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Top 10 Kitchen Upgrades for Home Sellers (Data-Driven Analysis)

These tips were generously provided by real estate agent Justin Havre. Justin has extensive experience selling homes and has advised many home sellers about how to go about improving their home so they get top dollar as fast as possible.

When you’re getting ready to sell your home, making upgrades can improve your property value and may speed up the sale process.

In many cases you need to pick and choose rooms to renovate because you simply don’t have the budget to do a complete home reno. When it comes to ROI, kitchen renovations are one of the best options.

Editor Comment
My wife and I look at homes for sale often (like many people). We’re always suspect of the homes that exclude photos of of certain rooms or only show partial rooms. We immediately ask “what are they hiding”? While that may seem like a good marketing tactic, for us, it’s not good because we won’t bother looking at the house.

Renovating a kitchen that is too small, too dark or just too dated for buyers is one of the best ways to add ROI to your home and/or get a faster sale. A successful kitchen remodel can deliver a 70 percent return on investment and will help make your home a hot item on the local real estate market.

Investment Tip
How much you should spend on your kitchen reno when done to aid a sale depends on how much you realistically can get for your home. If your home is in a neighborhood that has appreciated in value and many other homes have been renovated, you may want to invest in higher quality materials such as stone countertops so that your home will appeal to more affluent buyers.

However, if your home is in a neighborhood where spending exorbitant amounts of money will not be recouped no matter how nice the kitchen, then opt for less expensive. How much you invest is something to ask your real estate agent because they can look at recent sales in the neighborhood (although you can too in the USA with websites like Zillow and Trulia).

Where should you focus your energy and money when renovating your kitchen for the primary purpose of selling your home at the best price?

Knowing what features to upgrade in your kitchen can help you make your home remodel a success. Here’s a list of sound kitchen reno upgrades.

FYI, all data based on kitchens renovated or built since approximately 2009 (which means it’s fairly recent data).

1. Counters

Scratched and damaged counters are more than just an eyesore; they can also be harder to keep clean. Upgrading old counters will give your kitchen a fresh new look while also ensuring home buyers that your kitchen is functional and ready to use.

Stone countertops such as granite and counters made from natural materials have been in style for many years now, but at $50 to $250 per square foot, this may not be a realistic option for everyone. For homeowners on a  budget, tile countertops are a more realistic price at $10 per square foot.

Most popular countertops chart

As for what’s popular, based on analysis of 541,000 kitchens, here’s a chart illustrating the percentage of kitchens that have the different types of countertops:

As you can see, stone is by far the most popular.

2. Cabinets: Buy New or Refinish?

New cabinets are a big ticket item in many kitchen remodels. For value and functionality, custom designed cabinets may be the most impressive to home buyers. However, at around $500 to $1200 per linear foot, the price tag on custom designed cabinets can be prohibitively expensive. Homeowners on a budget can turn to stock cabinets, or may consider refinishing existing cabinets.

How to totally refinish cabinets:

How to refinish cabinets without stripping:

Most popular cabinet style (based on 564,016 kitchens)

Most Popular Cabinet Colors/Finish (based on 597,108 kitchens)

3. Regrouting

Tiled floors, tile counters and even tile back splashes can start to look grungy when the grout between the tiles becomes stained. Older grout will even start to decay if not properly sealed and maintained.

Regrouting can cost as much as $24 per square foot, but homeowners looking for a quick DIY project can do it themselves with a few easy steps. Use a grout saw to remove old grout, then mix new grout in a bucket and spread it over the cracks between the tiles using a grout float.

4. Floors

Damaged, stained floors can detract from the appearance of the kitchen. In some cases, insufficient flooring can even lead to water damage on the subfloor in areas around the kitchen sink.

