HELP - Remodel kitchen to sell

mamacat21June 19, 2013

Hi everyone. I need some advice on what to do with our kitchen. We plan to list the house for sale in approximately 12-18 months, so we obviously don't want to spend a ton of money on it. Now, we're just weighing the options.

We live in a Cape Cod style house, built in the early 80s. The appliances are all >5 yrs old, replace by either the previous homeowner or ourselves, but the cabinets are the original "honey oak" builder standard. The cabinet boxes, while plywood, are not good quality. There is splitting between the rails and styles of the face frames, resulting in gaps of approximately 1/16". The exposed sides of the boxes and the toe kick panel are not the same color as the rest of the cabinets. They also have fixed shelves in the wall cabinets, and as they are only 30" high, you cannot store most cracker or cereal boxes upright!

So I am not sure they are a good candidate for refacing. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

I have met with a contractor and a kitchen remodel company. The kitchen company quoted us $15k+, which is just absolutely not happening. (I realize prices vary across the country.) The contractor came in around $10k, and this is JUST for cabinets+install, not including the countertop, which will have to be replaced also. Big box store quoted us around $5600 for cabinets, but that's without labor.

What would you do in this situation? We want to spend as little money as possible, but we need to do something to the kitchen or I'm afraid the house will sit on the market for a long time. Per our realtor friend, in our area, people are looking for move-in ready. The homes with the most updating needed are the hardest to sell.

We're in the low low-middle price range for our area. The average home value is around $300k. We're about $250k. So people aren't going to come in expecting a custom, super fancy kitchen with all the bells and whistles. BUT almost every home listed for sale in our area has an updated kitchen, even those at much lower price points. I just don't think it will sell if we don't do something to make it look better.

Please tell me about my options. RTA, IKEA, big box, cheaper builder line, etc? I don't want to stick a potential buyer with something that's going to fall apart on them in 3 yrs, but I also want to save as much money as possible to put toward my own custom kitchen in my new house. So there needs to be a balance of cost and quality/looks.

My contractor has suggested we look at something called Merillat Basics/Essential line. I'm waiting on his price for these.

I'm a little afraid to tackle the full install ourselves; all of the leveling sounds daunting, particularly in an older house that is probably well out of square. But assembling RTA cabinets is something we'd be happy to do and then let someone else hang them.

Please share all of your thoughts and WWYDs. I am so grateful for any advice.

Thank you,


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Despite the Realtor saying that most people want move-in ready (which I agree with) I would consider marketing the house as "priced according to needed updates" and keeping it slightly on the lower side and seeing what happens.

The problem, as I see it, is that $10K -15K is a bargain in most parts of the country for a kitchen, and if you don't want to spend this much, I don't really think you have a lot of options.

What is a $250K to 300K house in your area? Is it a starter house? Is it a nice house?

Here a $450-500K house is a starter house and most people are not walking in expecting a $40K kitchen, but in areas where it is a nicer house, they probably are expecting closer to a $40K kitchen.

I bought a house that had a kitchen and bath that were clearly put in to sell and the least expensive option was chosen because the sellers didn't want to spend any extra money. I didn't care because I was planning on renovating the kitchen. But both I and another offer that came in said to Please Not remodel the bath in the same manner (It was just being started and the house was accidentally relisted). Both offers that came in reflected the fact that we both recognized that the bath, while new, was going to need to be redone anyway. So a two year old bath is being demolished when I move in (I rented the house out for two years).

While people want move-in ready, I think a lot of people can also recognize when something is done on a (possibly too low) budget, simply to sell the house.

If you are going to live there, why not do a decent kitchen that you will be able to use as long as you stay there? If not, I would try marketing the house as "needs updates" or "ready for a new kitchen of your design".

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:27PM
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If you're handy, you could always try painting what's there and doing new laminate counters DIY. If you're not handy though, it's not likely to turn out "resale ready" if it's your first project of that type. Paying labor though is what jacks up the costs and even "just" doing that simple paint makeover will be in the 6-10K range once you add in the lighting, pulls, etc.

You've got to determine what you are willing to spend on doing the project vs. what you are willing to lose in the real estate market when you go to sell. The pricing for the projects you've quoted sounds low, but that is dependent on your market. I'm in a low cost area, and I couldn't find a good contractor to do the work you're talking about for that price. Sure, I could find a "handyman", but I wouldn't use most of them I've seen to change a light bulb. Not to mention most of them wouldn't be licensed and insured to do a job that requires plumbing and electrical skills---which a kitchen redo WILL need done.

So, what budget do you have to work with? How handy are you? And can you take a 40K hit at resale time if you just did nothing? (Average kitchen remodels in the US are around 50K, and that's what most buyers would expect as a price reduction for a kitchen that's falling apart as you describe.)

