(Note: This is part of a longer interview with Adrian Kos of Vogue Bathrooms of Canberra. To get the complete interview as a free pdf entitled “The 5 Things You Must Know Before You Start Your Bathroom Renovation”, click here.)
Interviewer: In your estimation how much does a bathroom remodel add to the value of a home? You’re not a real estate appraiser or anything but do you have any opinions on that?
Adrian: Sure, sure. Well, funnily enough when I finished college I actually was in real estate. I was actually selling real estate for a few years as I was starting Vogue Bathrooms on the side.
So generally speaking, if you’re looking to update your bathrooms to sell so you can maximize your profit, I always suggest to people that where you can save the most money is on tiles. Because when they’re looking at your house, people can’t tell the difference if a tile cost $30 a square meter or $150 a square meter. You just can’t tell. Okay, people can’t tell the difference that it’s Italian-made porcelain or a Chinese-made porcelain. So, that’s what I tell people.
Where I tell people to spend a little bit more is on their fittings. You want to do a nice quality vanity that’s made in Australia, you want to do nice tapware with a brand name that’s stamped on it so people can see the name. So, I basically tell people not to over-capitalize on the tiles, and generally speaking, you should be able to double your return on investment because the perceived value of a bathroom renovation done properly should be far higher than what it costs you.
Also, keep the inclusions quite neutral. We generally suggest white wall tiles because white is timeless. You want to do earthy colour floors. So that might be black, brown, grey. You don’t want to go silly with colours like reds and greens, all these retro colours are coming back in because nine out of 10 times people that are coming in are going to be turned off. Look at it his way: you’re not remodeling your bathroom to your tastes, you’re doing it to please 90% of the market.
So basically, you’d be looking at doubling your return on investment because people normally pay for the fact that yes, they don’t have to spend the money to do the bathroom renovation, and they’re also not going to experience the inconvenience of having tradesmen through the home for the next four odd weeks. So, that also is a component in the higher value.
Here’s a story to illustrate: a few years ago I went to quote a job, it was in Calwell, a really big house. The people were empty-nesters. They had three bathrooms, also a powder room and a laundry. They were looking at selling and because the house wasn’t that old– maybe 20 years old–the bathrooms are still livable. They were dated, but they weren’t offensive. So they got me out and they said look, we’re thinking about selling in the next 12 months to two years and we don’t know whether we should renovate or keep them original. And me being me, as honest as I am, I always have the client’s best interest at heart because I always believe in that and getting that good karma returned tenfold. You might not get the job now, but you’ll get their referrals and you might get them in the future. So, that’s just the way I operate.
So, I said to them, based on my experience and again, without sounding like a salesman, if you spend 50 grand on doing this or 60 grand or whatever it might be, you should be able to double that money. They said okay, that’s fine, we appreciate your advice. I measured everything up, and they said we’ll get back to you. I thought nothing of it, I really enjoy advising people on their bathroom renovation whether they move forward with Vogue or not.
They got back in touch with me probably three weeks later, they said that they had three real estate agents to their house and all three of them said the same thing: that as long as they didn’t over-capitalize and didn’t put in taps for $1,000, etc., if they used attractive, neutral fittings, neutral colours, they will get their money back and then some. So, they basically went ahead and they said okay, we feel comfortable. We want to do it and that’s what happened. They lived there for, maybe was another year or 15 months and they sold and got a good result. That is a true story actually, I’m not making that up, that actually happened.
Interviewer: Great story
Adrian: Another thing: the budget’s important, many times people aren’t aware that a basic bathroom is about $20k. Some people don’t have realistic expectations, they tell me their budget is $10k-15k but can they get their bathroom renovation done for under 10 grand? And I have to tell them that well, I can do half your bathroom for that, which half do you want done? So, it’s important for people to get educated on a topic and that is a big part of what I do. They have a budget, and at that point they just need a professional to guide them and give them advice along the way. We get them ready to go, to whatever extent they need help: they know their colours, they know what they want, and obviously a good idea of the result that they want, what they want to achieve. And then we make it happen for them.
Interviewer: One more related question to this. How common are cost overruns?
Adrian: Not really common. Sometimes it can’t be helped, for example in an instance where we might do the demolition, and then we find the floor is rotted, the studs and the bottom plates are rotted. Sometimes people are aware because they’ll have a leaking shower that’s leaked into the bedroom next door and they had to replace the carpet. So, they’ll be aware that they will have unexpected costs, but they will expect it because they know there’s a problem. Like for instance with these gentlemen just today, we’ve discovered termite damage downstairs. And really, the only other thing is if people decide they want to upgrade certain things during the course of the construction. They might say they want to get this vanity instead of this other vanity. But that’s quite rare. I generally try to work with people well in advance and give them lots of time to select their inclusions, get it right, get samples for them, if they’re not happy to go back to the showrooms and have a look at options. And then when we start, then it’s just all guns blazing, you know what I mean?
I’ve had people–generally it’s people in more well-to-do suburbs–Vogue Bathrooms did a project in the suburb of Forrest, in a house that is probably worth around four and a half million. And the lady was a you know, frankly, was having a very difficult time making decisions on a few different aspects of her renovation. So, I had my tilers there, they were working away and then my tile worker calls me up at 10 AM and says he’s going home for the day. I’m like what happened? And he says, the lady decided that she wanted to do a feature tile, like a border around the perimeter of the room. So he said that she told me to stop and she went to Fyshwick to pick the tiles. And this did create a big problem for us because we had several weeks of preparation, settled and everything, we ordered everything. Again, but that’s one case out of 10. So, to answer your question, it’s generally maybe two, three bathrooms out of 10 might go over budget, but that’s again, due to unforeseen circumstances such as rot in studs or floors, or anything like that.