kitchen remodel with eye on resale

decisionsJuly 4, 2013

Hi All,

Looking for an opinion on whether to do a white kitchen for a house that we will definitely sell in 3 or 4 years. For several reasons, waiting to do the reno is not an option.

KDs say go all white. Two realtors disagree.

KDs say the look is timeless and will help the house sell. Realtor says it is trendy and will pass. They also say that the market we are in (very upscale) will appreciate the custom cherry cabs and exotic granite and that the all-American, white kitchen look is not a a selling plus in our area (heavily international).

I want a white kitchen, but am worried b/c I do remember that in our starter neighborhood in 1999, the only white kitchen houses were the cheap ones. Could those days come back? Would appreciate any thoughts-- this is not so much about taste (I like the white asthetic!) as it is about re-sale value into the future. One thing that would help me feel better is if anyone remembers upscale houses with white kitchens from say, more than five years ago?

Thanks in advance!!

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More info: We are in the mid Atlantic region. From my conversation with people, it seems that almost ALL the kitchen renos in mid level houses have white cabs but it is split 50/50 in the more expensive homes. Realtor says that the more expensive neighborhoods often have older couples who want a darker, more traditional wood kitchen like ours, regardless of trends.

Am thoroughly confused.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 2:28PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Interview more realtors. And listen to them. So far, you've got 2 telling you to NOT do what your personal taste is. Which, if you're more interested in resale than enjoying something to your taste, trumps everything.

But, all a realtor can tell you is CURRENT market trends, not what will sell in 5 years time. If you did a true Peacock kitchen, I'm sure that it would not devalue the home, no matter what a realtor says! Whereas even a "cherry" kitchen that didn't get the upscale details right would definately not be great for resale.

But, what if something happens where you have to say longer than your couple of years? Would you be OK living in a kitchen that was nice, but not to your taste?

And, there are compromises to all white or all cherry. That might give you a bit of both and satisfy you and the resale potential.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 3:16PM
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Well, the cherry kitchen is done and I don't think it could be much more upscale detail-wise. I imagine that it is what appeared on magazine covers in the early 2000's. The dilemma is whether I should rip out something that expensive and replace it with something that is a question mark. I think that you are right in that I should interview more realtors. BTW, I just found out that the KD who is telling me that all-white is timeless was on the team for the original design ten years ago! I hope they didn't tell the first owner of our house that the cherry was timeless! Would love a Peacock kitchen, especially with ALL the little details incorporated...

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 4:58PM
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I say do what you like....and what works best in the space. How is the natural light in there? My brother lives in a more upscale neighborhood in the Annapolis area...when they moved in it was traditional cherry cabs. But their kitchen is dark, so they went with off white cabs when they remodeled 6 years ago and It opened up the kitchen and made a big difference. My neighborhood is more modest, but we back onto woods and our kitchen faces north, so dark cabs would be awful. I painted our original dark oak cabs white...then when we remodeled last year I went with natural maple. I think if the design is well done, that's what will grab'll never please everyone...some people will love the white cabs, some people won't ...likewise for dark cabs...

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 6:37PM
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Just looked at a couple of house listings in the DC area, ranging from 2.5 mio to 9.6 mio, built or remodeled between 1992 and 2010. There were several white/cream/grey kind of country French kitchens, some light wood kitchens but no dark cherry.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 6:42PM
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nosoccermom, could you possibly post a link? If people in that price range have been doing white kitchens that long, it certainly tells me something!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 7:05PM
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9.9 mio, built in 2000, Bethesda, MD 15 mio, 2004, Washington, DC 10 mio, 2008, McLean, VA 4.9 mio, 2001, Bethesda, MD

I just went to, put in Washington, DC, 2.5 mio to no maximum, removed the map outline and then arranged houses from most expensive to least expensive

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 7:58PM
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Are you saying that the KD is saying do white (which means tear out and remodel) and the realtors are saying cherry will do better (which means you do not have to remodel the kitchen)?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:00PM
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I want to re-model to a white kitchen, pretty much what the mags have now. KDs say go for it, it will always be in style. Realtors are saying that the kitchen as is has a timeless appeal that will sell easily in our area and that it is a risk to go with the kitchen I want because it could very well just be an outdated trend by the time we sell (for sure) in 3 to 5 years. I would call the house as is exceptional if you like that look: expensive granite, really custom looking cabinets, built in wine rack, lots of light, some sort of backsplash tile that the owners apparently had shipped from Florence; my Dad said it looks like the Harvard club in NYC. I find it ostentatious, and always have, but didn't really think about it much until I started to see the really lovely things that people are doing with kitchens now.