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:40PM
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I would go to the IKEA site and play around with their design software. They have 20% off sales twice/year. They also used to have sales in the summer or sell their display kitchens for very little money. We bought discontinued doors at one point for something like 5.00 a pop. Installation was something that we were able to handle ourselves. At least a while ago, the IKEA installers here charged less when you assembled the boxes yourselves.
Alternatively, do you have a Craigslist in your area?
And not too long ago, someone posted a link to recycled kitchens in NJ (green demolition?) that also ships the kitchen cabinets.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:15PM
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Ah, yes, see that's the thing. We can't really afford to take that big of a hit on the price of the house. I guess what I'm saying is that, looking at "comps," all of them have newer looking kitchens, or at least they aren't in disrepair.

I've seen painted cabinets, and maybe it's just that the ones I've seen were done poorly, but to me that's what they looked like: old cabinets that someone painted.

We are fairly handy, have done some DIY projects before, built a shed from scratch, etc. I work for an architect, so I generally know how things are supposed to go together. Just haven't actually done a kitchen! There's a big difference between drawing it and actually building it! It's really the leveling that makes me so nervous.

In our area, our home is probably a starter type home for most or an upgrade home for lower income families. It's an older neighborhood and we're surrounded by A TON of brand new subdivisions sold by "build to suit" contractors. Unfortunately, that's the majority of our price competition. They are low quality unless you pay for the upgrades - cheap vinyl siding, stock cabinets, and carpet throughout is standard. But they are *new.* It's hard to compete with shiny new when your house is 30 yrs old. And as I noted before, almost all of the other older homes are updated before selling.

I agree about the too-low budget thing. Our floors are laminate that were obviously a homeowner job pre-sale. At least they were nice enough to leave the extra packs of flooring for us. We fixed the gaps ourselves.

Any experience with RTAs or IKEA? Those seem like the cheapest options. If it's going to be $10k, then that's what it is, and I can live with that knowing that it will help sell the house and not have it sitting for a year or take a huge hit on the price. But I'd love to price IKEA or RTA or something else if anyone thinks those are a good option. Just don't know anything about them!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:30PM
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Thanks nosoccermom! 20% off sale would be fabulous! How have your IKEA cabinets held up? Is the construction pretty good? We had an IKEA bookshelf a while back and I remember being surprised by the cam bolts. It held up pretty well, but I wished it had been put together with screws or nails or something. Cam bolts always make me think of that Sauder furniture you can get at Walmart!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:34PM
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I did an IKEA kitchen in my last house, and lived with it for three years before we moved. When we left, it was still in perfect condition. I loved that kitchen. And we installed it ourselves, which was super easy. Around here (Austin, TX), most of the flipped homes I saw had IKEA kitchens when we were house-hunting in the fall.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:44PM
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IKEA is a great option. I even put together a few of the boxes and drawers. You could prob do your cabs for about 4k....but that's just an estimate. If you have a fairly standard kitchen, check Craigslist for local fabricators who have prefab slabs. They can cut and seam them to fit your space

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:02PM
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We did the IKEA cabinets and really like them. The quality of the hardware is quite good, especially for the price. They are easy to build the boxes. We built our own boxes and had a professional install/trim them and are quite happy with it.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:06PM
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One of the things that makes a kitchen install easier, particularly with standard boxes like IKEA is if the cabinet runs have free ends on them. In other words, if the kitchen has an L-shaped run of cabinets and either one or neither runs wall-to-wall. This way you have a bit of flexibility with dimension and don't have to worry about too many fillers and trim pieces.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:24PM
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It's our basement kitchen, so not a lot of wear. However, quite a few people have posted about their IKEA kitchens here. There's actually a current thread about someone's IKEA rental kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 5:56PM
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When we went house shopping, every house we toured had a redone kitchen. Few were done really well and none were exactly what we wanted. Which would've meant at some point in the future we'd be ripping out that new kitchen, which we'd paid "extra" for and then spending even more to get what we wanted.
We ended up buying the house with an original but short-term workable kitchen. I won't shed a tear when it comes time to rip things out.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 7:05PM
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We just got done building an Adel White Ikea kitchen with black pearl granite. I have a thread going on this. It has two pantries. One is 24' wide and another one, 15" flanks the fridge. We spent about $4000 after the discount, including taxes. The granite was about $1650. I bought a hood on Overstock that looks really good and was $475. The house is on the market for $185K which here is a decent starter home. So far, the reactions to the kitchen have been fanastic. My employee who is a part time baker, and who recently bought in this price range said it is "phenomenal" And I have an offer on the house and others who want to see it. ( We have very low inventory here and my house just looks vastly superior to the competition per the realtors.)

