For most American homeowners, it’s “the more the merrier.” At least when it comes to the number of bathrooms.

Indeed, it’s a good bet that your next home will have at least two bathrooms, and perhaps more. Of all the new houses built in 2016, only a scant 3 percent had one-and-a-half baths or fewer, according to the latest figures from the Census Bureau. Even the number of new places with two-and-a-half baths or fewer fell in 2016.

At the same time, the number of new houses with three or more baths has been on the upswing for more than a generation, nearly doubling from 1988 to 2016. Americans love their loos.

People buying existing houses – or who prefer to remodel rather than move – also focus on their bathrooms, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The group reports 3.3 million bathrooms were remodeled in 2015, and 151,000 new bathrooms were added.

The boom in bathroom remodeling translates to a lot of money. In 2016, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), homeowners spent $38.5 billion on bathroom remodels of all shapes and sizes. That’s an 8.5 percent increase from the previous year. And when the books are closed on 2018, NKBA is projecting that owners will have dropped $46.3 billion on bathrooms this year.

That won’t be money down the drain, either, because bathrooms sell houses – especially updated bathrooms.

Remodeling a bathroom isn’t a sign of vanity. In fact, vanities were only third on the list of key bathroom features on which improvers spent money. In 2016, they spent more on showers ($7.1 billion) and on flooring ($6 billion) than on under-sink cabinetry ($5.4 billion). On the flip side, they spent just $1 billion on ventilation. In between? Bathtubs, counters, toilets, sinks, lighting, faucets and medicine cabinets.

Homeowners aren’t thinking small when it comes to their bathrooms. Just about all the $38.5 billion spent on johns in 2016 were major remodels, says the NKBA. Just $4 billion was spent on minor jobs.

Things are similarly hot in the kitchen market, as spending on kitchen products went up by more than 10 percent in 2016. And the total for the combined kitchen and bathroom categories came to $147 billion, split evenly between the two.

Nearly three of every 10 dollars spent in the kitchen went to new rooms, while the rest went to remodeling. Cabinets alone accounted for nearly a quarter of all kitchen remodel expenditures, with a similar amount going toward appliance upgrades, according to the trade group.

NBKA notes that spending on kitchens and bathrooms made up a quarter of all residential construction costs in 2016, driven largely by a reignited real estate sector.

“The increase in residential construction in 2016, when housing starts rose by 5.6 percent to about 1.2 million units, resulted in greater demand for products used in the construction of those units,” according to the trade association.

Total construction spending for 2016 came to $600 million, about equally split between new home construction and remodeling.

Meanwhile, the Census figures on numbers of bathrooms point to a little-known fact that could be of interest to potential homeowners: In addition to counting people, the Census Bureau also counts houses – or estimates their numbers, at any rate. And if you’re house shopping, there are a few stats in there that could have a bearing on your search.

  • Interested in knowing how much per month you’ll have to pay for your mortgage? According to the Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey, the biggest payment category, into which nearly 10 million mortgages fall, is $1,500 to $1,999 per month. The next most popular bucket, with 6.5 million, is $1,250 to $1,499 per month.
  • The rarest mortgages have payments of $200 a month or less. Just 15,000 of the more than 47 million US mortgages can claim that payment.
  • How much of your income can you expect to go toward your home loan? This may surprise you: The biggest category is a very reasonable 15 to 20 percent. Next biggest is 10 to 15 percent. So, if you are worried you will have to pay half your income or more on a mortgage, don’t. Little more than 10 percent of us do.


Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 30 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at Freelance writer Mark Fogarty contributed to this report.