The Coveted 2nd Bathroom

Whenever I qualify my condominium buyers for the first time, I ask them to provide a list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.”

Almost never does a buyer say that a second bathroom is a “must-have.”

How do you value the second bathroom? 

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Before my brother and his wife moved into their house near The Danforth, they lived in a 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom condo in my neck of the woods.

Now I can admit that I’ve never actually cohabitated with another human being, so I guess I’m not familiar with the dynamics, especially the concept of two people getting ready in the morning at the same time.

My brother and his wife had only the one bathroom, and yet they awoke each morning at the same time.

But as luck would have it, they lived on the same floor as all the amenities in the building.  The party room, the billiard room, and the gym – which had mens/womens bathrooms.

For the period of about one full year, my brother used the gym bathroom as his own personal space and was never interfered with.  He had a shower, a toilet, a sink, and even a sauna!  He kept his shaving cream and other bathroom products in the vanity in the gym bathroom, and every morning he got ready for work in the gym bathroom while his wife readied herself in their condo.

A marriage counselor might call the second bathroom a “must have,” but how does the rest of the buyer pool feel?

I should stop to clarify something for a moment: I’m talking about a second bathroom with a one-bedroom condo, not a two-bedroom.  I would hope that if a condo has two legitimite bedrooms, then there is a second bathroom as well.  But when I speak of “the coveted 2nd bathroom,” I mean with respect to a 1-bedroom or a 1-plus-den.

So how do YOU value the second bathroom?

Well, I always like to contrast the second bathroom with other features.  I tell my clients to “put it up against” other features in a pretend-battle to see how they feel.

Second Bathroom versus Den

This is the classic comparison!  A true “den” should have a door and be at least 8 x 8 feet.  If we’re talking about a den that is actually useable space, then perhaps the den wins out over the second bathroom.  A true den could be a second bedroom, an office, or a dining room if it’s close to the kitchen and not in the front hall.  But if we’re talking about a CityPlace den – like a little nook or alcove that can fit six pairs of shoes and a stool, then the second bathroom wins out.

Second Bathroom versus Outdoor Space

A large terrace?  Or a second bathroom?  That’s a tough one!  If we’re talking about a large terrace as opposed to ZERO outdoor space, then I’d go with the terrace.  Condos with zero outdoor space can be tough unless you have an oversized condo with large windows.  If the condo has a small balcony, perhaps that’s enough and the second bathroom has more value.

Second Bathroom versus Parking

This one isn’t even close in my mind.  A parking space is valued as low as $20,000 in some buildings and as high as $50,000 in some absolutely ridiculous buildings, but I think $28,000 is a conservative estimate for your “average” downtown condo.  A second bathroom usually adds about $15,000 – $20,000 in value, on average.  I think the parking wins out, although it always depends on the buyer.

The reason I make the above comparisons is because it shows you what is a “must have” and what is a “nice to have.”  I tell all my first-time buyers, “I can almost guarantee you won’t get everything on your wish-list, so what can you give up?”

A second bathroom for a 1-bedroom condo is a luxury, and one that not many people can afford.

Some buyers will go as far as to say that they don’t value the second bathroom at all, but I have to point out the following:

1) Many 2-storey units have a bathroom on the upper level, meaning you have to climb a flight of stairs every time you need to use the bathroom.
2) Many condos have the bathroom purely as an ensuite, meaning your guests have to go through your bedroom to use the bathroom.
3) If you are the kind of person who entertains a lot, and you happen have 10-20 people over for a party, you’re going to WISH you had a second bathroom to accommodate them, and to make sure that there is a second option….you know…..just in case it’s needed

A client of mine recently purchased a 2-storey unit in Liberty Village, and there is a teenie-tiny bathroom on the main floor off the living room and kitchen, while a full four-piece bathroom is upstairs off his bedroom.  But this teenie-tiny bathroom serves its purpose!  Unless you say to yourself, “All this television watching has made me need a shower,” chances are, you’ll do just fine with the small main-floor bathroom.  And when you have friends over to watch Monday Night Football or Gossip Girl (see how gender-driven I am?), it’s nice to have a bathroom right across from the living area.