I don't have IKEA at my house. I have custom mahagony. I spent a LOT more and my soft close glides failed within a month. My glides work fine, just the soft close doesn't. IKEA has really good soft-close with no up-charge. My husband put the boxes together in a weekend and a half. I did inventory on all the parts, and that was a bit daunting, but I managed it fine.
My husband was impressed with the way everything easily went together, and how the organization possibilities are superior to our custom kitchen.

The way the drawers and even the upper cabinets have soft-close is part of the experience of enjoying the kitchen, aside from it just looks really good. Particularly if you do your trim right, and design it well.

As far as putting the cabinets on the wall, I watched the video and you can totally do it. I chose to have my handyman do it with my husband and I. I insisted each of us watched the video before we did it. My handyman does do plumbing well, and electrical. We also had him do some sheetrock repairs after taking out the old stuff. I had him close any gaps where plumbing or electrical came out of the wall because I am very ANTI-rat. I think I paid him $1300 for the install including everything. You will pay more if you need an electrician and plumber.

The alternative is buying RTA Chinese cabinets that you can get very inexpensively on line. We have a dealer here but through the dealer the price was more than IKEA. The Chinese I've seen do give the illusion of $.
The IKEA, when you put nice hardware on and nice granite looks MORE than adequate and I could enjoy living with it myself even though I am used to custom Mahogany.

I would totally do this again, and in fact, want to buy another investment property so I can do another one because it was such a feeling of satisfaction. I used a lot of knowledge I picked up from reading this forum for years, such as using drawers for the base cabinets, the lay-out, etc.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 7:47PM
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And one more thing, if you think the cams look tacky, you won't see them much if you use mostly all drawers on the base cabinets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ikea kitchen

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 8:07PM
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IKEA is likely the best way to go for you to keep within budget. For the pricepoint, they are pretty good quality and they have a decent warranty. They use Blum slides, so all in all, you have a decent kitchen that will likely stick within your budget. Ther are several people here who have put in IKEA kitchens or used the IKEA boxes and inserts and went with custom doors (this will add to your cost and I wouldn't suggest this for a house you are going to sell soon).

Remember, if you are doing this for resale - this kitchen isn't for are looking to control costs. Don't get hung up in the things you would want in your dream kitchen...I'll repeat...this kitchen isn't for you.

I wouldn't get the cheapest door fronts that IKEA offers (they look cheap), but there are several middle-line ones that are quite nice and will look current.

Our suggestion here to get almost all drawers may not apply to you so much - drawer units are going to be a bit more expense and it's relatively likely that your buyer isn't one of us on here that would look at a kitchen and say, "these should be all drawers". Have a nice mix, but don't get hung up on what you might do for yourself.

A lighting plan is a good idea - lighting can make a world of difference in rooms when buyers are looking, especially in kitchens. I wouldn't pass on getting under cabinet lights. If you need to keep the budget down on those, again, IKEA might be your answer, but there are a lot of other options out there as well that can fall in the affordable range.

If you are picking granite for a counter - look for something that is pretty neutral and inexpensive. A rather common one is Uba's typically one of the least expensive granites - it tends to have a green base to it, but it can work well in a lot of situations. The majority of buyers won't know it's the least expensive granite - they will usually be happy to see a "livable kitchen" that even if they want to change in a few years, they can live with what's there.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 12:42AM
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Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I spent some time on the IKEA website using their design software and I was surprised to see that even those cabinets would cost us around $3500. That's not including countertops, but does include hardware. So the 20% off sale would get us in around $2800. That's definitely an option.

I talked with my husband quite a bit about it last night and he really wants to go "as cheap as possible," in other words, paint or stain them. I don't know if we can stain them because of the splitting, but if we filled the splits, perhaps we could paint them? I've just always thought that was a bad idea, but maybe that's because I've only ever seen it done poorly. The oak grain shows through so much that it just looks like old cabinets with paint on them... Plus, we have white appliances, and if we paint the cabinets, I'd definitely want to paint them white or cream as I think that would be the most universally appealing as far as paint goes. Would that look bad together?

But if we paint them, we could maybe add a moulding around the top, update the hardware, do a decent laminate on the tops and maybe have enough left to update the floor.

The other concern with reusing the existing cabinets - how hard would it be to move one up? We have a new microwave range hood (got it practically free when we got the new range) but the current vent hood sits too low to install it without raising the cabinet. Since the range is in the center, I don't think it would look bad to have the one cabinet higher if we put crown moulding around the top... or just replace that one cabinet?? Ugh.