One particular realtor pointed out that white kitchens have been around forever but have only recently been associated with expensive homes in a widespread way. No way for me to know whether this is true as I grew up in quite a modest home.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:35PM
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Thanks, I had never heard of redfin

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:36PM
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Dont mean to insult anyone who has a kitchen like the one I have now...just saying it is not me!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:39PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Post some pics of what exists. As I said previously, there might be a compromise. Having a pro paint what's there might work. Or it might not, depending on what's there.

Spending 100K for a new upscale kitchen would probably be an expense that wouldn't be recouped at resale time in 5 years. But, the once again rising real estate market might appreciate enough to cover that and let you recoup the expense. Especially in the higher end markets. Which in DC, depends a LOT on location within the beltway.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:51PM
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decisions - okay, it sounds as if the realtors are saying, "Stay with what you have." So, this remodel is FOR YOU in a house you are planning on staying in for less than 5 years, correct?

Here's the thing - rarely are people in an upscale market going to be completely thrilled with whatever kitchen you have. They are going to want something that will look good enough and have "the frills" that will make them happy and look good to their friends until they are settled in enough to do the remodel the way they want it. The kitchen you have/put in is unlikely to be the one that they keep long term.

You're probably looking at a +60k redo for a upscale-ish (not necessarily high-end) remodel and you're going to be going through the pain of a remodel and all that entails. Is it going to add that much value or more to your home? Probably not. Now, if your kitchen was in poor condition as opposed to the rest of the house, a kitchen redo might be in order.

But, my opinion is - you're a short-termer with the kitchen as is, put it on the market and use the money that you saved to redo the kitchen in the house you next buy since it's unlikely to be exactly to your tastes.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:52PM
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For the sake of argument, let's say your realtors are correct and white is just a trend. I seriously doubt in as little as 3 to 4 years youâÂÂll see any significant "trend" change.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 11:02PM
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The realtors know you will not be using their services for at least three to four years. They are giving you objective opinions rather than ones motivated by a potential financial gain for them right now.
Can you say the same for the kitchen designer?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:07AM
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It occurred to me also that the realtors have nothing to gain. They have actually been really nice and come across as actually caring-- I'm just wish they would tell me what I want to hear-- that I better update my kitchen to look like the all whites in magazines if I want to sell in a few years.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:17AM
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I would probably agree with the realtors here. You could easily spend a year or two shopping, planning and installing the new white kitchen, then getting settled into it. You may still be sick of the dust and mess when it is time to start planning and packing. I'd put your time and energy into other things now and plan a new white kitchen on the side. Best case, you spend a ton of money on something you love and then are heartsick to give it up.

The kind of kitchen you describe would be popular here even now, but would have been all you would have seen ten years ago. Many people want wood and associate it with a warm and cozy kitchen. And chances are the white kitchen you would like will look out of character with the rest of the home and either detract from the value of the home in that regard or start a cascade of other projects to do.

Have you looked for ways to downplay the fussiness or even do some small modifications rather than starting over. Maybe some art and accessories that can put some life into the kitchen?

Worst case -- think of it as a long term rental with a big security deposit and just treat it well, keep it clean and get all your money back when you move on.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:53AM
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Can you post some pics of the kitchen? There are plenty of talented people here who might be able to help you make some favorable changes without redoing the entire thing.

Does the formal cherry kitchen flow well with the rest of the house? That would be another reason not to change. If it were me I would probably listen to the realtors. Save the cash for the next house or spend it on something else that will make you happy.

