tips on how to achieve broad appeal.
When it comes to the value of a property, experts agree a good toilet is worth its weight in gold. Likewise, a poorly laid out bathroom can turn away buyers and bring the entire property down a notch.
But the layout and design of toilets and bathrooms is a very individual thing, and it is also very expensive to change. The hardest part of getting the bathroom right is making it personal, but not too personal.
“It needs to be the most well-constructed room in the house,” says Charles Tarbey, chairman of real estate company, Century21 Australia. “That’s where people sit the most and have nothing to stare at but the walls.”
So what are the design elements that buyers want most? The most important feature requested by buyers at all price levels is that the toilet and bathroom be separate, Tarbey says.
Beyond that, it gets harder to please everyone. Tarbey warns against features that are too specific in taste. The tiling is a danger zone in this regard.
“Some people get too emotional with their bathrooms,” Tarbey says. “They think about the property as though they are never going to sell it. When they get too personal it becomes a bathroom that stops a number of transactions going through.”
Minimal is out
The minimalist bathroom has long been used by developers as a lowest-common-denominator way to create broad market appeal. But Gary Sands, director of inner Sydney real estate agency Di Jones Real Estate, warns against making the bathroom too sterile.
“That minimalist thing throughout the whole house is now passé,” Sands says. “You want to have timber floors, nice fittings and joinery, and to make them more like rooms than operating theatres.”
For two-bedroom apartments, having two bathrooms is a now crucial at almost any price point, Sands says. Inner city terraces with only one bathroom either upstairs or downstairs are also limited in their market appeal.
Windows in bathrooms are increasingly rare in new developments, with developers and designers saving them for the living areas and bedrooms. But in the current market, natural light and ventilation in the bathroom are a rare and luxurious point of difference, Sands says.
For upmarket properties where money isn’t such a concern, it’s no longer about having dual basins. He is increasingly seeing his and hers bathrooms, and another one exclusively for guests.
Get the spend right
It’s important to know your market and not over-capitalise, Sands warns.
“It’s a very fine line you walk between giving personality and character to a bathroom without narrowing the market and offending people,” he says.
Dennis Kalofonos, managing director of buyers’ agency Sydney Property Finders, attributes 10 to 15 percent of a home’s value to the bathrooms (not considering the land). For a multi-million dollar construction in a wealthy suburb, that’s a huge amount of money.
“It’s very important,” Kalofonos says. “In my experience, the value really lies in the kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor spaces. We can fix most things, but the size and layout of a bathroom is expensive to change. If it’s been planned and built correctly, it makes a huge impression on the level of sophistication or luxury of any property.”
At the upper end of the property world, it goes without saying that the toilet should have its own enclosure, Kalofonos says, and cisterns that are built into the wall are a major plus.
“If it’s in the roof or the wall cavity, you don’t hear it and that makes a big difference,” he says. “Let’s just say it’s not a big announcement.”
There are a range of other features that collectively make a big impression. The soft-closing lid has been a major leap forward, particularly for men who often forget to close the lid after use, Kalofonos says.
Bidets aren’t as popular as they used to be but it’s still very unusual for very high end houses not to have one. They are placed in the ensuite and nowhere else, Kalofonos says.
A little too personal
There are also some definite faux pas, one of them being where the shower enclosure is so close to the toilet that it sprinkles water onto the seat. Another is where the bathroom is a little too personal for the wider market.
“Some people make ensuites open to the main bedroom rather than having walls,” Kalofonos says. “They have freestanding baths in the middle of the bedroom. They’re not so great.”
As for the unit itself, the best brand on the market is Japanese toilet manufacturer Toto, he says. Toto toilets come with a wide range of features like heated seats, music and even massage cleaning.
Again, though, it’s hard to please everyone. Tarbey isn’t personally a fan of the features-packed Japanese toilet, which has become increasingly popular in the United States.
“They are just a little overwhelming when all you want to do is go to the bathroom,” he says.