I have been asked three times in the past week whether a homeowner should convert a home with only one full bath to a bathroom with a shower only. My answer: It depends.
In my area of Greater Portland, Maine, the real estate market is so ridiculously hot that you could remove your bathroom entirely and replace it with a bowling ball storage closet, and it would probably increase the value of your home because it was so “unique.” But the fact is, Americans continue to love – and look for – a bathtub when home shopping. The best two pieces of advice I can give are, “What is the highest and best use of your home,” and “What is the market like in your area?” Answer these two questions together, and you likely have your answer.
In order to consider the “highest and best use” question, consider this: If you’re living in a starter home on a street with dozens of other starter homes, and if that home will likely remain a starter home when you sell it (meaning values in the neighborhood are not skyrocketing, and the homes turn over somewhat frequently as people “upgrade”), then I would suggest leaving your only full bathroom a full bathroom. Starter homes are often sought-out by people who have or will have children. Parents put children in baths, and baths require bathtubs. If, on the other hand, the home is in a high-rent district where well-to-do retirees are buying, or where buyers are looking for lifestyle homes and where inventory is limited, then remodeling from a full bath to a bath with only a shower (often referred to as a “3/4” bath), will likely not have much, or any, effect upon sales price.
Here’s something else to think about: This study by the American Institute of Architects seems to suggest that home buyers are opting for larger, more luxurious showers, and are not so concerned with having a tub, while this article points to a 2013 study claiming that 51% of consumers thinks having at least one tub in a home is important. Perhaps more important than the tub vs. no tub argument is the design of the bathroom; increasingly, people value bathrooms with a “spa-like” feel, versus the utilitarian, contractor-designed water closet so common in so many of today’s homes.
Here’s the bottom line: If your intention is to stay in your home for a few years, then do what you want to do to increase your enjoyment of the home. If you know you’re only passing through on your way to a bigger place, then perhaps a bathroom design upgrade with a tub left in place is the best idea. But either way, if the rest of your home is in good shape, is attractive, and doesn’t have any major flaws, then the lack of a bathtub is probably of no great concern to the right buyer.
Mike Faulkingham is a Realtor and writer who lives in South Portland, Maine. If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in Greater Portland and don’t want to take a bath on the deal, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org