This post was edited by deee on Fri, Jul 5, 13 at 7:17

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 6:46AM
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Start planning your new kitchen. Investigate materials, layouts, and appliances. Work out all the details and where you would be willing to compromise and where you would make structural changes. That will take several months, during which you will notice others' kitchens in greater detail and keep a measuring tape in your purse. Learn to use layout software, or do scaled drawings, and photoshop. Plan vacations to stay in rental condos or houses, so you can live in other kitchens for a few weeks or months.

In a few short years, you can use all you've learned, much of what you've decided, and the extra money. You'll know when you select your next house that the kitchen is perfect for you, or what it will take to change it.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 8:24AM
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Follow-up: Most of the kitchens I posted are outside the Beltway Just an aside).
Most of the kitchens in that above 5 mio price range are white/cream; however, I think that's because the houses try to emulate a French Chateaux style. At the "cheaper" end (say towards 1.5 mio), it could be all dark cherry. I didn't check.

I recently had an interesting conversation, in which a (male) friend, who just had sold his house in the 900K range, stated that he associates white kitchens with cheap kitchens and that "wood" was more expensive looking. I didn't have the heart to tell him that his medium brown shaker maple cabinets were the kind that the new owners will probably paint over, and probably wasn't what sold his house.
A second experience: Other friends tore out perfectly nice dark cherry cabinets, including SS appliances and went all IKEA Abstrakt before moving into their newly acquired house.

So, yes, white kitchens rule in my area. On the other hand, money-wise it probably makes more sense to keep your kitchen and try to lighten it up as much as possible.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 9:20AM
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I'm going to post some pics when I get home. I appreciate the feedback.

Here's my thing: We owned a house from 2002-2005. It was a big house in a sought after neighborhood but it did not have the granite/stainless/backsplash upgrades. We lived in it as it was but several months before we listed we were told to do these upgrades since the other houses in the price range had these things. We did the upgrades and the house sold, but we never got to enjoy the upgrades b/c it was all done for the sale.

Fast forward to now: If we will have to upgrade to a white-ish kitchen to sell in a few years, why not do it now? Will the light, bright, white kitchen become a "must" like the granite/stainless was a few years ago? I know this is a tough question, but my dilemma stems from not wanting to make the same mistake I made before.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 10:55AM
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Personally..... I would not go through all the effort/cost of remodeling a kitchen that you plan to leave in 3-5 years just because you want a different style kitchen - UNLESS you think it will help sell the house and you will get most/all of your money back. Or..... unless you are lucky enough to not really be concerned about the money....

I am remodeling my kitchen from a Thermofoil white kitchen to stained cabinetry (mix of espresso cherry and glazed maple), with resale in mind (mostly layout changes, granite and better appliances). I really do like the look of an espresso island with off-white/glazed perimeter cabinets -- so have that in my back pocket for a subsequent remodel. I'm hoping either one of those looks would sell as I'm a nervous wreck about having to sell the house and no one wanting to buy it! My big splurge was to widen the kitchen window and make it counter-height and bumped out 9", so I'm hoping that will be the selling feature where someone says, I gotta have that house! :)

This post was edited by seosmp on Fri, Jul 5, 13 at 11:10

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 11:00AM
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" If we will have to upgrade to a white-ish kitchen to sell in a few years, why not do it now?"

Your realtors are telling you that the wood is what sells and selling is your ultimate goal, so there is no dilemma of whether white or stained wood will sell it! You are ready for your market. Renovating a good solid kitchen in an upscale house for the purpose of resale doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

How long have you been living with it already?

I don't think "white" kitchens will ever be out. They've been around a very long time, including in magazines from 2000, and there will always be lots of people who love or prefer them. If you do something unusual or trendy looking, then you do risk it feeling like it needs updating down the road, as fresh looks come in and the older ones pass their novelty phase. But there will always be styling details, colors, that change and entice, no matter what you do.

