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Seven Steps to a Like-New Kitchen

March 31 2010

More than any other room in the home, the kitchen can be the deciding factor that sways a potential buyer toward – or away from – a purchase. With this in mind, most experts agree that even if you aren’t planning pre-sale updates anywhere else, the kitchen is the place to make them. But if a move is nowhere in your immediate future, improvements to your kitchen still almost always add directly to the eventual resale value of your home.

Sounds good, but what if your budget doesn’t allow for a wholesale remodel complete with new granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances? Fortunately, there are a slew of more nuanced alterations you can make – including many you can make yourself – that can add beauty and functionality to your kitchen without leaving your wallet significantly lighter. 

Clear the Counters

Clearing clutter as a general rule is one of the best places to start whenever you’re thinking of showing your home. Perhaps nowhere is this more important than in the kitchen.

You may be a gadget guru with countertop appliances for everything from juicing beets to mixing margaritas, but your first order of business should be to put those appliances away. Where you see prized possessions, others just see crowded countertops. Keep gadgets to a minimum – a toaster and coffeemaker, perhaps – and show off sparkling, clutter-free countertops instead. Doing so can help even cramped kitchens feel spacious.

Quick Cabinet Overhauls

Rather than replacing cabinets, which can be an expensive and labor-intensive project, consider ways to refurbish those you have. Depending on their finish and its relative wear, you might consider a simple paint job. With a fresh coat of paint and new knobs and handles, old cabinets get an instant injection of new life.

A slightly more complicated and expensive job, but still a savings over installing all new cabinets, involves replacing the existing doors and drawer fronts. This is a good alternative to consider when these outward facing parts of the cabinet show significant wear but the interiors are still in good shape.

In either case, also take the time to clean and reline the interior shelves and drawers. Inexpensive contact paper can leave cabinet interiors looking fresh and updated in no time.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink? Think Again

In fact, replacing the kitchen sink is a great way to add major bang for the buck. Compared to appliances like a range or refrigerator, you can swap out your stained or damaged sink and faucet with a new stainless steel model for about $300. For a little extra, consider splurging on a double-bowl or deeper-bowl model, either of which provides more work area for bigger jobs. (Bear in mind that these options may involve more refitting of your existing counter space.)

In terms of a faucet, you can feel good investing in a solid middle-of-the-road model and saving the hundreds of dollars you could spend on a top-of-the-line designer number. For all intensive purposes, these more expensive options don’t really clean dishes any better, and cheaper models incorporate an increasing degree of style and design sense themselves.

Organize, Organize, Organize

What potential homebuyers don’t want to imagine their new kitchen as the paragon of order and organization? Help them do so by bringing order and organization to yours. Even if you’ve been perfectly content for years with cabinets overflowing with unidentified bags and containers of this and that, take time now to assign a proper place for everything and put everything in that place. Clean and ordered jars that showcase grains and pasta, an alphabetized spice rack, drawers of utensils sorted and stacked by function – you’ve seen it on television cooking shows. It won’t take as long as you think, it might actually make your life easier, and it will impress and attract potential buyers.

Window Dressing

It doesn’t get much easier than this: Swap out tired, worn curtains, kitchen towels, and pot holders with a fresh set in an updated whimsical print or a solid accent color that adds vitality to the room as a whole. It’s an instant, effortless injection of style.

Set the Table

If yours is an eat-in kitchen, take the time to set the table. An attractive tablecloth or placemats can add another dash of accent color, and a nice set of dishes arranged with a little flair can help give the room a pleasant lived-in feel. Other ideas include putting out a bowl of fresh fruit, coordinating candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers, or a couple of recent cooking magazines in an attractive rack or basket. Again – a little bit of effort here can go a long way toward setting the stage.

The Nose Knows

This tried-and-true real estate trick may seem like low-hanging fruit, but what’s wrong with that? If you know your house is scheduled to be shown, bake a batch of homemade cookies – or throw a frozen apple pie in the oven to thaw. Scent is one of our most powerful senses, and the smell of something wonderful cooking in your kitchen will make everyone feel instantly at home. Just be sure not to burn anything!