My friend April is getting ready to sell her home. She’s actually losing sleep over the great debate: Should she tear out the bathtubs and replace them with walk-in showers? I decided to research the matter.
So will a bathtub increase resale value? Most home sellers are opting to keep at least one bathtub, if possible. Keeping at least one bathtub widens your potential buyer base, so as not to exclude parents with young children, who find it easier to wash children in a bathtub. Also, luxury home buyers increasingly see bathtubs as required showpieces for the master bath.
What’s the struggle in deciding bath vs. shower?
Many sellers wonder if bathing in a tub is even a thing anymore. And if not, shouldn’t they appeal to more buyers by ripping out the relic? It will make the bathroom look bigger, too.
The truth, however, is more complicated.
Different demographics feel differently about bathing in a tub. But at a high-level, it breaks down like this:
- Elderly people often view bathtubs as inaccessible. Many prefer walk-in tubs or walk-in showers with a bench.
- Busy millennials on-the-go also prefer walk-in shower. They might want something upscale, like a his and hers. But, seriously, who has time for a soak these days?
- Once a young couple has kids, all bets are off. It’s difficult to convince toddlers that the shower water pounding on their heads actually feels good. Bubbles are suddenly in demand, and so are bathtubs.
- Upper-income buyers view bathtubs as showpieces — even if those tubs never get used, they are status symbols. They call to mind luxurious soaks that could be happening in that bathroom, even if they aren’t.
Hyleri Katzenberg is a Realtor with Compass in both Fairfield County, Connecticut and Southeast, Florida. She is also the Team Leader at Luxe Latitudes in Connecticut. Her listings start in the 1M to 1.5M range, and she services a family-oriented market. Hyleri tells me:
“Aesthetics are important for closing. When there’s a big, luxurious master bath, a bathtub puts an exclamation point on a home. And whether or not you’re a frequent bather, it’s a beautiful feature in a bathroom, especially in a master.
The luxurious master bath that lacks a bathtub doesn’t show as well. Even if you don’t use the bath for yourself, you should definitely think of it for resale, and also as a beautiful decorative work of art that makes the room complete.”
Tamara Berke is a Realtor with Austin City Living in Austin, Texas. She works in a residential family market where listings start at 350k-400k. Tamara sees a trend in older homes with smaller bathrooms.
She tells me that people getting ready to sell will often leave one bathtub but remove the others. They’ll replace the tubs with walk-in showers. This has the effect of both modernizing a small bathroom and making it appear more spacious. Tamara says:
“The higher the price point, the more likely the buyers want a bathtub. In the more moderate price range, it’s 50/50 as far as who really wants a bathtub. There are people who will walk into a home, and walk right back out if there’s no tub. ”
So keeping our potential buyers in mind, let’s dig in a little deeper and see how many Americans actually take baths, how many take showers, and how many take both. That might help me figure out if my friend April will exclude a significant segment of buyers by trading a tub for a shower.
How Many of Us Go For a Bath vs. Shower?
Recently there have been some in-depth studies that examine the bathing habits of Americans. One of these conducted by Angie’s List is called “Shower & Bath Habits.”
The study surveyed 2,000 people and found that just 10% of respondents prefer baths to showers.
Consider also that the study found that a 20-something man is most likely to prefer showers and a 40-something woman is most likely to prefer a bath.
Of the respondents who find their happy place in the bathtub, 66% bathe every single day, and 20% reported bathing every other day. That means if your home has zero bathtubs that is likely a deal breaker for most bathers.
Are you about to take a sledgehammer to your tub?
Stop and consider this first: What if the Angie’s List study is wrong? What if this study underestimates the Bathtubbers in our midst?
Jacuzzi calls its core customers Bathletes. These are people who take a bath at least once a week. In a 2017 study, Jacuzzi set out to better understand Bathletes. The Jacuzzi Bathlete study, conducted by a third party, reported that 38% of Americans bathe at least once a week, and half of all bathers are men.
