Home buyers pay attention to the kitchen, and many have high expectations. In kitchens, “outdated” is easy to see, and poor maintenance in that room can give the house a general impression of neglect. The National Association of Realtors 2017 Remodeling Impact Report shows that doing some kitchen upgrading ranks high for Return on Investment, but that a full remodel only brings about 60% ROI. A smart home seller finds the balance between benefits and costs.
The 60% ROI reflects how expensive renovation is in this complicated room. Fully remodeling even an average-size kitchen can be in the $20,000 range, which is why only about 19% of home sellers go this route, according to a National Kitchen and Bathroom Association report. Investing too much money into a house you’re leaving simply doesn’t make sense. Where does a seller find the sweet spot? Work with an experienced local realtor, who has specific advice about what kitchen projects are necessary in your market. At the same time, there are some easy makeovers you can do on a budget that most experts agree is a good idea.
New cabinets cost about half of a full remodel, but there are ways to update cabinets without replacing them. An inexpensive DIY choice for cabinets in good condition is to clean very well inside and out, including those back corners. Then give cabinets and drawers new hardware in a simple, clean design that will appeal to many buyers. Knobs and pulls can cost only a few dollars apiece and are easy to change out for a fresh, unified look. If your cabinet handles have double screws, it’s a good idea to take them to the home store with you, to make sure new ones match their measurements.
You can also freshen up cabinets, as well as kitchen walls, with paint in an attractive neutral color. Or you can refinish wood cabinets for a newer appearance. In either case, opt for paint or stain that is designed to stand up to a lot of use. For a more ambitious project, reface the cabinets with new doors. If you DIY, measure carefully to ensure a perfect fit. Hiring a pro to do it is certainly less expensive new cabinets, at about $800-$1200 for a professional job. You can reface in a different shade, or veneer the entire cabinet for a uniform look.
Another inexpensive project is upgrading plumbing and lighting fixtures. An old, leaky faucet is a “red flag,” suggesting a badly maintained house, whether that’s true or not. A new faucet that matches the style of your cabinet hardware ties the room together. New lighting fixtures can also complement the rest of the upgrades, as well as light the kitchen better. Agents say a show-ready house needs all the warm, clear light it can get, and in the kitchen, it also adds to the sense of an efficient space.
A third kitchen tip, not one to underestimate, is to deep-clean. Scrub every nook and cranny, under the sink, inside the appliances. Making what you have shine is an easy upgrade, and cleanliness makes a huge impression on buyers, who want to look everywhere and into everything. Don’t ruin it later by leaving garbage in the can or cooking smells in the air. When the house shows, smell matters. Simmering lemon slices with vanilla on the stove is a popular recommendation, but a mild citrus air freshener or vanilla candles will do the trick.
A fourth tip, after you clean, is to stage the kitchen as you would your other rooms. Declutter and depersonalize it, which means magnets off the fridge and stuff off the counters. Then add small touches—pops of color and lifestyle vignettes– that show off the kitchen, like bowls of colorful fruit/veggies, a simple glass jar with cookies, a table set for a meal, or a teapot and cup in a favorite spot to relax. Balance minimal and clean decor with the right touch of hominess.
If you have a pantry, include it in your decluttering and staging efforts. Like closets or other storage space, pantries should be partially emptied to look spacious, and organized well. It’s a wonderful time to toss outdated foods and to donate non-perishables you won’t be using to organizations that help those in need.
A final tip: some kitchens do need major upgrades. Outdated, worn countertops, floors, or appliances are big “visuals” and may have to be addressed. But you don’t have to break the bank. For example, there are ways to resurface or epoxy countertops that are less expensive than installing new granite ones. There are reasonable options in tile or vinyl flooring, and new stainless steel appliances can look great without being the highest-end ones available. These projects cost more, but they can bring excellent ROI because the kitchen is such a priority for many buyers. Your realtor, the expert on today’s home-selling tips, will know what upgrades are worth doing to be competitive in your market, so ask their advice before any project, large or small!