I am posting a picture so you can see it, but please excuse my mess. I was in the middle of baking when I took the picture! And obviously, we would reduce the clutter by 95% before showing the house!

And look at the weird wood soffit thing! My contractor says he can remove that and put the exhaust pipe in the wall or ceiling (he's already looked inside the wall from the other side - laundry room.) But yeah. Pretend that's not there.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 11:32AM
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Here's a picture of the splitting, so you can see what I mean. Not sure if this is really fixable. If we fill it, wouldn't we have to paint? I'd think stain wouldn't look good over a filled crack.

I'd be more than happy to hear color advice, too. If we paint the cabinets, we'd definitely have money to redo the floor as well as the countertops. White cabs, oil-rubbed bronze hardware, maybe? The light fixtures are oil-rubbed bronze. A darker countertop perhaps, but what of the floor?

Or if we reglaze and go dark, like chocolate or ebony, with brushed nickel hardware, would that look better with the white appliances? And would it look really obvious where we had to fill and repair cracks? Also, just the one window, so maybe the dark wood would be TOO dark...

My one major pet peeve - the refrigerator covers the light switch! Who designed this kitchen, honestly... Haha. But contractor says he can move the cased opening in about 6" for very little money and get that switch out from behind the refrigerator. So we'll be doing that, regardless. (The opening is over 8' wide now. Losing 6" isn't going to hurt anything at all!)

You all are so helpful! Thanks for your advice. I'm starting to come around to the idea of painting. We have more time than money and it seems like most objections to painting (if you're going to do it right) are how time consuming it is. We can definitely do that if it saves us several thousand. Every dollar I spend on this kitchen, I don't get to spend on my new one.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Fill in the cracks, prime and paint the cabinets and it will look much better! I'd paint the cabinets white to go with the appliances. Look for inexpensive, but nice backsplash ideas and definitely a new counter top. Maybe a laminate that looks like granite? Granite would be okay, if the cabinets can support the weight...again, nice but inexpensive.

Remember, no matter what you do, chances are the new homeowner will tear it all out and want something completely different. So just make it look nice for the sale :)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Oops! Hit submit too soon. I meant to add, when my mom sold her house, she painted all her cabinets a soft yellow and added some pretty plates and other display (not too much) above the upper cabinets. She made the kitchen look/feel like a sunny cottage kitchen.

The potential buyers all had ideas of how they'd change the kitchen to suit their tastes....but they all LIKED how the kitchen seemed so sunny and inviting. That was what my mom's plan all along and it worked. She had three bids and sold the house in one week...after she repainted the kitchen and added a few other cottage accents to the laundry room and back porch.

If the house feels inviting that's what people will notice...and many will think that same feeling will be there, even if they remodel the space.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 1:32PM
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I'd be tempted to leave it alone, and take the remodel budget off the asking price (or as a negotiating cushion). Folks either aren't going to care all that much about the kitchen, or they will want to gut it and start over. "The kitchen needs updating, but that's reflected in the price."

You notice those cracks, but someone looking at the house isn't likely to inspect things that closely (probably won't even open all the cabinet doors). And if you don't have cereal boxes on their sides in the cabinets, people won't notice that they don't fit properly.

Good luck with this difficult decision.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 1:58PM
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I agree with Lavender, annkh and most above. Those cracks wouldn't bother me.

I think for the cheap and cheerful option you have a great kitchen for painting... luckily you have straight rail cabinets (not the arched oak doors). So you're halfway to the white shaker kitchen all buyers want (hint of sarcasm)!

A little more expensive would be to paint your cab boxes and purchase new doors. Doors are the most expensive part, but then you'd eliminate the grain showing potentially.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 2:46PM
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What does your contractor say about the cracks? If everything is structurally okay, then you can paint or not. Oak is on it's way back in, so I wouldn't worry about that,

The light switch should be moved or an additional switch added (even a wireless one). Even if you leave the lights on before all the showings, at least a few realtors will look to turn them off. Most would probably just leave them on, but anyone who looks enough to figure out the switch is behind the refrigerator is going to either not buy the house or start making a deep discount in their offer.

To be honest, the clutter is so heavy no one will be looking at anything else. I know you weren't taking this photo for listing and aren't ready to show now, but trying to look past the clutter, yours looks like a basic kitchen -- appropriate for a starter or step up home. I think cleaning up and staging may be 90% of the job -- if the cabinets are structurally sound.

You had to point out the weird soffit before I noticed it. I was trying see what condition the cabinets themselves were in. If you paint, I'd definitely take down the angled board and put one up straight, then run a small trim around the seam and a crown around the top -- the faux cabinets to the ceiling look. You could see if you could match the finish with the existing oak if you don't paint and still try to do something similar. That's a small dollar item and an easy weekend job.

