Easy bathroom upgrades to help your Houston home sell
Pastel pink tiles, bad lighting and outdated wallpaper in the bathroom caused Jillian Hill to walk away from several houses before she purchased her first home in Oak Forest. The Angie’s List member thought her only non-negotiable requirement was his and her vanities in the master bath, but after seeing some bathrooms while house hunting, Hill says she changed her mind. “I wasn’t looking for a newly remodeled bathroom, but I saw some that were in need of a major facelift,” Hill says.
Experts agree it’s a seller’s market in the Houston area, with a low inventory of pre-existing homes for buyers to choose from. However, highly rated Sugar Land Realtor Michelle Morris says that sellers should be sure to make their homes stand out. “There are still plenty of homes to look at; buyers can and will be picky,” Morris says, adding that she’s seen bathrooms make or break a sale. Updating paint, countertops, floors, toilets and lighting can help homes sell faster, she says.
Morris says most bathrooms don’t need a full remodel. “The most important thing is that the bathroom is squeaky clean,” she says. “If you need to paint or upgrade some things to get there, it’s worth it in the end,” she adds.
Highly rated Sugar Land Realtor Jan Poscovsky says you want to make sure nothing leads buyers to believe that you’ve deferred maintenance. Some sellers offer allowances for things that need correcting, but Poscovsky recommends taking care of them before showing the home. “You don’t want the buyer to mistakenly magnify the cost of the repair,” Poscovsky says.
Morris says visible mold or mildew, dirty grout, stained toilets, leaks and lighting that needs repair raise red flags for buyers. She suggests thoroughly cleaning, repairing leaks and ensuring all lighting functions, and recaulking and replacing the toilet if needed, prior to showing your home. Morris says homeowners can opt for inexpensive upgrades to make a big impact. Stained, toilet seats should be replaced, and can save hundreds of dollars over replacing an entire toilet. For example, toilet seats start at $20 and recaulking costs less than $100 with labor, she says.
If your budget includes money for further upgrades, consider new fixtures, countertops, toilets, paint, tile, lighting or mirrors, Poscovsky suggests. “People want a bathroom that allows them to escape from their busy and hurried lives,” she says, adding that many buyers gravitate toward spa-like features such as whirlpool tubs, seamless glass showers and enhanced shower heads.
Morris warns against following trends or making the bathroom too flashy. “If you go too modern or too fancy, you risk turning buyers off,” she says. Morris suggests choosing timeless, classic fixtures and upgrades to appeal to the most people. She suggests replacing gold fixtures with nickel and chrome. “It might cost you an extra $20, but it makes a big impression,” Morris says.
Houston real estate agent Therese Landa of highly rated Houstonian Properties says even a few coats of paint help in the bathroom, and advises keeping the countertops, flooring and walls in a neutral color scheme.
Homeowners should avoid remodeling to please buyers, but rather stay in their homes for a few years to enjoy the updates, experts say. “Don’t put thousands into a bathroom just to leave it,” Morris says, adding that no seller gets 100 percent of that investment back. According to the trade magazine Remodeling’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, the average midrange Houston bathroom remodel costs around $14,000 and homeowners typically recoup 78 percent of their money once the home sells.
Hill says some of the remodeled bathrooms she saw while house-hunting baffled her. One home advertised a recent bathroom addition, but the addition extended into the garage, making it too small for a car, she says. “They intended to add value with that addition, [but] in my mind they decreased the value,” Hill adds.