What’s Better for Resale Value: A Soaking Tub or an Open Shower?

published Apr 22, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Few things compare to the level of relaxation a bubble bath can bring. Having a bathtub in your home is a huge plus after a long day. On the other hand, rainfall shower heads and spray showers can be equally as therapeutic, not to mention a bit easier to clean.

So, if you have to choose between installing a soaking tub or an open shower, which one bodes better for your home’s resale value? 

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, among homeowners who are renovating their master bathroom, the most popular feature is a shower with both a handheld shower head and a mounted shower head. A freestanding tub is the second most popular master bedroom feature, and a soaking tub clocks in third.

While homeowners may opt for open showers when renovating, real estate experts we polled believe buyers may not share the same preference.

“A freestanding soaking tub has a greater architectural impact to a space than an open shower, says Tom Kenny, a partner at Scott Simpson Design+Build. “The tub should act as a sculptural piece that has a delight factor that will translate to a higher resale value.”

Even so, both features have their pros and cons. Buyers who have children—or plan to have them in the future—will consider bathing options when house-hunting.

“It is challenging to bathe young children with only a shower,” explains Julie Gans, a Compass real estate agent in New York. “When they are little babies, parents can bathe them in the special tub that fits in the sink, but once the babies outgrow that, they generally need a bathtub,” she reasons. 

Those at the other end of the age spectrum, however, could go without a tub. “Older people like to avoid bathtubs—they like walk-in showers,” Gans says. That’s because the latter can reduce the chance of falling. According to the CDC, there are 29 million falls each year among older Americans.

“Balance and stability tend to be a problem as you age, and having to lift your leg over the ledge of the bathtub increases the risk of falling,” Gans explains. Even if they don’t have mobility issues now, buyers may be planning for the future. “Seniors tend to seek any mobility enhancement feature, especially in the bathroom,” says Michael Kelczewski, a broker with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. “The ability to age in place provides for comfort and family support.

Having a shower might be more likely to appeal to a buyer concerned with energy efficiency. It’s generally accepted that taking a shower uses less water than a bath, and it takes less energy to heat the water. 

And the last, perhaps most obvious, factor to consider when opting for either a shower or tub? Showers are preferable for those short on time. They offer a much quicker way to bathe, as opposed to waiting to fill up a tub.

Of course, if your home has at least two bathrooms, there’s more flexibility in your decision. Kenny recommends that you put a tub in one bathroom, and a shower in the other one.

Suppose you just have one bathroom? “I would try to fit a shower and a tub—the best of both worlds,” advises Jenna McKay, a licensed real estate salesperson at Compass in New York, NY.

And if there’s not enough room for a separate shower, she recommends getting the tub. “I continue to see a bathtub as a requirement on many buyers’ wish lists.”

If you do have two bathrooms, there’s a right choice when it comes to the master bathroom. McKay recommends putting the shower in the master bathroom, and the tub in the secondary bathroom. 

“I currently represent a seller who elected to remove the tub from their master bathroom in order to expand the footprint of the adjacent home office space,” McKay says. “They found themselves only using the secondary bathroom’s tub to give their kids baths, and felt the extra space in the home office would be more valuable for resale down the line—and they were right.”