Should You Renovate the Kitchen Before You Sell?

The Four Percent


Q: My partner and I are unexpectedly moving out of state this fall and need to sell our Westchester, N.Y., house. When we bought it five years ago, it hadn’t been renovated in decades. We’ve updated every room except the kitchen, which has old vinyl floors, stained Formica countertops and outdated cabinets. What should we do? My partner thinks if we don’t renovate it, we’ll lose money on the sale. But that seems like a huge headache — and expense — especially right now. What do you think?

A: Your dated kitchen may stand out to a buyer simply because it looks out of step with the rest of the house.

“If the rest of the home is in triple mint condition and the kitchen is from the 1940s, then you have an issue,” said Ari Harkov, an associate broker in Manhattan with Brown Harris Stevens.

The good news is, even if you decide against renovating the kitchen, you are still listing your house in a sellers’ market where inventory is low and prices are rising in areas like Westchester. An eager buyer might see your kitchen as a blank slate.

But most buyers are going to notice a glaring problem, and bid accordingly. To avoid low bids, make some modest improvements to help the space look like it belongs in your house. But before you do any work, set a modest budget and stick to it, because you don’t want to overspend on a stopgap kitchen remodel, said Kimberly Renzi, an associate broker for Redfin in Westchester.

“A renovated kitchen can attract more attention, but it won’t necessarily increase the value of a home dollar to dollar,” Ms. Renzi said.

Decide which features are the most problematic and focus your money and time there. You want to give the buyer a taste of what is possible. Replace the Formica countertop and vinyl floors, if those are the biggest problems, leaving everything else as is. Or, paint the cabinets and swap out the hardware, making the room look brighter or more contemporary. If the appliances are the problem, get a new set.

But remember, you are shopping, and perhaps hiring workers, in a pandemic. So make sure the materials you need are readily in stock and workers are available for hire before you place an order. You don’t want to end up waiting months for a new countertop that was supposed to make it easier to sell your home, not harder.

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