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The Optimal Renter's Bathroom

A run-down bathroom translates to unclean in the eyes of potential tenants, but there’s a fine line between value and spend, writes Ilse Wolfe, property investment coach at Opes Accelerate.

By: Ilse Wolfe

31 May 2022

A bathroom’s value is so much greater than the money it costs to renovate. “Because potential tenants don’t see a run-down, tired bathroom – they see an unclean one,” Wolfe says.

This is why ensuring you have a sharp and shiny bathroom is No.3 on the Cashflow Hack List, a 6-step approach to turbocharge any BRRRR project.

But the more you add to, or shuffle around in an existing bathroom, the more your costs will rise. As a ballpark, an entire refresh should total around $7,000, including fittings and workmanship.

It’s a fine balance between how much value you get versus how much money you choose to spend.

Here are a few considerations to get you thinking.

Adding A Toilet

There’s a toilet-to-person ratio when it comes to intensifying existing properties, Wolfe says.

“The first thing on my mind is: ‘Do I need an additional toilet?’ If the answer is yes, then the next question is: ‘Where?’”.

Typically, your 3-bedroom is going to come with one toilet, in a separate room to the main bathroom.

Wolfe says this is generally fine, until you begin creating 4-bedroom rentals. Keep in check with the location and likely tenant expectation.

“At four bedrooms the need for a second toilet becomes more of a must. At five bedrooms it’s non-negotiable,” she says.

“At this number of rooms, you are looking at adding another shower too.”

As a rule of thumb, the good place for these additions will be in a large laundry. It is possible to exchange a bathtub for a shower box, and place a toilet in newlycleared space.

“But, the most cost effective way to upgrade your bathroom is to keep the chattels configuration like for like,” Wolfe says.

This is why it’s important to bear your budget in mind when considering the latter option.

Avoid Fads

There are so many trends with tap fittings. But, regardless of price or material quality, any tap with a coating on it will wear.

“A few years ago, matte black was the go-to,” she says.

“But all these investors manufactured was a faster replacement cost.”

A bathroom is an incredibly highuse room, so never go for a trend over durability. As a general rule it’s better to stick to stainless steel or other true metal finishes for fittings.

More rooms equals more people, which means more people using the hot water. So, the hot water cylinder will need an upgrade.

“Generally speaking, an existing house will have a 135-litre low pressure hot water cylinder,” Wolfe says.

“For a four-bedroom house, you need to upgrade to a 180-litre mains pressure cylinder.

“For anything five rooms plus, you’ll need 230 litres.”

Equally important is storage. Wolfe says this is an “absolute must” for any multi-tenancy rental.

You can combine storage enhancement with the cylinder upgrade by shifting the cylinder to the sub-floor or outdoors. Re-use the cabinet for tenant storage.

If you’re short on space there are other ways to boost the usage of essential items. For instance, a mirror-cabinet is a way to double up, as is the vanity with lots of cupboard space, she says.

Collateral Damage

New flooring is “collateral damage” for any bathroom reconfiguration you choose, Wolfe says.

For investors who want to leave the flooring off the budget they will have to be strict about not shuffling too many things about.

Wolfe says if you choose to install a new toilet, it must cover the footprint of the previous one.

“Otherwise you end up with an ugly crescent-moon footprint where there was an old toilet.”

If your bathroom has normal timber floors, it’s not usually an issue and you don’t need to do anything.

But if there is existing tiling or vinyl, the only fix is finding identical cover – and that’s not as easy as it sounds, Wolfe says.

‘The most cost effective way to upgrade your bathroom is to keep the chattels configuration like for like

Waterproofing A Must

Never kit out your renovation with anything that will absorb moisture from the air.

Wolfe says while it may have been done in the past, don’t put carpet or wallpaper in a new bathroom.

“Remember, anything that can lift, will lift,” she says. “And every bathroom legally needs an extractor fan.”

A new paint job offers a great, costeffective finish for any bathroom, but tiles offer better durability for splashback and long-term wear of walls.

Tiler labour will usually cost about $60 per square metre, but you can stagger the amount of tiling to meet your budget.

Wolfe recommends spending no more than $20-$30 per square metre for the tiles because tiling can quickly add up to $90 per square to install.

All this said, sometimes a bathroom renovation is the difference between making or breaking your rental’s appeal.

If you’re looking to create a five-bedroom hack but can’t find the space for a second toilet, then it’s better to walk away and find an easier conversion with similar future development potential.

Wolfe’s advice: “If you can’t make it work, don’t force the result. There will be another great opportunity tomorrow.”


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