What shape are the counters in? A laminate in great shape won't hurt most sales, but if it is showing wear, the one big ticket item might be counters and a new sink and faucet (undermount if you go granite or solid surface) a taller faucet in an updated style. Unless granite is expected there, I would think you could do a stone look laminate on the counters and be fine. I don't expect granite in starter homes and a step up, and I wouldn't put it in if you aren't sure the cabinets can handle the added weight.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 3:43PM
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This all has so much to do with your specific market. What I did before my last reno was I got the comps and looked closely at every house (I could see each picture my realtor sent the listings to me) that sold in my area, the $ amount per SF, and what the higher $ amount houses looked like. I figured out what I would have to spend to get a better look than the competition.

Ikea sale last time was spend $4500 get 20 off, and there was a lesser total you needed to get 10% off.

Your market might be really different. I asked three realtor friends what would sell. In my area they all wanted granite even in my low price range. This is the first day its been on the NMLS and I have three full price contracts and no one is talking about changing the kitchen. But a friend of mine who flips houses in California thinks we could have gotten away with a lot less. It is so dependent upon what is liked in your area.
One of my offers is for 2K above the asking price, they adored the kitchen, and that pays for half the cabinets.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 5:19PM
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i do not think you have enough information yet. consult with 3 leading real estate agents in your market before doing anything. ask what absolutely needs to be done to the house and what their recommended list price would be in present condition. do a full walkthrough with clipboard in hand and take notes. have them develop a marketing plan with costs to sell including their fee, estimated list price and recommendations on improvements. i would not rely on 1 realtor friend to prepare for such a big business transaction.

if it were me i would go the route of an as -is price and not remodel, definately do not start pulling out cabinets if a 15K budget is an issue. also keep in mind the surprises and issues you may encounter if you attempt to remodel and associated costs for those. Not to mention all of the disruption. Painting the cabinets alone could cost ~3K or more.

i am shopping for a new home right now myself and i have told my agent i WANT a house with a kitchen that NEEDS to be remodeled. I would much prefer to demo the old kitchen and remodel exactly to my tastes than live for years with finishes and a design i do not like. and i do not want to pay a premium for a slighly improved but fundamentally not updated kitchen with just new paint on old cabinets (ie lipstick on a pig). i vote for no work and a discounted list price to reflect condition.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 8:08PM
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Weighing in on this further - the kitchen doesn't look *that* bad. Is it dated? Yes, a bit. Is it cluttered? Yes. Is it likely to prevent the house from selling? Likely not, unless other comparables in the area have something vastly better. You need to do some research on that to see what your competition offers. I'm going to bet that most in the same price range in the area will have similar kitchens.

When we were looking for our home, we WANTED something that didn't have a redone kitchen - we looked at a few houses where they put in a new (and cheap) kitchen and it made me feel bad to say that I wanted to pull it. We wound up buying a house that had a kitchen that was done in the 70's, complete with some avocado appliances. Believe me, the kitchen didn't sell the house. The house was in good shape and was pretty well maintained. We didn't pay for an "updated" kitchen. And we feel much less guilty in ripping out the old kitchen (although the cabinets are still in remarkably good shape) than we would with a cheap one that someone put in.

If you can do it cheaply (and you can), I would think about some UC lighting - lighting plays a large role in how we view a place and having the work area under the cabinets brightened up does help. I can remember when we were going into model houses vs resale houses - the model homes ALL had UC lights on and even if it was a kitchen that I didn't love, it looked much more inviting.

You know this already, but definitely declutter - about 90% of what is shown in the picture you attached should be removed from your counter - you want them to think, "I'll have plenty of room to cook until we get our new kitchen in." Take everything off the top of the fridge and over the top of the cabinets isn't a storage area - only some simple decorative items...the idea is to make this look spacious. Inside your cabinets, don't have them completely packed full - they will only look in a few cabinets, but no matter which one they open, they should see a bit of extra space to make it seem like they will have adequate area to store all that they have.

When it comes time for an open house or showings, have some fresh flowers on the counter, and have a good scent going in the house (bread and baked goods are positive scents for most people - I bought a spray and had a candle of the same scent and I'd do a quick light spray when I got a call for a showing and I'd light the candle as soon as I got the call) when you are showing it. Make certain that you turn on all the lights before you leave the house and even consider swapping some out for brighter bulbs if there are any areas of the house that seem a little dim. If you have blinds over windows, open them so that more light streams in. If you have curtains that cover any windows completely, open those. When you get a call for a showing, you should have a checklist of things that you will do quickly to make the house show at it's best. For us, we usually only had about a 15 minute time between when we got a call for someone to see the house and when they would arrive, so I had a quick checklist so I could prep everything. It's helpful to have a storage chest of some sort (not a built in though because people open built-ins or a plastic bin that can have a lid put on it in a closet) that can have any stuff that could be seen as clutter available to be put in there quickly rather than trying to find it's proper place when you're in a rush to get out for a showing.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 8:08AM
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Clean it and clear it out.