Joseph Davis President of Jacuzzi Luxury Bath said:
“The resale value of a house can be strongly affected by a bathroom upgrade, but the lack of a bathtub can be a big deterrent for the almost 40% of buyers who are avid bathers.”
Similarly, a recent study by Victorian Plumbing, surveyed residents of the UK. It found that more than a third of respondents prefer a bath over a shower.
Taken together, it’s safe to assume that at a very bare minimum, 10% of Americans and Brits are fanatical about their baths. Stop and think. Would you really want to alienate 10% of potential buyers?
And it’s more likely closer to a quarter of all Americans who are adamant about having a bath once in a while.
Considering a Bathroom Remodel? How Long Will You Stay In Your Home?
Whenever you make home renovations, it’s wise to consider the impact on resale. But you’ll also want to take into account how long you plan to stay in your home, and how the needs of your family will evolve over that period of time.
For example, if you’re 50 and planning to stay for another 20 years, you may want to consider two things: First, you may need a more accessible bathtub such as a walk-in tub as you progress in your years. Second, your bathtub is going to be outdated by the time you move, so you may as well remodel in a way that fits your current needs.
Or let’s say you’re 25, married, no kids. You’ve got a two-bedroom, single-family home with one bath. You’re planning to move out in the next few years.
If there’s only one bathroom, you really want to try to keep the bathtub, as long as the bathroom isn’t so incredibly small.
How Much Will I Get Back from a Bathroom Remodel with Tub Upgrade?
Check the Cost vs. Value Report on remodeling.hw.net to get a really good handle on what you can expect to recoup from a bathroom upgrade. This excellent tool compares average costs for 22 remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 136 U.S. markets.
According to the site, in 2019, remodelers invested an average of $64,743 to do an upscale bathroom remodel. These jobs included the addition of a freestanding soaking tub with high-end faucets. Remodelers got back $38,952 at resale, recouping 60.2% on their investment.
Remodelers who performed a mid-range bathroom remodel invested an average of $20,420 and recouped 67.2%, getting back $13,717 at resale. These projects included the installation of 30 x 60 porcelain-enameled steel tubs.
But this is national data.
What’s especially cool about this tool is that you can drill down to search state and city data, in order to get a better idea of what to expect for your particular home.
For example, I live in Austin. Here the cost recouped for an upscale bathroom remodel in 2019 is 64.6%, which is considerably higher than the national average.
And while these are averages, keep in mind that in some cases, you might recover all of your investment from a bathroom remodel. Realtor Tamara Berke says, “Don’t think that you’ll recoup dollar for dollar. But also think about whether you need to move the property to get offers. If you do get multiple offers, then you could recoup the full price.”
If you’re almost ready to put your home on the market, consider this cautionary tale Tamara told me:
“There was a big beautiful house I did an open house for another realtor. It was mostly move-in ready except that they had partially redone their bathroom. Except they used a different countertop that didn’t match the tub/shower. It was an easy fix, but it didn’t look finished. The potential buyers that came through said, ‘What’s wrong with that bathroom?’ It didn’t sell.”
Tamara explains that she would have advised the seller to switch out the countertops. The seller either needed to make sure the property was priced correctly or make an allowance for the upgrade required and speak to it when people come through.
How Should You Renovate the Bathroom? What Kind of Tub Will Add Value to Your Home?
Let’s say you decide to go for it and remodel your bathroom. Exactly how should you invest?
In 2017, Houzz published the U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study. The study found that the average spend on a major bathroom remodel for a master bath (over 100 sq feet) was $21,000.
During major bathroom renovations, 37%—nearly two out of every five homeowners—added a new bathtub or replaced an existing tub.
The most popular kind of bathtub purchased for the replacement is a freestanding tub. This is a bathtub that is not attached the wall, but can be surrounded by space on all sides. Freestanding tubs can be contemporary or vintage (like a clawfoot).
