Remodeling Your Kitchen Before Selling: What You Need to Know

Whether it’s in preparation for a home sale or for personal enjoyment, kitchen remodeling is one of the most popular improvement projects. Over the past two years, kitchens were not only household command centers but multi-functional superstars. They became living rooms, restaurants, snack bars, home offices, and kids’ zoom rooms. It’s no wonder kitchen remodeling expenditures continue to climb — upwards of 14% from 2019 to 2020 with an average spend of $40,000. 

If you’re planning to sell your home in the next year, it makes sense to question if a kitchen remodel is worth the investment. Here, we’re exploring different types of kitchen remodeling projects, highlighting your potential ROI, and calling out key factors that impact your investment. 

Know Before You Reno (or Remodel)

Because a kitchen is one of the most-used rooms in a home, they have the potential to make or break a home sale. There are several factors to think about when deciding whether or not to remodel a kitchen for home resale.

Consider the neighborhood

As with most things real estate, whether or not to invest in a kitchen remodel depends on your local market. For example, in a buyers’ market in which homes are sitting for weeks before going under contract, an updated kitchen could attract offers. Conversely, in a competitive sellers’ market with a low inventory of homes, an expensive remodel might not be necessary.

The homes on your street can also provide you with clues. If most homes have been updated in the last few years and are move-in ready, some improvements might be necessary to command a similar selling price. Or perhaps a new kitchen can make your home more turnkey and sell faster among a neighborhood of fixer-uppers.

If you live near new home developments, you will also be competing against new construction homes. In order to stand out from a new home’s sparkling new kitchen, you may need to refresh yours to attract buyers interested in moving to your area of town. 

Keep your moving timeframe top of mind

When you want to sell your home will often dictate what you can and can’t do when it comes to deciding on home improvements. A kitchen remodel can take anywhere between six and 12 weeks to complete, depending on the square footage and project scope. Couple that with our current material and labor shortages, and you could be looking at project delays and an even longer timeframe. 

Get the real estate pros involved

Real estate agents can be treasure-troves of information to help you make a more informed decision about remodeling plans. They can provide comps, or information about recent home sales in your neighborhood. Comps may disclose if homes are selling with newly remodeled kitchens and how they potentially influenced the listing and sale prices. 

A remodeled kitchen can also impact your home’s appraised value, though perhaps not in the ways you might expect. Home sellers may go into thinking they’ll be able to recoup a kitchen remodel’s cost dollar for dollar in the sales price. However, this is rarely the case, according to Ryan Lundquist, certified residential appraiser and founder of Sacramento Appraisal Blog. “A kitchen remodel can cost significant money, but buyers don't always line up to pay the full cost of the remodel in one instance when purchasing a home,” he says. 

In some cases, sellers can end up losing money in the transaction if they spend too much money on home improvements. If you splurge on high-ticket cabinets and countertops, you might not recover most of your cost in the home’s list price if buyers aren’t willing to pay for them. “A kitchen remodel can increase value, but from an ROI standpoint it can be a losing proposition if an owner spends too much that buyers won't actually pay for,” says Lundquist.

A Tale of Three Kitchen Remodel ROIs

All kitchen remodels are not created equal when it comes to delivering the highest return on investment. Here’s a comparison of three different types of projects, each with its 2021 average cost and ROI:

A minor kitchen remodel is going to deliver the most return, with its national ROI average at 72% the closest dollar for dollar of the three project types. More of a renovation than a full remodel, this project type involves keeping the same layout with refaced or repainted cabinets, updated hardware, and new appliances and mid-priced fixtures.  

Major midrange and upscale kitchen remodels include demolition and an updated layout along with everything else mentioned above at mid to high quality and price points.  The return on investment decreases significantly for both. In other words, there comes a point of diminishing returns when remodeling a kitchen for sale. The trick is knowing where to splurge and where to save.

If you plan on living in your home a year or two before you sell, you also have your own lifestyle to think about. When remodeling her kitchen, homeowner Meg Reilly didn’t plan to list her Watertown, Massachusetts, home immediately. She preferred features to complement her design style and opted for bold color, including show stopping cabinets in a deep blue. “I decided to take a little bit of a risk. But I loved the color and hardware and knew that’s what I wanted in my own kitchen.”

Tips For Maximizing Your Kitchen Remodel ROI

While there’s no guarantee that your kitchen remodel return will be similar to or better than the national average, there are a few things you can do to fast-track the project and avoid overspending on things buyers won’t value. 

Know When to DIY and When to Call in the Pros

Set yourself up for success by determining how much you’re willing to DIY and what’s best left to a professional kitchen remodeler. Unlike a new coat of paint or adding trim, a kitchen remodel involves many moving parts, including skilled plumbing and electrical work. And if you’re planning to sell within the next few months, knowing that the average kitchen remodel takes between six and 12 weeks to finish, you will probably need a professional to get everything completed in time.

Fix What’s Broken 

A few small repairs can go a long way. Unless you’re marketing your home as a fixer-upper, broken or outdated items won’t appeal to would-be buyers. Prioritize your project around repairs first, like replacing appliances that no longer work properly and updating worn light fixtures and hardware. 

Don’t Splurge on Everything

While you might be tempted to go all out in your kitchen, think carefully before you spring for those ultra-luxe custom cabinets. In a 2022 kitchen renovations study by Houzz, countertops were the number one upgraded feature, with 91% of respondents indicating they replaced them or plan to do so. Consider spending more on one standout item and choose more budget-friendly features that complement their material and color. 

Be Mindful of Design Trends

Trends come and go, but kitchens are forever. Not forever exactly, but since they’re one of the more expensive home projects, many households don’t invest in a kitchen remodel very often (every 10 to 15 years is the average). As such, it’s wise to choose more timeless features over trendier materials and color palettes that may look dated in a couple of years. 

Conversely, bucking timeless design can present its own opportunities. When Reilly listed her home, buyers were drawn to the kitchen’s more custom, bespoke look. Her home received multiple offers for $150,000 over asking price, and “Everyone said the kitchen was the driving factor in their high bids.” 

There’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to invest in a kitchen remodeling project before selling. Your selling timeframe, budget, and local market conditions can help guide you to the best kitchen improvement project to meet your needs. If you’re looking for some expert advice and project pricing, get a free Renno quote on materials



Related Articles