The kitchen in my house was also "renovated to sell." It would have had the original Victorian cupboards and sink before the sellers took them out and "improved it" with the least expensive Home Depot option.*

Your house doesn't have a kitchen with the same historical overtones but as a buyer (and this is something my husband and I have spoken about time and time again) we would have preferred to put our own stamp on the place. Now we plan to renovate the kitchen (didn't get around to it in the first two years of home ownership) but we do feel somewhat wasteful removing relatively new cabinets (even though they are of poor quality) and granite (even though it is the least expensive granite one can buy).

All that being said a clean kitchen doesn't frighten me and it doesn't make me angry thinking that I'm paying top dollar for a cheep (and I mean that word with all the overtones it implies) renovation.

*Even the appliances they put in were the least expensive "stainless" suit - none of these appliances do a particularly good job. The washer broke so we replaced it with what we plan to put into a renovated kitchen. I recently fixed the refrigerator. When the oven goes we'll have to figure out what we want to do since that's going to require putting in a vent.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 8:36AM
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Sophie Wheeler

People on GW are pretty much an exception to the rule that buyers want "move in" kitchens. Many here can see past "dated and dysfunctional". Most people, especially those in an "entry level" price range, can NOT see "bones". When it's your first house, all you can see is that you can't afford to make it up to date because all of your money is going into getting you into the house. First time buyers are looking for a home that they can live in now, without doing any work to it. Yes, even painting seems like a huge chore when you've never owned a home before.

That being said, the absolute cheapest freshing of this kitchen would be a DIY paint job. A contractor would charge as much to paint all of that and redo the soffits as it would cost to DIY Ikea cabinets. If you want to go "the cheapest route possible", that means YOU do the job.

With such a long lead time before the sale happens, you've got plenty of time to get it right. Painting cabinets isn't that difficult. It's just long and involved if you want to do a good job. That's why it's expensive to pay for. It's cheap to have someone come in and just spray everything without the proper prep steps. It's those time consuming prep steps that make for a good paint job though. You've got plenty of time. Take advantage of that.

For counters, IF the cabinets are structurally sound, (I have my doubts on that based on the pics.) then a basic granite like UbaTuba would be perfect. Otherwise a dark laminate DIY installed top would be the perfect grounding to the space. You could do a new wood look snap together vinyl plank floor over what's there, and you would have a fresh updated look that would be appealing to many buyers.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 9:15AM
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"to save as much as possible to put in my own custom kitchen in my new house".....your pathway to move forward is in your own question. If the house/it's location/your resale market has it's merits , why wouldn't you respect the fact that another family would appreciate a fair price, mediocre upgrades of a band aid nature left OFF the table.....but rather,after they take possession can start a process which in fact you [and many others] envision for your own self. One sweep of the eye whether it is oak or white cabs says....time to overhaul.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 12:23PM
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I just wanted to add that those cracks might be missed in a home tour, but they may show up in the inspection report. If they do, expect a discount to the original offer -- and it will not be at replacement cost, but something upsized. Ironically, an obvious teardown kitchen may attract buyers looking to upgrade and build equity, but a "good enough" kitchen like yours having issues uncovered during inspection might actually end up being a surprise to potential buyers. They might be concerned with the cabinets falling apart, or worse yet, foundation settling or other structural issues that might be imagined to be the root cause (not saying they are, just doing the type of wild extrapolations that go through one's head when buying a home). As noted earlier, up front disclosure and an early discount might end up being better if you choose to do nothing to fix/address the problem.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:11PM
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I really wouldn't want to go into a remodel based on the idea of doing it "as cheap as possible". And, I'm not sure how much that helps or hurts your ability to sell. There is a whole cadre of people who would rather see a kitchen needing reno than a brand new cheap kitchen. Plus, there are just going to be hidden costs. Finally, it's just a shame to spend the money and waste the materials to do it on the cheap if it is just going to get torn out.

So, I'm with the clean it up, clear it out, freshen it up with new paint and removal of the soffit crowd. If you make it "move in ready", even if potential buyers see a kitchen remodel down the road, I think you are marketable.

