Buying, selling or running a home – everything you need to know about your home and garden!

Should I buy a house with a ground-floor bathroom?

Alex asks:

We are in the process of buying a house in London. We have found a house which we like, but it has the bedroom on the first floor and the bathroom and toilet on the ground floor. Is that unusual, and will it mean that I get a lower price if I want to sell the property after few years, as the bathroom is not near the bedroom?

The vast majority of houses in the UK – apart from flats and bungalows, of course – have the bathroom on the first floor, rather than the ground floor. The reason is obvious: a first-floor bathroom offers better privacy than a ground-floor one. You may even be able to have the window open and still not be seen while you’re using the bathroom in whatever state of undress you happen to be in at the time.

However, in some older properties it’s by no means unusual to find the bathroom on the ground floor instead. Many of these houses probably originally had no bathroom at all, just an outside toilet at the back of the house; bathing would take place either at a public baths or in a tub filled with water heated on the kitchen stove or over the fire.

When indoor bathrooms became the norm, it was simpler (and therefore cheaper) to provide the plumbing using the existing installation for the outside toilet, than it was to convert an existing room on the first floor of the house. A doorway would commonly be knocked through from the kitchen, and the outside toilet extended (often by making use of other outside areas such as the coalshed, which fell into disuse as clean air legislation banned the use of coal fires in cities).

Anyway, that’s the background.

In answer to the question, here are a few things to consider:

  • A downstairs bathroom may well put some buyers off and force the price of a house down. But on the other hand, that will be the case when you buy the house as well. So you’re likely to be buying cheap as well as selling cheap.
  • The price of a house in any given location is likely to vary by the same proportion over time, regardless of whether it’s got an upstairs bathroom or a downstairs one.
  • In some areas the downstairs bathroom is very common (particularly where a whole estate has been built or adapted in the same way at the same time) and the price you can expect to get your house will be similar to the asking price of the others nearby.
  • Some buyers (for instance, elderly or disabled people) may find it an advantage to have the bathroom downstairs.

One possible negative to bear in mind is that Building Regulations require food preparation facilities (ie the kitchen) to be separated from toilets by at least two doors, so you may find that there’s a small ante-room (in other words, space that’s more or less wasted) between the kitchen and the bathroom.

Ultimately, though, you’ll have to make your own mind up whether you like the house enough for the unusual layout not to matter.