As a condo-owner, it’s also nice to have a little bit of privacy!

Having a 2-piece bathroom off the living room will serve the needs of all your guests, and it means that your own, private 4-piece, ensuite-bathroom will go undisturbed.  You don’t have to frantically clean it before your friends come over, nor do you need to hide anything…..that needs to be hidden…

But a major problem with the coveted second bathroom has hit the Toronto market, and it should come as no surprise that it has to do with (gasp!) developers/agents bending the truth!

I’ve seen a rash of “large” bathrooms being described as “two” bathrooms.

More specifically, I’ve seen 5-piece bathrooms being listed as two bathrooms on MLS listings.

I’ll spell it out to you: Vu Condos.

Kudos to the architect for creating what amounts to a semi-ensuite bathroom with access from the hallway and living space as well as the bedroom.  But to call this a second bathroom is like taking a bite out of an apple, spitting out the chunk, and calling that two apples

See the floor plan below:

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In my (correct) opinion, this is a five-piece bathroom.

There is a toilet, shower/tub, and two sinks.  One, two, three, four, five.

There is a sliding door in between the toilet/sink and the shower/tub/sink, which I think is fantastic!  If you have guests over, you can quietly slide that door closed, and effectively create a “guest bathroom” that has a toilet and a sink and is located off the living room.  It sections the toilet/sink off from your shower and your vanity where you keep personal effects, as well as sectioning it off from your bedroom.

But this is NOT a second bathroom!

I’ve seen this advertised on MLS several times as “two bathrooms.”

It’ll show a 3-piece bathroom and a 2-piece bathroom, and if you do the math, you’ll see that 2+3=5.

But despite the math being correct, it still doesn’t add up.

How do we remedy this ‘problem’?

Simple.

A bathroom must contain what in order to be considered a bathroom?

Think about it.

A toilet.

If there was a second toilet in the floor plan above, then absolutely – this is two bathrooms!

But a “two-piece” bathroom isn’t two sinks, just as a “three-piece” bathroom isn’t a shower/tub and a sink, as indicated above.

If you have a toilet and a sink, and then a toilet, tub and sink, then that is clearly two bathrooms.

However, once again, we see developers and Realtors trying to create something that isn’t there, and it’s frustrating for buyers and agents who go to view the property expecting to see two REAL bathrooms, only to find the new real estate epidemic.

Who are they fooling?

Chances are – you’re going to be so upset and disappointed that you’ll just leave the condo without ever having considered it as a viable purchase option.

You can’t write “fantastic lake views” on a listing and expect buyers not to notice when the condo is on the second floor and overlooks the alleyway.  So how is this faux second-bathroom any different?

It remains to be seen just how much “value” a buyer will put on a second bathroom, as everybody is different, and needs and wants vary.

But I will humbly suggest that a 2-storey unit lacks functionality without a second bathroom, and I see no way that I, personally, could make it work.

That reminds me – I think I need to get a new floor mat for my bathroom.  HomeSense, here I come!  I’ve got my weekend planned!!!

7 Comments

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  1. Ford.won.yay says:

    I hadn’t thought about this issue before…..so I really enjoyed reading your post today. Thanks!!

  2. IanC says:

    Can you call it a 1+ bathroom?

    1.5 bathrooms is a full bathroom plus a bathroom without a shower/tub.

    Maybe this is 1.1 or 1.2 bathrooms?

    Or if they could squeeze a pop up or small urinal in the tub area, you could call it a 1.3 bathroom? (But some people don’t need a urinal if they have a shower, right? ) Perhaps even 1.4 bathrooms if we are being generous?

    Still, great idea.

    If you are having a party and guests arrive early – what if one of the hosts has not showered yet? One host can shower discretely, and perhaps finish their laundry, while the early bird guest answers nature’s call.

