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Is renovating your kitchen before a home sale worth it?

When it comes time to selling a home, homeowners often consider remodeling to try to increase the market value. Remodeling may be smart in some circumstances, but it can also be a double-edged sword: While most home sellers would be unwise to do absolutely nothing to improve their homes before they sell, they’d be equally unwise to improve everything. However, by following a few simple guidelines and avoiding some potentially costly mistakes, you can make home renovation work for you.

The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. If you have a much older home and have never updated, a potential buyer will not be impressed by 70s avocado appliances, or Formica flooring. Potential home buyers make a beeline for this room when they first view a home for sale, so make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated.

Updating a Kitchen, from A to Z

The details of a home certainly do contribute to the property value, but just as important are neighborhood values. If the improvements bring your house up to neighborhood standards, they’re probably going to be worth it in the end. But adding features above and beyond the other homes on your street or in your complex will probably be detrimental. Before undertaking any major renovation projects, check out the other homes in your neighborhood to make sure you’re sticking with the neighborhood standards.


If they’re clean and in good working order, purchase new doors or face panels for them. Or if you have the time and inclination for a more involved project, you can choose appliance paint and give them all a new paint “facelift.”

New appliances, which can run about $10,000 for a whole-kitchen replacement, are an easy way to add value. While the upfront cost might be hard to swallow, new stainless appliances make your kitchen more attractive to a wider range of buyers.


An updated backsplash is a quick and easy investment to add visual value to your home. These days you needn’t carefully plan a tile pattern; in fact, you shouldn’t if you are simply trying to update your home for selling—you can leave those details to the new owners. Add backsplash tiles that coordinate with your kitchen’s theme and coloring. These are usually large adhesive tiles that emulate other finishes, such as stone, wood, or pressed tin or copper. Buyers love the way a newly finished backsplash ties a room together.

Boost and update the lighting

Lighting is a key feature in creating an open and inviting space that buyers will love. Swap out any dim or broken bulbs for new ones. If you have pendant lights or lamps, make sure they’re still in style. If not, invest in modern lighting fixtures that will have appeal in today’s housing market.


Cabinets are another major part of the kitchen. Outdated cabinets can easily turn off buyers, but that doesn’t mean you need to rip them all out and start over. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders—or, if they’re wood, employ some special wood oil and elbow grease. Then, switch out the hardware for something modern yet simple. This is an easy DIY project for an afternoon, and can make a huge difference.

If you have a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. Don’t buy a whole new cabinet system. Instead, look into refacing, if you’re handy. You can order replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself. Or, if that seems too hefty a task, hire a refacing company. Many can remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes, then add brand-new doors and drawers. With a fresh coat of paint, your cabinets will look like new.


The quickest zero-cost fix for most homeowners in the kitchen is to clear the counters of absolutely everything. This instantly makes it look like you have miles of countertop when you may only have a few square feet. It may be inconvenient while waiting for the sale—yet it’s worth it for little effort and no money spent.

Assess the counters. Are there nicks, cracks, grout issues, etc.? Clear it off, clean it up, and regrout if needed. If countertops need to be replaced, go with granite, if possible. Yes, it’s expensive but is a cost you can usually recoup. Potential home buyers love granite, and adding the keyword “granite” to your listing could help you sell your house sooner for more.

Faucet and Sink

If the faucet or sink are dated, not working, crusted with mineral deposits, or otherwise ready for a facelift, replace it. A modern faucet catches the eye quickly and puts the mind at ease that it works well and doesn’t drip or spray. Plus, the trends for these fixtures change often and since it’s a quick and inexpensive alteration it’s well worth it.

Don’t be quick to throw out vintage porcelain kitchen sinks. Porcelain can be re-glazed, and many buyers look for original sinks. In this case, keep the sink as clean as possible during showings by using a little scouring powder and a magic eraser. You can replace the sink with an inexpensive one, but keep the porcelain one on hand in the garage in case buyers are interested. If you like the farmhouse style, but want modern, add a stainless-steel farmhouse sink for an updated look and feel.


Of course, you’ll want to make sure all outlets are well-finished, grounded, and up to code. But what about bringing them up to date? It may sound like a strange upgrade, but adding at least one USB-charging outlet in the kitchen is a sure-fire way to attract buyers. While it’s a small investment, buyers will swoon over the convenience of being able to charge their phones, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets instantly. While it might not add financial value, it sure adds praise and will stick in potential buyers’ minds.

Walls and floors

Replacing or refinishing your flooring and painting the walls are the quickest and least expensive ways to give a room new life. Paint color matters. You can check magazines and websites to see what’s trendy. While you can certainly go the DIY route with paint, hiring professionals will get the best results.

While most buyers prefer hardwood floors, they can be pricey to install. If you have existing hardwood floors, refinishing them will bring back the luster. If you’re refinishing linoleum, there are many vinyl tiles that are inexpensive but look fabulous—just like wood—and are well worth the cost. If you live in an area where ceramic tile is the standard, a less expensive and durable option is DuraCeramic, a tile that mimicks ceramic without the high cost. You could DIY this, but it’s best when you’re remodeling for sale value only to hire a professional.

Zebra print

Probably not. We just needed to add a Z word to make our list go from A to Z!

To remodel or not to remodel?

The truth is, you probably won’t get the full amount for renovations back when you sell the house. But, will it be a smart investment? Research nearby renovation projects to learn how those homes sold after the remodeling was completed. Be sure to design around the home’s character and architecture.

And finally, think about your time frame. If you plan to stay in your home only another year or two, will it be worth living through months of construction headaches?

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