Preparing to list your house? If you want to get top dollar, start sprucing up your kitchen now.
By Lauren Sieben
“The kitchen is often the centerpiece in a home and the place where most of the entertaining happens,” says Tony Rodriguez-Tellaheche, owner and managing broker of Prestige Realty Group in Miami. “Sellers should not cut corners.”
A killer kitchen is one of the best ways to sell your home. Before you list your place, start making some of these improvements to help swing buyers in the right direction.
1. Refresh your cabinets
If your cabinets are looking drab and dated but are still in good shape, you don’t need to replace them. Instead, pick up some good paint and brushes or a paint sprayer.
“Sometimes a quick ‘face-lift’ to the kitchen cabinets can go a long way,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says. “Refinishing existing cabinets is more cost-effective than replacing them completely, and can make a big difference when updating a kitchen.”
Before you start putting down the dropcloths, be mindful of your color palette—you’ll want to stick with neutrals to appeal to most buyers.
“If cabinets are darker natural wood or a polarizing color, we recommend painting either soft white or greige,” says Julie Busby, founder of the Busby Group in Chicago.
2. Upgrade to quartz countertops
Photo by Marble of the World
Today’s buyers aren’t so keen on granite, and they’re definitely not looking for laminate. If you splurge on one upgrade in the kitchen, make it quartz countertops.
“I recommend using quartz in the kitchen,” says Brad Whittaker, an agent with Realty ONE Group Pacifica in Longview, WA. “It is always a nice, hard surface, and there are so many designs and colors to choose from.”
Plus, quartz is more durable and environmentally friendly than other materials, which is especially important in a busy kitchen.
“More sellers are incorporating quartz into their kitchens than traditional material like marble, because it is less porous and therefore less likely to stain,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.
3. Update the lighting
Photo by Wynne Taylor Ford
If your light fixtures are old enough to vote or order a beer in a bar, it’s time to replace them (or at least give them a very thorough dusting).
Swap in new fixtures over the island and kitchen sink, or increase your kitchen’s appeal by installing recessed lighting on a dimmer.
“Under-counter lighting also adds a nice touch,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.
4. Invest in a good (quiet) dishwasher
If your appliances have seen better days, replacing them with midrange stainless-steel appliances is a safe bet, Whittaker says. Top-of-the-line appliances might not be worth the splurge—you won’t always see a return on that investment.
The one appliance that’s worth spending a little more? The dishwasher.
“Always spend good money on your dishwasher—$700 plus to make sure that it is quiet,” Whittaker says.
5. Bring in a crisp, new backsplash
Photo by Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design
Installing a neutral, clean backsplash can win you points with prospective buyers.
“Backsplashes can make a huge difference,” Busby says. “If the current one is busy or dated-looking, we recommend going with a classic white subway tile or any other neutrally colored tile.”
Plus, a new backsplash paired with upgraded countertops “can even make dated appliances look more current,” says Simon Isaacs, broker and founder of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, FL.
6. Brighten up the color palette
“Dark kitchen cabinets with dark granite is a thing of the past and can make a home hard to sell, especially to millennial buyers,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.
Aside from painting dark cabinets and replacing countertops, choose a bright, neutral paint color for the walls. A light color can also help make modest-size kitchens look a little more airy and spacious.
7. Add premium touches
Photo by Studio Dearborn
Quarantine has turned many of us into home cooks, and that means buyers are looking for luxe touches throughout the kitchen where they’re spending more time than ever.
“Most of today’s buyers are self-proclaimed foodies and expect a well-thought-out kitchen,” Isaacs says. “Sophisticated wine fridges, filtered water spouts, and pot fillers are becoming the norm nowadays.”
Busby agrees: “If you have space for a beverage or wine cooler, buyers love this added bonus.”
8. Give the kitchen a serious deep clean
Nothing turns buyers off quicker than a kitchen with the “yuck” factor: food stains, filthy fridges, and even junked-up baseboards.
“Keep it clean, bright, and shiny,” Whittaker says. “There are lots of gloss surfaces in a kitchen, and to see them dull, scratched, scuffed, or chipped is a turnoff to most buyers.”
A sparkling-clean oven is also nonnegotiable, Whittaker adds.
“No one wants to bake inside your gunky oven,” he says. “Remember, if you want top dollar for your home, you need to sell it as if you have taken top-dollar care of it.”
Lauren Sieben is a writer in Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Washington Post, Milwaukee Magazine, and other outlets.