  3. Ann B. says:

    Being from the USA I came to this page looking for a definition of 4 piece bathroom which I’d never heard of. We have an easier time of it in the US, there are only two types of bathrooms….basically a bathroom with a toilet and a sink is a 1/2 bath, and if there is EITHER a shower or a combo shower/tub or both separately, it is a full bath. Period. So Your complaint about that “two bathroom” condo would be simple…the big bath with shower/tub and sinks wouldn’t constitute a bathroom at all! We’d call it a full bath with separated sinks perhaps. As for sharing a tub between two rooms, that idea undoubtably came from dorms!

  4. Craig says:

    My old condo in DNA had a bathroom with 2 entrances (one off the master bdrm and one off the living/dining area). It was a great idea, as it was both a master ensuite and one which guests could use without entering the bedroom. It was never billed as a 2 bathroom condo though, and rightly so.

    My current condo has 2 levels and 2 bathrooms. Initially, I thought the 2nd bathroom would be a waste of space in a 900 sq ft condo. After living with it, I consider it essential. Like you pointed out, you don’t have to truck upstairs all the time and it keeps the master bath as my own personal space. If there’s room for one, a 2nd bathroom is a nice bonus in a condo.

  5. Mike says:

    I totally agree about the bathrooms at Vu! Very timely topic!! I was actually looking at condos there over the weekend (sorry David, not with you, I have another agent but I DO still read your blog!) and I spent a good five minutes searching for this myserious second bathroom. I realised soon that the second bathroom was kinda merged with the first. Kinda sleazy!

  6. Malec Chesterson says:

    David,
    Great topic…The marketing at Vu Condos is very misleading. What they should write is “One bathroom with ingenious pocket doors so you can close off the rest of your bathroom which you won’t have to clean up when guests come over.” I guess that was a little too cumbersom for the flyers. Their lawyers must have been half asleep when they let the “2 bathrooms” slide.

    My condo has 2 beds and 2 baths. I know you ferverently did not want to hear from people like me (Why are you hating David?!) but here’s the deal…our 2nd bedroom is a den for about 355 days a year (with a full-size bed for guests for the remaining 10) and our side-by-side 4-piece bathrooms are his-and-her bathrooms (one ensuite) for those same 355 days!!! I love it. Yes I do have to put away my toiletries or throw them in the ensuite when guests come over but this set up is great for getting ready in the morning.

    Last point, my brother lives in a beautiful luxury condo in Vancouver, it’s a 2 bed/2 bath+den unit with a compact 900 sf floorplan. Purchased for $750k about 5 yrs ago…Here’s what those sneak devils did: the two bathrooms (one ensuite, one main) are side-by-side and share…A BATHTUB/shower. It has frosted glass sliding doors on both sides (and an EXTREMELY high step-in, I mean not suitable for older people or midgets) but the two feet of open air up top (9 ft ceilings in the condo) effectively join the two bathrooms which is really eery for privacy. Also, I should mention -the master bath is actually a 4-piece with a shower stall TOO. If it were me, I’d wall-up the tub so it’s only the main bath but I guess maybe the thinking is that owners would want a tub for relaxing baths in their own ensuite. Still, for $1mm (what it’s worth today), I wouldn’t be pleased.

  7. DB says:

    I would not disagree with the statement that what is pictured above is misleading. However I when I looked at Vu I also thought this was a genius move as the door between the two sections was a pocket door. So while it is not 2 bathrooms, I would argue that there is not a material difference between the two. The fact that there are not two toilets is really not the hang up for me either. My concern would be that there is no proper lock between the two spaces and could give guests free reign on private space.

    Separately, I may have bad friends but I am continually shocked at how many people do not appear to clean their bathrooms before guests come over. Is it too much to ask that you put your water pik and hair brush full of loose hair away when you are hosting? Sometimes I feel like I am in a student house but with marble floors.

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