Flawed floor plans can spell doom for an investment property

Too many people overlook the importance of a good floor plan, which can spell tough times ahead when it comes to maximising resale potential.

Floor plan top view, 3D render. Apartment interior isolated on white background.
Creating, or buying a home with, the most desirable floor plan can result in tens of thousands of dollars worth of savings when it comes to resale. (Image source: Shutterstock.com)

There are so many physical facets to consider when selecting a property.

Whether it is a home or investment purchase, a strong suite of positive physical attributes will place an owner at an advantage.

Yet too many people overlook the benefits of understanding some of the important ones.

We all know about orientation. In the southern hemisphere, a north facing backyard spells optimal sunlight all year round. A clever design can count for a lot though when it comes to maximising natural light. From U-shaped living areas to clerestory windows, architects can wave a magic wand over a south facing block.

But too many people overlook the importance of a good floor plan. A bad floor plan can spell trouble and undermine resale potential. It can also be quite costly. So how do floor plans disappoint, and what are the poor designs and layouts to watch out for?

Room configuration

The first relates to the configuration of a dwelling, and typically this strikes with a small, older property.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century, houses were much smaller. Not only that, but toilets were outhouses at the back of the yard. Kitchens were also much smaller, particularly in the working-class areas, and laundry facilities were in a separate room off a back porch. Over time, and following sewer connection, owners extended their houses to accommodate indoor toilets and bathrooms.

These days, plenty of Victorian cottages and terraces have lean-to rooms with lower, sloping ceilings at the rear of the dwelling. These lean-to spaces usually housing kitchen, bathroom and laundry.

The issue with this layout is that it isn’t aligned with how we like to enjoy our home lifestyle today.

A bathroom off a kitchen means that we are required to traipse down the hall, through the living area, through the kitchen and into the bathroom.

Toilets off kitchens are a least preferred option for owners and renters alike.

Aside from the awkwardness of a bathroom off a kitchen, the way we enjoy indoor/outdoor living is contravened by this layout also.

The ability for a host to walk directly outdoors to the alfresco dining setting is negated, as is the flow of guests from indoors to outdoors when entertaining.

While this design can be modified, it requires not only a complete remodel and rebuild of the back half of the house, but also a re-arrangement of plumbing. 

And for those houses that have dated interiors and are ripe for renewal, a poor floor plan can make a serious financial difference.

Funding a basic cosmetic exercise for an ideal floor plan is far cheaper than tackling a renewal of a house like the above, which could spell a serious planning and building approvals task even before the building works commence.

The ideal floor plan

The most effective floor plans generally include an open plan kitchen, living and dining area, spilling out onto an alfresco portion of the yard.

When a prospective renovator can spot this in a dated design, they can save themselves significant future costs.

The other fundamental flaw relates to lack of proportionality. Some new designs fail this test, but it’s often renovated properties that fall prey to this issue.

How many bathrooms per bedroom?

Let’s consider the impact of high bedroom count and low bathroom count as the first example.

When a 1940s three-bedroom house is converted to a four-bedroom house by way of dining room adaptation, the prospective buyer pool will question the viability of a large family home with only one bathroom.

As a rule, I prefer to select a dwelling with a minimum bedroom to bathroom ratio as follows; 1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 4/2, 5/3.

Unless there is an obvious way for a buyer to adapt a floor plan to cater for a second bathroom, I’ll be less enamoured by the four-bedroom, one-bathroom 1940s conversion.

Likewise, a three or more bedroom dwelling with insufficient living space is a deal-breaker for me.

Family buyers love the idea of more bedrooms, but not to the detriment of the living space.

I have seen countless families sell and upgrade due to insufficient living space, so I caution any renovator against converting available living space to an extra bedroom unless there is an overabundance of living space.

Land size and floor plans

Considering the size of the land is critical when it comes to designing a floor plan too. I have seen too many designs with a footprint that incorporates too much of the land. Extending a home or designing an enormous single-level home can produce an outcome that is counter to what a ‘flip’ strategy hinged on.

Family buyers will certainly gravitate to large homes, but when a yard is insufficient for their children, they will downgrade the property’s scorecard.

Proportion more than portions

If I consider all of the criticisms I’ve heard people muttering at open homes, a large portion of them relate to disproportionality.

“The kitchen is too pokey”, “the shape of the living area is weird”, “the house is amazing, but I’m not sure the kids will be able to spread out and play in that yard”, “there is not enough storage.” And the list goes on.

When a prospective buyer pool is reduced, the direct impact is that of price reduction. An unpopular floor plan is a deterrent, and one that should be considered before designs are signed off.

Article Q&A

How many bathrooms should a home have?

As a rule, property expert Cate Bakos prefers to select a dwelling with a minimum bedroom to bathroom ratio as follows; 1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 4/2, 5/3.

What is the ideal floor plan for a house?

The most effective floor plans generally include an open plan kitchen, living and dining area, spilling out onto an alfresco portion of the yard.

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