The study also found that acrylic is the most common bathtub material that homeowners purchased for their upgraded master bathtubs.
Eleven percent of renovators surveyed installed high-tech bathtubs that feature built-in lighting, a heated backrest and/or a scented mist dispenser.
I think I would easily fork over an extra 50k on a new home that has a bathtub with a heated backrest! What the heck. Throw in another 10k for the scented mist dispenser!
If you ask me, though, the most interesting finding from the study is this:
“One in four homeowners removes the master bathtub (27%), primarily to make room for a larger shower (91%). But bathtubs are far from becoming obsolete, since the majority of those removing a tub have another one in the home (78%). Still, half of renovating homeowners would consider buying a home without a bathtub.”
Stop and think about that.
Even though half of the renovators said they would buy a home without a bathtub, more than three-quarters insisted on keeping at least one bathtub in their own homes.
Why the discrepancy?
My hunch is this: While renovators are confident of their own bathing habits, they can never be sure of those of visitors or future buyers. Therefore, it’s wise to keep all options on the table—or in the bathroom.
Realtor Hyleri Katzenberg agrees. She says:
“It only takes one person. You never know if that end buyer is someone who wants to take baths and loves baths. Having a bath isn’t going to hurt you even if you don’t use the bath, but not having a bath could stop a potential sale.”
I make a mental to pass this important point onto my friend April. Maybe it will help her get clarity on what to do with her bathtubs in order to increase resale value.
Trending Now: Innovative Investment
Compass, where Hyleri Katzenberg works, is on the cutting edge in terms of helping buyers make necessary renovations. They have a program called Compass Concierge.
Hyleri explains that company will front the buyer funds for any remodels, in order to help get the buyer get the biggest bang for the buck at sale. The homeowner can choose their own vendor and pay back the company when the property closes.
Sounds like a win-win to me!
So Did My Friend April Replace Her Bathtubs with Showers?
You’re probably in great suspense wondering exactly what happened to April’s bathrooms. Did she remodel? Did she leave them as is?
First let me say, April is a practical person with a great sense of design.
Many people fret over what to do with one bathroom. April has five full baths (and four grown kids!). No wonder she was a bit agitated. But she meditates, and that helps.
Still, once I told her the tips in this post, she really did seem to get another level of enlightenment.
In the end, she decided to get a freestanding tub in the master and add a walk-in shower as well. Pure luxury.
She’s also planning to leave two other alcove bathtubs as-is, even though they’re older tubs. She thinks these will work for young children. And if a family with more than two little ones moves in, the kids can always share.
In two of the bathrooms, though, April has decided to rip out the alcove tubs and replace them with alcove showers. She’s hoping this will make the bathrooms seem a little bit bigger, as well as more contemporary.
In about six months, April will put her home on the market. She says she’s no longer worried about the bath vs. shower dilemma, because there will be something for everyone in her upgraded home.
Other questions related to the cost of bathtubs:
How much does it cost to install a bathtub?
According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average national price to install a bathtub is $3,234. Of course, this price will vary depending on the type of bathtub.
For example, a vintage clawfoot tub will be made of porcelain-coated iron. Because of the weight, it will require more workers to carry the tub, and often additional floor supports must be added to accommodate the weight. A deck-mounted tub might require building a tiled deck into which the bathtub is dropped, also increasing the price.
How much do freestanding bathtub fillers cost?
Freestanding tubs are increasingly showpieces in high-end master baths, but tub fillers can often cost more than the bathtub! Tub fillers are the hardware faucets used to fill a freestanding tub. Fillers come in three styles: wall-mounted, deck-mounted, and freestanding.
You can find a wall-mounted or deck-mounted filler for $200, and a freestanding filler starts at $300. However, these lower-end fillers have plastic cartridges inside and use lighter weight metals. Hardier, longer-lasting tub fillers use ceramic cartridges. Prices start at $1,000 and go all the way up to $4,000. At the higher price point, you’re buying both quality and state-of-the-art design.