It might be easy to gloss over the bathroom when you're touring a home in person—but it's even easier to do so when you're viewing it by video, as many of us are doing in the age of the coronavirus. It's a smaller space than most in the house, and, at first glance, there's not much to take in: toilet, shower, vanity—that's all you need, right?
But the fact that the bathroom's purpose is purely functional—the place to go when you go—is what makes it such a crucial space. And one you shouldn't rush through in any tour.
Experts say there's a whole lot more you should be looking at in the bathroom besides the sleek vanity and sparkling bathtub. Make sure to inspect—or ask your agent to scope out for you—these potential problem areas.
1. Funky odors
As your agent shows you the bathroom, look out for an air freshener. It might be the buyer's personal preference to have fragrance in the bathroom, but it could also be masking issues with the plumbing or mold.
"Homes on a septic system that have a strong odor could be a sign of an issue that could cost you more later," says Wendy Gladson, a real estate consultant at Compass in Los Angeles.
2. No bathroom vent fan
You might not think an ordinary bathroom fan is worth a second look, but it is.
"It is not necessary to have a fan if you have a window, but it could be an unpleasant surprise when you look for the switch to get rid of steam, and there is no fan [or window] present," says Veronica Sniscak, owner and Realtor® at VSells and Associates in Ellicott City, MD.
3. Bad lighting
"Since you will not be there in person, it may be tough to know if the bathroom is well-lit or if the lighting situation might need attention," says Sniscak.
Ask your agent to turn on all the lights, to see how bright or dim the room is.
4. No privacy
A window provides natural light and helps a small bathroom feel less claustrophobic, but you don't want your neighbors to watch you brush your teeth every night. Have your agent show you the view out the window, if there is one.
"In urban areas, you want to make sure that, with the proximity to your neighbors, you have privacy," Gladson says.
5. Squishy floor
If there's tile in the bathroom, your agent should show you close-ups of it.
"Look to see if there are any areas of cracking in the floor tile, separation, or damaged grouting or any 'softness' felt underfoot that could indicate issues with any past or current plumbing, or a pest issue," Gladson says.
6. Old bathtubs
What looks like a brand-new bathtub might be an old one with a cosmetic upgrade. Reglazing is an inexpensive way to update a tub, but Gladson says the finish doesn't last long. Look for bubbling or sags in the finish.
"Tubs will scratch and even peel with time and require touch-ups to the finish," Gladson says.
7. Problems under the sink
"The bathroom is the No. 1 place for water damage, so it's a good idea to check under the sink for leaking," says Kari Haas, a real estate agent at Windmere Real Estate in Bellevue, WA.
Ask your agent to zero in on the fixtures. Are they corroded or in good shape? Are any of the fixtures or pipes leaking? Next, ask your agent to turn on the faucets of the sink, tub, and shower. Take note of the water pressure. Is it strong or barely trickling out?
8. No storage
If you don't see any storage besides under the vanity or in the medicine cabinet, where will you keep your towels and other necessities? And don't assume a closet in a bathroom is for storage. It might house mechanical components or a water heater.
"It's important to see inside all cabinets and behind any doors," notes Sniscak. "It would also be helpful to know if there is a linen closet in the hallway outside of the bathroom."
9. Mildew or gaps in the shower grout
"What is the condition of the grout? If there are gaps, there could be hidden damage behind the walls, and if there is mildew, it speaks to ventilation and poor maintenance," says Gladson.
Also, watch your agent open and close the shower doors to ensure they function correctly.
10. A tiny shower
If you're tall or feel anxious in small places, a small shower can be a deal breaker. And you won't be able to get a sense of how big or small the shower area is from the live video, Sniscak says.
"It may be helpful to have the agent bring along a measuring tape to see how big the shower area is," she says. "It's also a good idea to get a view inside the shower or tub area to see if there is any space to store items like a niche or shelf."
11. The bathroom is in a weird spot in the home
Multiple bathrooms are a plus, but not if they don't serve your lifestyle.
"Many find it odd to have a bathroom in the kitchen, for example, and it's also good to know how far away the bathroom is from the living area," says Sniscak.
Have your agent walk you through the areas leading to the bathrooms.
"Ask if there is a level that doesn't have a bathroom at all that may not be easy to tell from the video," adds Sniscak.
Finally, verify how many bedrooms share a bathroom.
12. Not enough outlets
Outlets are something you probably wouldn't even think twice about, even when you're touring a house in person—but you should take notice, Sniscak says.
"Some older homes may be lacking outlets, so it's always better to check than be surprised later," says Sniscak.
13. A bad toilet
For something that gets used several times daily, the toilet rarely gets a second glance in house tours. Yet, trouble could be lurking, so (and we're serious here) get your agent to stand over the toilet and jump up and down to see if the toilet is loose and needs a new wax ring.
"Ask if the flooring is solid—also a sign that there might be rot," Haas says.
And while you're at it, ask what sort of toilet it is. Is it water-efficient? Does it have a bidet attachment? These things could significantly improve or detract from your bathroom experience.