Real Estate April 22, 2020


Need to sell your home? Have one of those Bathrooms that is off putting to Buyers?  You know, the 1950s Bathroom tiled in Pink, Baby Blue, Yellow or any other combination of 1950s or 1960s colors.  Better yet, 1970s Avocado Green.  While some Buyers like the retro look, they like a new retro look, not actual retro.

What should you do?  Updated Kitchens and Bathrooms sell homes.  A completely remodeled basic bathroom can cost almost $20,000.  Why so much?  There are a few factors that go into that $20,000.  Often this level of remodel takes the Bathroom down to the studs and at this point code updates are often required.  You might need to update the electric, plumbing, add insulation, add an exhaust fan, and for sure pull permits. Permits have a cost and require the local Town to inspect the work at a few stages – normally rough and final inspections.  Those add steps to the process and cost.

Assuming the tile is in good condition…meaning not cracked, solidly adhered to the wall and floor, and not soft to the touch (indicating water damage behind the tile) then you might be a good candidate for the what I call a “Soft Refresh.”  While I speak to tile, even some fiberglass tubs and shower surrounds can be refinished.

So, what is in a “Soft Refresh?”  Re-glazing the Tile (Tub, Tub Surround, and Floor), New Vanity, New Toilet, and New Fixtures for the Tub/Shower and Sink and new Lighting.

Re-Glaze – There are companies that specialize in re-glazing tile.  This can be done in a variety of colors – best to stay neutral with a white or off white and add color with accessories.  The cost to re-glaze a tub, tile shower surround, and the tile floor for an average sized Bathroom is currently about $1,500.  While not the same as a new tile job, the re-glazing can make a huge difference and make a bathroom appear more updated than a tub that screams – 50 years of bathing has happened here!

Vanity – Most Bathrooms have vanities in standard sizes.  Home Depot and Lowes and other stores all offer Bathroom Vanities with Solid Surface Tops and Sinks in one unit for under $1,000.  Since these units are all one piece, switching the old vanity with a new vanity is a fairly straightforward job.

Toilet – Who doesn’t like a new toilet?  This is a cheap item to change out and Buyers like the idea of a toilet that is new and has not seen years of use.  This can be done for under $500.

Fixtures – New faucets, shower controller, shower head that all match complete the new look.  You can go crazy here, but don’t go cheap.  A decent set that matches is around $500.

Lighting – New lighting for the ceiling, wall, or both also completes the look.  Much like with the plumbing fixtures, no need to go crazy, but don’t go cheap.

Switches / Plugs – Don’t forget to switch out the plug, light switch, and the plate covers.  That also completes the look.  If the plug is not GFCI then have an Electrician update that.

In theory, any work you do likely requires a permit.  It is best to check with your local Town.  Some of the items above can be completed by the Home Owner or a Handy Person.  Other items, such as updating the outlets to GFCI or new drain pipes for the sink (between the sink and wall) are best handled by a licensed Electrician and/or Plumber that pulls the appropriate permits.

The items above should total about $5,000.  Well shy of the $20,000 for an all new Bathroom.  Will Buyers be fooled?  No.  Will the refreshed Bathroom compete better than the house with the original 1950s bathroom?  Yes.

Bathrooms and Kitchen sell homes.  If you can’t afford a complete remodel, there is a cost effective way to make quick updates that will appeal to Buyers.

Doug McNeilly is a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Realty in Wayland, Massachusetts.  He specializes in Wayland, Sudbury, Natick, Framingham and the Greater Boston Metro West Area.  He can be reached at or