Kitchen facelift for resale in already hot market?

OaktownApril 11, 2014

Would appreciate your opinions as the realtors we've talked with have been split.

We plan to put our house on the market in the next 3-6 months in a very hot market (low inventory, multiple offers typical, etc.). It will not have an issue selling, the question is whether a kitchen facelift would have a significant net positive on the selling price. We would like any additional $ to help defray the cost of our new place!

Currently have laminate counters, white appliances 10+ years old but still functioning, vinyl flooring generally in good shape but chipped in one small area. Proposed facelift would change the flooring to ??? (linoleum? There is wood in the rest of house), update appliances, possibly change counters to quartz.

Competition is scarce and gone quickly. Anecdotally, have heard from many friends/colleagues that they would have valued an already-upgraded kitchen at more than it probably actually would cost.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

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Not meaning to duck your kitchen question, but in six months there may be no more low inventory issues. In my area in Spring of 2013 there was huge competition for the few houses available. Prices climbed quickly. By late August / early September the inventory situation had resolved and houses that would have started bidding wars a few months earlier would often sit for several months. The prices stayed high only because of the large amount of foreign investment.

Your location will matter a lot. With prices climbing you may still get a good offer in 5-6 months for your house. But the higher $ market may also cause more people to put their house on the market and increase your competition.

If you are not ready to put the house on the market yet, the kitchen upgrades might help you when there is more competition. Updating appliances seems to give a pretty good return for amount spent, without the mess of construction. Switching out the countertop would depend a lot on the condition and appearance of the cabinets. We viewed one house that had old cabinets with drawers that wouldn't close properly anymore, but they had nice granite countertops. The granite just seemed like such a waste. (edited to add photo)

Linoleum might be worth the investment, but it is difficult to know without seeing photos of how the kitchen looks now. Cabinet hardware is another lower cost thing you could explore if you think it would improve the appearance of your kitchen.

This post was edited by Gyr_Falcon on Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 15:08

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 3:03PM
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Gyr_Falcon, thanks, we will keep in mind that the market could turn on a dime, although around here inventory has been declining pretty much since 2011.

Perhaps we'll just do the flooring and possibly appliances then? The laminate actually looks good, it is dark gray. The cabs are white/glass front uppers and in excellent condition. Hardware is fine, nothing to write home about. The dinged up area in the vinyl bugs me even though we keep a small rug on it; I can imagine it would be a turn-off for buyers.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Is your user name indicative of where you live? If so, that's us too. I will say that while some seller facelifts make me nuts (we had one that we then had to tear out to remodel to fix some very basic issues), they seem to get more than their money's worth back in this market. If you do it thoughtfully, making sure not to cosmetically update things that need more serious fixing, I do think you get back the money you spend.

This also depends somewhat on what your neighborhood/target market is like. The houses I've seen benefit the most from this in our area tend to be the ones that are appealing to first-time buyers--young couples and families. I think there is an expectation that "good" kitchens will have stone or quartz counters and stainless appliances in that demographic, for better or worse (and I think your friends are right that people have no idea how much that should actually cost). When we were in that position, we had no idea that we should be looking at layout, cabinet construction, etc.--if we eventually move to a second house it will be a totally different house shopping experience!

If your cabinets are in good shape and are a good layout, I'd probably go with a basic stone or quartz counter (granite is sometimes cheaper than quartz), maybe new flooring depending on cost and condition of your existing floor, and entry to mid-level stainless appliances, assuming you can swing that and also give the whole house a fresh coat of interior paint (which I think is probably the single biggest thing that helps!) I think you'd get that cost back if you're in the market I think you're in (or if it's similar to our city, which it sounds like it is). If there are any issues with the cabinets and you think the buyers might need to replace them (for condition or for problematic layout), skip the counters and flooring and just do appliances.