All that is general advice, though. You gotta know your specific area to really know how much you have to invest to sell and how much you will likely get back for the effort and money.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:39PM
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Thanks everyone. After talking to the contractor again, and to our realtor, we've decided firmly to paint the cabinets. Contractor (friend) has agreed to offer a helping hand to get us started - no charge. Basically, he's going to walk us through the steps, demonstrate one or two doors for us, and lend us a paint sprayer. He was a painter before he got his GC, so we trust him. He'll be building our new house for us. We are also taking the advice of one above and getting a second realtor to walk through the house with us. We aren't selling for at least a year, and most of the rest of the house is in stellar condition, which is why the kitchen sticks out like a sore thumb. But our first realtor thinks painting is a good option if it is done neatly.

I understand about cleaning and decluttering, but we've got a long time until listing and I do have to live/work in the kitchen until then. The picture was just to show the condition of the cabinets and layout of the kitchen.

So many of you have said that a big part of the decision is knowing the market area you live in, and I think that's why we absolutely cannot afford to just clean and leave as-is. I understand that some folks would love an old kitchen at a discount to tear out and start new. That's generally not the case where we are, particularly at this price point, which is kind of first-time-buyer price. The people who will be able to afford a custom kitchen on top of a new house are extremely unlikely to be buying in this neighborhood. When we bought the house, I wanted to redo the kitchen so badly, but we couldn't afford it because we were just starting out and it was our first home. We figured we'd get to it later, but we just never did.

We've started pricing materials and it looks like we can paint the cabinets, replace the hardware, and get a new laminate countertop (installed) for around $1500. If that helps keep the house from sitting on the market for even one month, it will be worth it.

I'll likely venture over to the painting forum soon to read about others' experiences! Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 9:44AM
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Whatever you do, make sure that the cabinets don't look like a "DIY painted oak cabs" job. The problem with oak that you will still see the grain.
How dark is your kitchen? Could you gel stain them in Espresso, or would you end up with a cave?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:02AM
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Probably a cave. :( Though I absolutely LOVE the look of dark cabinets with white appliances and light counters/floor. But we have one itty bitty window above the kitchen. It is south-facing, which is nice, but when it's overcast, it gets dark in there.

Plus, there are some cracks and chips which I would like to fill, and I'm afraid of how it will look to stain over the filler. We made our wood mantle in the living room and it is beautiful, but there is a small spot that we filled with putty that did not absorb the stain very well (despite being "stainable.") It's on the bottom and you can't really see it, so I don't mind it, but on the face of the cabinets, I'm afraid it would look awful.

I think some said we could skip filling the cracks, but I think if we're going to do it, we might as well do it right, you know? We may use a grain filler, too. I read that on someone's blog and it looks nice. I plan to read more about it and ask my contractor about it.

What we might do is use the doors of the vanity at my mom's house as test material. She is wanting to replace her bathroom vanity and the current one is basically the same as our kitchen cabinets - honey oak from the early 80s. So we could test some ideas. Just have to ping her to see if she's planning to do it soon or not.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:13AM
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I would leave the cabinets stained(unless you have any bad wear marks), redo the hardware with something modern, and find the right granite company for a deal(40sf @ $20 per foot= $800 for new 3cm granite) undermount 60/40 sink and you have most buyers thinking; "wow" they just remodeled the kitchen for us.....
Cabinet painting if not done pro, can look cheap, and very time consuming for a non pro....what part of the country are you located & what price range is the house? I may be able to give you a contact for great granite prices......

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:44AM
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We have at LEAST12 months, probably more like 18 until we move, so time is what we have the most of. Granite is not common in our price range, even in new homes. We thought about doing it when we were going to update the kitchen for us, but not for a house we'll be selling in such a short time.

In my mind, that just seems like it would look weird. 30 year old cabinets with granite countertops? Maybe that's just me.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:59AM
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"In my mind, that just seems like it would look weird. 30 year old cabinets with granite countertops? Maybe that's just me."

No, it's not just you. Putting shiny new granite on top of older cabinets just makes them look older. Plus, I don't know what TripHeath is smoking, but just the labor alone on granite fabrication is more than $20 a sf. IF it's from someone that is reputable and knows what they are doing, that is. You can find self described "fabricators" with a van and and angle grinder who will cut under a tree in your yard, but I wouldn't let them in my house!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 12:42PM
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I thought that sounded really low... and maybe it depends on area, but when we priced it before, contractor friend quoted us $39/sf installed for the lower level granites with standard edge and whatnot. That's new uncut stuff, not remnants. But I kind of thought $39/sf was a pretty darn good price.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 1:12PM
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I just wanted to add that our neighbors just updated their kitchen to sell, and I think it was a bad idea. They have an old farmhouse, big wrap-around porch, very traditional. And the kitchen is small, tiny, really.
They went to an "affordable kitchens" place in town, bought stock cabinets, granite counters, and a glass tile mosaic backsplash. I know it wasn't cheap for them to do it, but it just doesn't fit their house. And if I were buying that house, I would want to tear it all out and start over, changing the entire layout and location of the kitchen.
They've lived there for 40+ years, and made these changes just to sell.
It goes on the market this week.
We'll see how it goes for them.

