What to Think About When Renovating Your Kitchen

What to expect when you're renovating your kitchen

Whether you are thinking about listing your house or have no plans to move, renovating your kitchen has a big impact on your home. Kitchen design and real estate experts in New Hampshire share trends and tips before you take the plunge.

Popular Trends

The designers agreed that things people want are still an open-concept kitchen, stainless-steel appliances and either cherry or white cabinets. “The biggest trend is taking walls out and creating open concepts,” says Don Smith of Dream Kitchens in Nashua. But homeowners are not always aware of what this entails. “One of the things we often have to do is help clients adjust their vision. They may want to take down walls, but they end up with no storage. We try to temper their enthusiasm and make it realistic for New England, where walls have to uphold snow loads. We make it open but still stay on budget and stay realistic.” 

Dean Rascoe of G.M. Roth in Nashua agrees. “Reworking a vision and budget is common with eliminating walls. If it is a weight-bearing wall or contains plumbing, then it’s a budget crusher. A flat ceiling is also preferred but there are economic factors involved in achieving the look you want. Like everything, there are trade-offs.”

As for the other elements, appliance trends hold steady while some counter-top options are new. “Staying power in a kitchen is still stainless-steel appliances and natural, low-sheen finishes,” says Smith. “Low-sheen natural cherry is the number one choice. People are also choosing stone counters for low sheen.” Homeowners are going lighter too. “What I am seeing sell is a light, clean streamlined utilitarian space,” says Marci Francis, a realtor with Keller Williams in Portsmouth. “I’m also seeing quartz being used more and more.” Rascoe adds, “You can’t go wrong with a white or cherry cabinet. And the new quartz counter tops are popular since they have the appearance of movement or veining like granite, but are very dense and low-maintenance.”

Cost vs. Value

The increase in design-to-sell shows have definitely influenced homeowners, though not always in a realistic way. “HGTV has poisoned the general public on what home improvements are worth for the resale. It just magically happens on TV,” says Rascoe. “They don’t reveal the true costs of a project. By investing that money, their house doubles in value — that is unrealistic.”

But as home improvement projects go, the kitchen is one of the highest ROIs you can take on, next to bathrooms. “It is reasonable to say a very high percentage of your investment will come back to you,” says Rascoe. How much? Well, that depends. “The actual percentage of the ROI is hard to determine, and we see every day that different appraisers will give us different amounts,” says Francis. “But there is no doubt that kitchens sell a home.” Publications like the Cost vs. Value Report are produced by region, so that homeowners can get a sense of what their return might be.

The only guarantee is that buyers will care a lot about the kitchen. “From a real estate point of view, if you have two houses that are comparable, in most cases the buyers will chose the one with the better kitchen,” says Francis. “Buyers can overlook other imperfections in a house if the kitchen is up to their standards, but if the kitchen isn’t, they can be deterred from the property.” Rascoe cautions that if you are going to sell, “you may need to upgrade your kitchen just to have your house sell at a price that you want and in a reasonable time frame.” Francis agrees. “Some sellers may think, we’ll let the buyer renovate and do what they want to do. But if the kitchen isn’t up to the standards of buyers in that market, you won’t even have a buyer. Sometimes you are better off investing the money in the kitchen than even reducing the price because they would rather pay to have the work done than have to do it themselves.” Smaller updates, such as painted cabinets, updated knobs and lighting, can be cost-efficient and make a big impact.

Heart of the Home

Regardless of whether you plan to stay or sell your home, redoing your kitchen will have a huge impact on your quality of life. “Families spend the most time there and they are the heart of the home,” says Francis. “It’s the big wow in a house.”

Even as a kitchen designer, Smith couldn’t believe the impact redoing his kitchen had. “In my own family, after our kitchen was done, our life changed drastically. My kids stopped hanging out in their bedrooms and started hanging out at the island. They did their homework there, and we could monitor their laptops over their shoulders. Their friends came over more too. All of this didn’t happen before we renovated our kitchen.”

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