If you can't stand the heat ... Don't renovate the kitchen

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My clients were getting ready to sell their house and started to get that itch. You know the one – the urge to rip out everything in the kitchen and start fresh.

“What do you think, how much should we do?” they asked. I told them not to go “all HGTV” on the kitchen.

It’s so tempting to make the house look like your dream house … but you’re leaving. Let’s talk about why a complete kitchen renovation may, or may not, be the best move right before you put a for sale sign in the yard.

First off, kitchens are notoriously expensive. You may assume that brand new countertops and shiny appliances will fetch a higher price, and those two updates often do. However, a kitchen overhaul might be different.

You see, not every buyer is going to share your taste in marble countertops or farmhouse sinks. If a buyer isn’t into your style, they may not be willing to pay top dollar for it. It’s all about the return on investment here, because you’re essentially doing all the work for someone else to enjoy … or not.

Then there’s the timing of everything — the renovation, your move, and the real estate market. A kitchen renovation can take weeks, if not months, to complete. It’s a lot to take on a remodel while also planning your next move.

Right now, the real estate market is extremely active. If it’s been prepped and priced right, your house will likely go into contract with a buyer in a matter of days for top-dollar — with or without a brand-new kitchen. Still, like my clients, you may be convinced that a renovated kitchen will make your home sell faster and for more money. If you plan and budget properly, and go with a neutral update, you might do great! Yet keep in mind that research shows that larger and more extensive remodel projects see lower returns than smaller projects.

If your kitchen is in desperate need of improvement, you should give it some love. Focus on updates that are manageable and cost positive, like a neutral backsplash, a fresh coat of paint and new hardware for the cabinets. A few minor repairs here and there can go a long way toward sprucing up your kitchen without breaking the bank.

Back to my clients … After spending close to $25,000 because, big surprise, the project went over budget, they loved the kitchen they left behind. The buyer didn’t love the countertops. In the end, it was a lot of work, stressful and ended up a little more than break-even.

At the end of the day, the decision to renovate your kitchen before selling is a personal one. Your real estate agent can give you an idea of the list price of your home with, and without, that new kitchen. 

Engle & Volkers is a luxury real estate brand connecting clients around the world with the homes of their dreams.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.