Home owners choosing new flooring for their kitchen should consider the appearance of the rest of the room. Dark flooring material can provide visual balance in a room with a lot of natural light and light colored walls or cabinets. In a room with darker walls, darker cabinets or little natural light, a lighter colored flooring material can provide brightness to the space. The cost of new flooring can vary, but typical estimates are around $2,000 to $4,000.

Most Popular Kitchen Floor Material (based on 500,448 kitchens)

5. Island Installation

A flooring island adds work space and even seating, which can be very valuable in a home that’s good for entertaining. When installing a kitchen island, take care to avoid installing an island that is too large for the space. Although an island can make your kitchen more functional, an oversized island may make working in the kitchen more difficult. Costs for a kitchen island can vary from a few hundred to several thousand.

FYI, approximately 79% of kitchens built or renovated since 2009 have at least one island (based on analysis of 535,562 kitchens).

6. Second Sink

If you’re installing a kitchen island, consider including a task sink in the island for washing dishes, rinsing vegetables and filling pots of water. This is a smart upgrade to install in a large home with a large kitchen, where it is likely that a big family group may come together to prepare meals. Plan to spend around $400 for a new sink, or more if the plumbing for the sink is not already in place.

Most popular kitchen sink style chart

Don’t just pick any sink. Get one that’s popular and that people want. Here’s a chart setting out the most popular kitchen sinks:

7. Appliance Upgrade

Old appliances break down and waste energy, which makes them unappealing to home buyers. Replacing appliances more than a decade old will help you sell to home buyers who care about their carbon footprint and who wish to save money on their monthly bills.

Appliances range in price, from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so homeowners hoping to save money will need to shop around and compare prices. Don’t forget that installation costs extra, so budget around $100 per appliance for installation costs.

Here’s a chart illustrating the percentage of different appliance finishes (based on 569,776 kitchens):

8. Repainting

Repainting the walls can make the kitchen look clean and new. Repainting is also relatively inexpensive and can be completed by an ambitious homeowner. If you’re thinking about repainting your kitchen, consider the usual lightness or darkness of the room. In kitchens where natural light is lacking, a lighter or brighter color will help set the tone and keep the space cheerful. Repainting the kitchen can cost between $300 and $600 normally if you do it; more if you hire a painting contractor.

Dominant Kitchen Colors by Percent (based on 866,147 kitchens)

Here’s a chart illustrating the percentage of kitchens that are the different colors or have a focus of a particular color.

9. Open Floor Plan Conversion

Editor comment:  I LOVE this tip and it’s definitely one renovation many home buyers appreciate these days. I think the $3,000 investment required is worth in in most selling instances.

Small kitchens were common in homes many decades ago, and many older homes have small kitchens to this day. In some cases, removal of a non-load bearing is an effective way to make the kitchen an open, larger space. Open floor plans are very popular at the moment, and will make your home more appealing to modern home buyers. Plan to spend around $2,500 to $3,000 to knock down a non-load bearing wall.

10. Lighting

A functional kitchen needs many lighting options to meet the needs of people cooking at the stove, preparing food on the counters and cleaning after the meal ends. In a kitchen with only one or two light sources, installation of additional lighting will make the kitchen more efficient and more appealing for home buyers. Installation of a single light fixture can cost between $150 and $700.

=> See 18 types of ceiling lights

What about best kitchen style?

Typically, your kitchen style will mimic the style of your home. You wouldn’t want a sleek modern home with a rustic kitchen (or vice versa). That said, in home with a more neutral style, you can mix it a but. For example, if your home is predominantly traditional 1990’s in style, there’s no reason you can’t do a transitional or contemporary kitchen.

In case you were wondering, here’s a chart setting out percentage of kitchens that are done in the various styles (based on 1,675,494 kitchens):

Kitchen Styles Chart

Talk To Your Real Estate Professional

If you’re thinking about selling your home and are trying to decide which upgrades would be best for your kitchen, talk to your real estate professional. Schedule a consultation to discuss the strengths of your property and the various ways that you can make your home a property that appeals more to home buyers.