If you’re asking yourself, “What is a half bath?” then odds are you’re looking for real estate. As a real estate broker, this is a question I hear from time to time, and here’s my answer:
A half bath is categorized as a toilet and sink enclosed in a relatively small space. Averaging at only 20 square feet of space, a half bath is a small bathroom typically located on the first floor of the house. Providing guests with a discreet bathroom to slip away to, half baths eliminate the awkwardness of guests encountering your personal items stored in the bathroom where you shower, bathe, etc.
But that’s not the only value that a half bath holds. If you’re planning to sell or buy a home for the first time, you should know that the number of bathrooms factors into the value of the house. From a real estate perspective, a half bath is a powerful and practical priority for homebuyers. The National Association of Home Builders reported that a “half-bath adds approximately 10 and a half percent to a home’s value.” In short, bathrooms sell houses.
How It All Began: The Powder Room
The origin of the half bath dates back to the 1700s when it was invented to accommodate the fashion trends of the time. 18th century fashion and beauty standards were much more demanding than they are now, especially among the upper class. Clothing was opulent and extravagant and large powdered wigs were the ultimate accessory. Since indoor plumbing was not yet popularized, these small rooms were devoted to maintaining one’s wig rather than using a toilet.
Traditionally made from horse and goat hair and worn by both men and women, these wigs were known to have an unpleasant odor. As a result, powdering the wig with lavender-scented starch was a daily, and messy, necessity. In affluent households, small rooms (powder rooms) were allocated solely to the task of powdering a wig. Fast forward to today, and the name has stuck around for centuries.
The Benefits of a Half Bath
Make no mistake, potential homebuyers are paying special attention to bathrooms when looking for homes for sale. In most cases, number and configuration of each are critical. On average most homebuyers are hoping to find a house with two and a half baths, which is a master bathroom, a family use bathroom, and a half bath or powder room.
In addition to increasing the overall value of your home, having a half bathroom:
- Allows a homeowner’s private bathroom to remain private. The main suite bathroom stores medication, access to a linen closet, and valuable personal items that should remain out of view of guests and visitors.
- Easy access for guests needing to use a restroom or sink. For young families, this would be the time to think of all those playmates your children will invite into your home.
- Is a highly efficient use of valuable floor space.
- Reduces the people-to-bathroom ratio in the home. Homes with school-aged children will find having a powder room makes the morning routine run more smoothly.
- A house with at least one half bath generally has greater selling potential than a home without one.
- It’s an opportunity to decorate another space without spending a fortune. Consider adding wall art, fresh flowers, and high-end hand towels
- If you wanted to add a second full bath don’t have the space, a half bath is the best alternative.
The Focus On Functionality
COVID-19 is responsible for the new reality homebuyers are facing when searching for a family home. Life has changed and priorities have shifted. Homebuyers are seeking spaces to accommodate extended family members and see the value of more outdoor spaces and a comfortable living space. The change in family dynamics since the onset of the pandemic have left their mark as homes have become the place where we now work and educate our children, so it comes as no surprise that extra toilets in a home enhance the quality of life.
A half bath provides the convenient function of giving families that little extra bathroom space that saves time and frustration in a populated household. It’s also important to provide a place for visitors to wash their hands after entering our homes, and a half bath is a good alternative to inviting guests to wash their hands in the kitchen sink.
The Mathematics Of Bathrooms Explained
The math is pretty basic, but not widely known. The way it works is that each bathroom fixture is counted as a a quarter of a unit. The fixtures include:
- A toilet
- A sink
- A bathtub
- A shower
The number of fixtures in a bathroom determines whether a bathroom is considered a half bath, full, three-quarter, or quarter.
If a bathroom has all four fixtures, it equals one whole unit, or a full bath. A full bathroom is one of the most common types of bathrooms in a home and has a sink, toilet, tub, and shower stall. Alternatively, a full bath can also be a 5-piece bathroom when it has a double sink. Oftentimes, this is also called the master bathroom and is attached to the master bedroom.
Then there is three-quarter bath, it has three of the four fixtures: a toilet, sink, and shower, but no bathtub. However, technically a three-quarter bathroom with a toilet, walk-in shower, and double vanity is a 4 piece bathroom.
A quarter bath is a rarity in newer homes, but they do exist. Serving one singular purpose, the quarter bath can be found in basements, garages, adjacent to a mudroom, in a home gym, or serving an outdoor pool. It only contains one fixture: either a sink, toilet, bath, or shower.
Two Half Baths Do Not Equal One Full Bath
Potential homeowners are interested in the actual number of rooms. When counting the features of the home we consider the number of doors, not the number of toilets or sinks, so you can’t add two half baths and call it a full bath.
The Overwhelming Popularity of A Half Bath
A half bath is the perfect use of a small space and should never be an afterthought when searching for a new home. In my experience as a realtor, a half bath is often the difference between a prospective home buyer showing interest in a house or continuing the search. Efficiency and convenience lead the list of reasons why half baths are so popular in today’s market. A half bath, especially on the main level, will probably get more use than any other room in the entire house. Some compelling reasons for a half bath include:
- Accommodating visitors and house guests
- Allowing private spaces in the home to remain private
- Increase in home value for resale purposes
- A time saver for large families during busy mornings or bedtime routines
- Less expensive to decorate and accessorize
Do You Need A Half Bath?
When searching for new homes, buyers are wise to consider both the form and function of the bathroom in question. Is a half bath as good as an additional full bath? The definitive answer depends largely on the needs of your particular family unit. Ask yourself these questions:
- Will the bathroom be primarily for guests?
- Will members of the family likely use this bathroom on a regular basis?
- Is the bathroom located near an entryway?
- Is this bathroom in proximity to heavily used common areas? Is it too close for comfort?
- If natural light is important to you, does this bathroom have a window?
Adding A Half Bath
Considering a few home improvements? There might be several places in your home to add a half bath. Some possibilities include:
- At the end of a hallway
- Under the stairs in a two-story home
- A closet
- Reclaiming a portion of a laundry room
- Adding a guest bathroom to a bedroom
- Dividing an existing bathroom into two separate spaces
When trying to determine the cost-benefit analysis of adding a half bath to a small space, keep in mind that deciding to remodel can be noisy and messy. The price of building materials has skyrocketed over the past year, and plumbing and electrical work may require permits before the project can begin. Electrical costs alone typically include:
- Upgraded breaker panels
- Wiring installation
- Lighting fixtures
- Additional outlets
- Exhaust fans
The plumbing cost of a bathroom addition can potentially be as high as $10,000. The actual cost will depend on where the home’s existing plumbing is located and how complicated the entire project is. Other factors that come into play are the type of foundation the home is built on and the location of the sewer lines or the capacity of the septic tank.
Toilets, vanities, faucets, and lighting fixtures are not inexpensive, and there is usually an installation charge for each piece. For example, a toilet can be purchased for about $200.00, and then you have the added cost of professional installation. Don’t forget the cost of tile, flooring, and backsplash materials.
Looking for a house with a half bath?
If you’re ready to start on your home buying journey, don’t hesitate to get started. Contact Scout Real Estate Partners and we’ll help you hunt down a house with the perfect number of bathrooms for you.