P.S. Agree with joanie. You really can't trust someone who is trying to sell you something! Of course they want you to replace it, with the best of everything.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, Jul 5, 13 at 22:13

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:25PM
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It sounds like you already have an upscale kitchen in an upscale neighborhood and if this were going to be your forever home I'd say go for it and get what you want. Since its not, save your $. Potential buyers will either love your kitchen as is, or, since it is an upscale neighborhood, more than likely they will have the $ to change it to their taste. You could spend $75,000 + to get your dream white kitchen, only to have the buyer of your house dislike white and want to redo. Save your $ to get your dream kitchen in your forever house. Take some nice vacations instead! (And of course the KD is saying you should go white, it's not a sale if you don't.)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:35PM
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Your dilemma is that you want a magazine white kitchen, and you want someone to justify it for you. Why don't you sell the house now and buy another one that needs a new kitchen? That way there is no waste involved and you get what you want.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 8:43PM
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decisions - here is the heart of said it yourself:
" I'm just wish they would tell me what I want to hear-- that I better update my kitchen to look like the all whites in magazines if I want to sell in a few years."

You want them to tell you that because YOU want a white kitchen. And you want it now rather than a few years down the line when you get into your next house. And there's a big difference between putting in a few stainless appliances and updating a backsplash vs. a tear out and redo of a whole kitchen.

If you do a high-end kitchen remodel, you are not talking about a $10k project. If your current kitchen looks nice and is functional, and the realtors in the area are telling you that houses similar to yours with wood kitchens have your answer. You just don't want to hear it. I don't mean to be harsh, but it is what it is.

Personally, I'm not a fan of white kitchens and if I were in the market and looking at two equally desirable houses, I would pick the one with, your "before" house would have been in the running and your "after" would have eliminated you. It goes both, if the experts at selling HOUSES are telling you that wood is selling better, I would trust them. In this case, I certainly would NOT trust a person who is trying to *sell* you a new kitchen.

To do a kitchen right, it usually doesn't come together in a month or two anyway...there's planning the layout, and finding the contractors, and finding the cabinets and counter, etc. And then you have the tear out and can easily be at this for a year or, that means that you'll be in your lovely white kitchen for 2, maybe 3 years.

Why not save that money and start gathering exactly what components you will want to put into your new house and kitchen? It's unlikely that the new place you get is going to have the kitchen you, you'll already have most of the hard stuff taken care of - you'll have the money set aside to do it AND you might just be able to get the reno done in the new house before you move in (this is a HUGE bonus). If you know the components that you want for the kitchen you'll ultimately get, all you need to do is nail the layout once you put your offer in on the new house. I would suggest getting the layout/dimensions as soon as your offer is accepted so that you could get started. Closing on a house often takes about 2 months - if you know what you want, you can get your layout all together and as soon as you close, get started on the kitchen of your dreams.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 8:54AM
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Just came across this blog. Of course, we all know where Killam stands on kitchens :)

Here is a link that might be useful: white kitchens

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 7:24AM
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Something to keep in mind -- many of us plan for 6 months to a year or two or three to get a kitchen layout right. The 4-6 week install plan can become 4-6 months. Demo can lead to unexpected problem$, i$$ue$, change$. Chances are that anything you undertake will be more time and money than you plan and will not increase the value of your home one iota if you already have a functioning kitchen in good condition. You could even lose value if the new kitchen is not in character with the rest of the house. The most it can do for you at resale is cause a different person to buy it -- but as pointed out already, the higher the market, the greater the chance that a person who likes your home will buy it and will redo things to their tastes.

i spent about 4 years of off and on planning for my kitchen, Life took over at times and what we thought would be 6 months to a year grew. But my kitchen also evolved and improved too.

I hope you are hearing what people are telling you -- the only ones saying redo this kitchen now are the ones who stand to make a pretty penny on the job -- those with their own interests at heart and not yours. I would encourage you to post pictures of the kitchen and at least some adjoining rooms either here or in home decorating. See if you can get suggestions for making the kitchen more comfortable for you while maintaining the character of the home so you keep maximum value for resale too.

Finally, if hanging out here is causing you grief, stop looking for a while. Go get another project and come back when you are a year or so away from moving -- maybe a little longer if you plan to build. And be prepared for some tough choices.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 10:19AM
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