I would try to get on in the summer if at all possible, unless you have other constraints like timing of moving to a new house--so you might limit scope of work by what you can accomplish in that time, too. Good luck with the sale!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 2:36AM
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If your flooring is bugging you, then it will bug most buyers. Replace it with what is expected in your area. I would replace the laminate counters also. Not sure of the counter area you have, but if it is possible, granite remnants are inexpensive. How are the walls? Will a new coat of paint brighten up the kitchen? That is a quick and inexpensive way to make the kitchen look new. I agree with artemis78. Try and get this work done before the selling season starts. You want as much traffic as possible. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 6:47AM
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I'm also in a hot real estate market where the mean time to sell is about 9 days, usually with multiple offers if the property is attractive. Here, buyers put a premium on move-in ready, even if it may not be quite to their taste. SS appliances and granite are expected even at the lower price end, with marble and quartz being extremely popular (and white kitchens). neighbors painted their old oak cabinets white (pretty shoddy paint job, IMO) and put Carrara marble on the counters, and the place sold within two days. The place was beautifully staged (dark wood floors, gray wall paint, minimal furniture, kind of a mix of Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn), so the awkward layout, like a barrier island in the kitchen and a powder room off the living room, and the very small rooms didn't seem to bother the buyers.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 12:46PM
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Thanks everyone! We are pricing out the improvements. We weren't planning to move until our new place is ready (supposed to be this summer), but our realtor is suggesting that we get on the market by July regardless and just ask for a rent-back if we need it.

artemis, we are on the opposite side of the bay from the real thing ;-)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:23PM
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If the market is that hot, your place may sell without any of those changes you propose.

That is what happened when we sold our house in January 2013. House was in a highly desirable and sought-after location, where the inventory was usually low. Houses in this area usually sold within a month after being placed on the market.

So, we did some painting, fixing, made sure everything worked, and replaced the refrigerator when the old one died, and cleared out most of the clutter. But we left the kitchen and bathrooms as they were- laminate in good shape in the kitchen, didn't replace cabinets, and left the flooring as it was- carpets needed replacing, we left that for the buyers to replace.

And we didn't stage the place. Left the empty rooms empty, left DH's old electronic junk where it was to be cleaned out when we left.

The results? The house was on the MLS for one day, the first day of showing we received three offers, one for cash. We took the offer for the asking price, and went with that. The closing was one month later. The offer we had left with our realtor for a $3000 flooring allowance if indicated to sweeten the deal didn't even come up.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:28PM
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Do most homes in your neighborhood have granite? Granite makes a difference if you want to sell quicker than other homes in neighborhood. If most homes do not have granite then you will not make more than you put in. The neighborhood, location dictates the price.

STAGING is what sells.

BTW- WHERE is this hot market? Just tell me the state.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:04AM
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Ha, then x2 to most of what I said. :) Granite/stone counters and stainless appliances are pretty much expected that side of the bay, though, aren't they? I would definitely do it in that case. I agree with others that as long as your home has no fatal flaws (and honestly, probably even if it does!), you're going to sell regardless given the market--so it's really just an issue of whether investing in the upgrades is going to yield more than the cost. Based on what I'm seeing on this side, it does seem to if you are careful about not overdoing it, so from that perspective it seems money well spent. I also like your realtor's plan to get on early and ask for the rent back if need be. (For notto, this is California.)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:00AM
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More specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:34AM
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OK, I checked the sold comps for this year in our "neighborhood" -- there are only 6. 2 were newer homes (last 15 years), 3 had been updated (though one still had laminate counters), 1 was a fixer upper. The only currently listed comp is being marketed as a fixer upper. So after checking some prices we definitely plan to upgrade the floor and appliances -- should have done something about the vinyl years ago so that we could have enjoyed it but just never got around to that since we have the mat there anyway :-(. Hope to get pricing on counters in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for your input, and yes, SF Bay Area.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:54PM
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As someone who is under contract for a new house, let me give you my perspective on the decision I just made.

Two houses, same neighborhood, same basic floorplan, the main difference were the kitchens. Kitchen 1: tile floor, granite counters, cherry cabinets, but small. Kitchen 2: linoleum floor, laminate counters, decent enough cabinets, but much bigger.

They were priced within 3k of each other. I offered on the smaller but already upgraded kitchen, and I offered more than i would have for the bigger kitchen that I would have wanted to upgrade at some point.

Get rid of the linoleum, put some sort of solid surface counters, and you'll get higher offers as a general rule.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:49PM
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Just listening to KGO radio interview on Bay Area real estate. Bottom line, don't worry about doing the work!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 1:58PM
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