Homebuyers want spa, not spartan, in bathroom design

Homeowners’ preference for modern, minimalist styles doesn’t mean they don’t want the finer things
Homebuyers are drawn to modern, clean styles, study finds. (Photo: Architecture Viz, Dreamstime)

A study by Meyers Research and Metrostudy asked homebuyers which features were most important to them and how much they would be willing to pay for those features.

[Related: Emerging kitchen trends show homeowners thirst for clutter-free customization]

Mollie Carmichael, principal at Meyers Research, shared findings from the study based on over 28,000 consumers in a webinar on Wednesday.

Seventy-nine percent of homebuyers are looking for more functional spaces rather than simply larger spaces, Carmichael said.

Over half of homebuyers want a more modern interior style in their homes, particularly more affluent buyers, she added. Buyers are drawn to minimalist designs—clean lines and surfaces, open spaces and good light—and natural materials.

For bathrooms, think spa

Homebuyers want relaxing, “spa-like” spaces for their bathrooms, Carmichael found.

[Related: Homebuyers stick to tradition in bathroom design]

The trend away from bathtubs is continuing, but it’s hardly at the point where builders can forgo tubs in new homes. Almost 60% of homebuyers want both a shower and a tub, and they’re willing to pay for it, Carmichael said. The survey found buyers were willing to pay another $2,500 for a shower-tub combo.

She pointed out that while buyers who insist on a bathtub are declining, those who say they want a freestanding tub are increasing.

“It’s almost artistic,” she noted. “It’s also a very easy way to allow that builder, or consumer frankly, to make that interchangeable and make it a choice because we do know personalization is so important” to homeowners.

Similarly, homebuyers are willing to pay more for a tiled shower floor rather than a simple shower pan—to the tune of $600.

Although homebuyers clearly have some desire for bathtubs, showers with no threshold were also important, Carmichael said.

Some other features homebuyers said they would pay extra for:

  • Dual shower heads: Some people call it a “car wash for humans,” Carmichael said, but the survey found 77% of respondents would pay $800 more for multiple shower heads.
  • Steam shower: A little over a third of respondents said they would pay $2,000 or more for a shower with a steam feature.
  • Sauna: Nearly 20% said they would pay more than $2,000 extra to have a sauna in their bathroom.

Save money by going simple

Carmichael identified areas where builders can save dollars on options by choosing simpler features.

A bottom-mount sink was very popular, with 68% of respondents saying they preferred this style, compared to 14% who would prefer a vessel sink.

“The bottom-mount sink is really the most economical choice,” she said. “It looks great, and again, it has a very clean, minimalistic look” that homebuyers are going for.

Other ways builders can get the most of their budget is to limit widespread faucets to the master bath and stick to center-set or single-lever faucets in other bathrooms. Although there is a market for wall-mounted faucets, the study found, just 16% of homebuyers would spend $300 to add one to their master bath and 11% would invest that in a guest bath or powder room.

“If we do the math on that, I’ve seen a lot of builders still do a mini-wide or something like that in those secondaries, and that really can add up,” Carmichael said, “so understand how that works for your market by price point.”

Light is important in the bathroom, and with homeowners’ preference for natural light, windows are a key part of that. Carmichael noted that privacy concerns are easily mitigated with the availability of different kinds of glass.

“Glass is not expensive. It’s easy to put in … and be creative with how you treat that glass because it’s all about the light and making that space seem large [and] inviting,” she noted.

Danielle Andrus

Editor, Colorado Builder Magazine

Danielle Andrus has 146 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

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