What Is a Powder Room?

You’re familiar with full bathrooms, but what are the powder rooms you sometimes see in home listings? What’s with the fancy name?

“Often referred to as a half bath, a powder room typically includes only a sink and toilet,” says Stephanie Duncan, a senior home designer with Opendoor. “A full bathroom includes a sink, toilet, shower, and tub.”

This in-depth look at the features that define powder rooms shows how they contribute to a home’s overall value and sellability, including insights from home experts. 

What Is a Powder Room?

A powder room has only a sink and toilet and is usually the bathroom used by guests, not attached to bedrooms in the home. 

“The name comes from the 18th century; it was a room where ladies could retire to freshen their make-up and perfume,” explains agent Mary Hall Mayer of Coldwell Banker Warburg.

“Powder rooms are often strategically placed on the main floor of a home, near main living areas like the foyer, living room, or dining room, making them easily accessible to guests without the need to enter private areas of the home,” Duncan points out. Those private areas are typically bedrooms and upper levels.

A powder room’s location also makes it easy for homeowners to access.​​

“The fact that a home includes a powder room means the buyer or owner will enjoy added convenience.”


These half baths are also ideal in other areas of your home.“We also see powder rooms on the back side of a house, especially if the owners have a pool and don’t want folks who are dripping with water walking through the rest of their home to get to a bathroom,” says Christa Kenin, a real estate agent at Douglas Elliman. “We sometimes see powder rooms in other levels of a home, such as a basement or in a finished attic/upper floor, so folks don’t have to climb additional stairs.”

Types of Homes with Powder Rooms

“A common myth is that only larger homes or luxury homes have powder rooms,” says Wendi Miller, a sales associate with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Lifestyles Realty. “It is common for a smaller home, townhome, or condo to have a powder room or half bath located near the kitchen or living room.”

While these rooms are often described as half baths or guest baths in home listings, they’re also part of the number figure included in the quick facts on the listing. 

“It’s why you’ll see phrases like ‘2.5 baths.’ The powder room is the half,” Duncan adds. 

The Value of a Powder Room

Powder rooms are a huge bonus in homes and apartments for their added convenience for both homeowners and guests. 

“A well-maintained and tastefully decorated powder room can potentially increase a home’s market value,” Duncan says. “The powder room is a great spot to add some extra attention when prepping the home for visitors. Flowers, diffusers, and hand towels add style and function to the space without breaking the bank.”

                                                            “[A powder room] adds value because it allows family members’ bathrooms to remain private. Guests will not invade your privacy, and your personal bathroom remains clean.”

                                                                                                                                                  — ANNIE CION GRUENBERGER, AGENT, COLDWELL BANKER WARBURG

“Many apartments, especially pre-war homes, do not have them. Powder rooms are not just pure luxury but a necessity as well. Especially since COVID, people want their private home areas not to be used by others,” says Gruenberger.

Renovating or Adding a Powder Room

If you want to add value to your home, one way to do it is by renovating or adding a bathroom.

“According to Opendoor’s 2023 Home Decor Report, buyers cite homes with updated bathrooms (61%) as their biggest home shopping turn-on,” Duncan says. “Adding a half bath to the home has the potential to increase resale value by $9,000 on average.”

If you’re going to add a bathroom purely for resale, Miller suggests going the distance with a full bathroom. Short of adding a bathroom and incurring the expense of hiring a pro to add the necessary plumbing, Miller says a newly renovated powder room can be an easier way to add to resale value.

“It is important for the powder room to be clean, bright, and freshly painted. Updated lighting is a must,” Miller adds. “Comfort-height toilets, for which the seat stands about 17 to 19 inches from the ground, and comfort-height vanities, which are about 36 inches in height, are wonderful upgrades to a powder room.”

Decorating a Powder Room

Benach has noticed that powder rooms are often more highly decorated than full bathrooms, which are in private parts of the home. Benach says you might hang a piece of art in your powder room but not your full bath, for example. Recent design trends show homeowners like wallpaper with large patterns in these rooms. 

“Buyers can do a lot of fun things decorating a powder room that don’t work as well in a full bath, such as using much more impactful wallpaper and displaying art and statement pieces,” he adds. “It’s also an easy room to decorate ‘up’ because it’s the smallest room in the house; it needs fewer materials, so it is less expensive. The investment in style and decoration in a powder room generates more impact because that is the bathroom guests will see and use.”

You might be wondering about the wisdom of wallpaper in a bathroom, but agent Steven Gottlieb of Coldwell Banker Warburg says it’s totally fine. 

“A half-bathroom or powder room doesn’t have a bathtub or shower, so there isn’t much steam that can create condensation and destroy the decor,” he explains. 

Staging a Powder Room When Listing

Of course, different decor rules apply if you’re going to list your home. In that case, less is more.

“In staging a powder room, a seller should make sure the room is extremely clean and freshly painted with minimal decor,” Miller says. “You don’t want the room to appear too busy.” 

If you’re looking to add some pop, add a custom mirror instead of a builder-grade mirror, she suggests, and get rid of those unsightly cleaning supplies when listing your home. 

“The powder room should be inviting. Plungers, toilet brushes, and other functional bathroom items should be hidden,” Miller adds. “A decorative hand towel and hand soap in a decorative pump is acceptable. A seller should make sure the toilet paper roll is a full roll.”