Mr Big: We're getting married. Should we get you a diamond?
Carrie: No. No. Just get me a big closet.
Conventional wisdom says if you're going to invest in home improvement, put your money in the kitchen and master bathroom. It's what buyers notice the most and gets you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to resale value. Conventional wisdom also says that a master bathroom should consist of double sinks, a toilet, walk-in shower and separate tub.
My first major remodel was a kitchen plus master suite addition to a three bedroom, one bath starter home I bought in Mountain View. Being single at the time, I didn't need the space but wanted to add resale value to the house and was planning ahead in case that certain someone special ever decided to show up. I was on a tight budget but on the top of my splurge-worthy list was a deluxe whirlpool tub with jets for the master bathroom. I rationalized that like a great mortgage broker, a luxury tub would save me from having to pay for spa services and I fantasized about evenings filled with champagne, rose petals and romantic bubble baths for two. Sadly, faster than you can say "Calgon take me away" my bubble was burst...
"Don't waste your money, honey," warned my real estate agent, Erika Enos. "The jets are loud, they require maintenance, age quickly and you'll probably only use it a few times a year. Put in an extra closet instead," she advised.One of the many things I love about Erika is she's a shrewd and frugal immigrant who doesn't hesitate to tell me when she disapproves, especially when it comes to overspending. Erika says no to about 95% of the things I want (the sign of a truly great agent), so when she approves of something, I know it's got to be good. Erika's been stretching dollars for my family since 1984, when she helped my parents buy their first home in Palo Alto for a whopping $135,000. In the nearly thirty years of working with her, we've always come out ahead on any Erika-assisted purchase, including a self indulgent downtown Palo Alto condo I bought during the peak of the dot-com frenzy in 2000. After the market crashed I was sure that I'd never recoup my costs but when we sold it five years later, Erika orchestrated a savvy 20K kitchen and bathroom makeover that yielded a 186K return. That's when I began to appreciate the value of a remodel done wisely and vowed to run all spending plans by my newly appointed Ukranian CFO.
Sadly, the jacuzzi tub did not pass the Erika test. Unfortunately, I didn't entirely listen to her. At the time I couldn't imagine why I'd need more closet space so I went ahead and installed a basic, no-frills soaking tub instead. Fast forward two years and three bubble baths later when my future husband moved in and I realized that my walk-in closet was designed for a stubborn bachelorette (capacity: 1). In the spirit of sharing, I cleared out precisely two linear feet in the corner of my closet for him and generously offered the office closet for overflow.
For our new house, I decided to defy convention and not put a tub in the master bath. Sometimes building practical solutions for the way you live is worth making a resale value tradeoff. Instead we will be using the extra space for his and her closets.