In our current house, we are finally redoing the kitchen after living here almost 7 years. I am changing it now in ways that never would have occurred to me when we first moved in, because of things we have learned while living here, and adding 2 more kids to the mix :) But to tide us (me) over, we painted the honey oak cabinets white, bought new hardware, and added a lovely, neutral laminate countertop on top of our 30+ year old cabinets. And we bought all new appliances, most of which we are keeping in the new design.
Do something that makes it work for you, and makes it look nice(r) for you, maybe take down a few uppers to put in open shelving, or even take off a few of the doors. But don't go crazy to redo a kitchen just to sell--it's just not worth it!
I'm attaching a blog I like where they updated their kitchen without buying all new, used what they had already, and it looks great!

Here is a link that might be useful: YHL kitchen reveal

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 2:17PM
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"But don't go crazy to redo a kitchen just to sell--it's just not worth it!"

Thanks! :) Most of the comments have convinced me of that. Even if someone does decide to replace what's there when we do sell it, I think having a fresher look will help keep it from sitting on the market for 9 months or so. I'm becoming more and more convinced we can achieve that with paint as long as we put in the time.

The countertops are actually damaged, so they have to be replaced. We had a water leak around the sink that started when we weren't home, and now the underside of the laminate there has swelled. The cabinet is fine though, no water damage. Amazingly!

I love what they did on that blog! That's so much better! Bright and inviting! That's what we'd like to see in our kitchen.

It really is a shame, because the rest of our house is fairly bright and inviting - high vaulted ceiling in the living room, good window placement in the bedrooms, but the kitchen is soooo dreary and old looking. It really doesn't go with the house.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 2:30PM
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I think most buyers can spot the new granite on old cabinets trick. When I was looking at houses several years back I was surprised how many sellers did just that and it turned me off as I didn't want to pay extra when it was something I'd have to rip out anyway. I'd much rather have a clean, bright and servicable kitchen I could use for a few years then remodel it few years later. However, it still will read as a kitchen requiring a remodel; whereas an IKEA kitchen will be advertised as a remodeled kitchen. Anyone who opens the drawers and doors would immediately notice the difference. I would definitely consult with a few real estate agents in your area to see what would command a better price in the market and if you'd be able to recoup your added remodeling expenses, as not everyone has the time or vision to see beyond what is there for the possibilities.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 2:47PM
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You are smart because you've done your homework and you now know your market. When you paint them white, one thing it will do is really give someone an idea of how cute your house could be, even it they want to change to another cabinet down the road. There is one other trick and I don't know if it will work for you but if you could get a counter depth fridge it will make your kitchen look bigger and fresher. Then you can just take it with you to the new house. I've done that!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 3:55PM
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I know this thread has not been active in a while, but I can't resist commenting--
I'm in the same position as the OP, in that I must move and sell within the next year and my antique CT cape cod has a kitchen that absolutely needs remodeling. I know every buyer wants a house that they can redo themselves to their specific taste, at a much! reduced price, rather than pay full market for an updated kitchen. Well and good, however I have a price that I have to get for this house in order to clear the mortgage loan and have enough for a down payment on another house. My SIL is a contractor so my cost will be just materials. Therefore I can upgrade (translation: make appropriately functional and appealing) the kitchen in order to keep from taking at a minimum a $50k+ hit on the sales price. The house is an 1805 post-and-beam center chimney cape with original wormy chestnut and heart pine floors, with beehive oven and original crane in the huge keeping room fireplace. I absolutely cannot afford to turn the house over to a buyer who wants to pay a flipper's price on it. My town is an upscale CT shoreline town and all the comps have new kitchens with, yes, granite and ss appliances. The kitchen was "redone" in 1998 with horrible cheap builder grade cabs and blue formica, both of which are disintegrating (counters are not even fastened to cabs). I put in $100k in structural repairs when I bought it in 2004, fully intending it to be my forever home, sigh...Now the new kitchen will be for the next owner.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Compared to the hassle and time of fixing the existing cabinets - and still having builder-grade cabinets with fixed shelves, the $3500 forIKEA sounds like a bargain.

For example: those splits are the cabinet coming apart and it needs to be removed from wall and properly glued and reinforced, then reinstalled. if you just caulk the splits, they wilkl continue to widen until the cabinet falls apart.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 6:14PM
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