Ought to You Renovate the Kitchen Earlier than You Promote?

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Should You Renovate the Kitchen Before You Sell?

Q: My partner and I are moving out of the state unexpectedly this fall and have to sell our home in Westchester, New York. When we bought it five years ago, it hadn't been renovated in decades. We've updated every room except the kitchen, which has old vinyl floors, stained Formica countertops, and outdated cabinets. What should we do? My partner says if we don't renovate it we'll lose money selling it. But that seems like a huge headache – and a huge hassle – right now. What do you think?

A: Your outdated kitchen can stand out to a buyer simply because it doesn't match the rest of the house.

"If the rest of the house is triple like new and the kitchen is from the 1940s, you have a problem," said Ari Harkov, Manhattan associate broker at Brown Harris Stevens.

The good news is that even if you decide not to do a kitchen renovation, you will still be listing your home in a seller's market where inventory is low and prices are rising in areas like Westchester. An avid shopper might think of your kitchen as a blank blackboard.

But most buyers will notice one glaring problem and bid accordingly. To avoid low bids, make some modest tweaks to make the room look like it belongs in your house. But before you get any work done, set a modest budget and stick to it because you don't want to spend too much on remodeling your kitchen fix, said Kimberly Renzi, associate broker at Redfin in Westchester.

"A remodeled kitchen can get more attention, but it doesn't necessarily add dollar-to-dollar value to a home," said Ms. Renzi.

Decide which features are the most problematic and focus your money and time there. You want to give the buyer a taste of what's possible. If these are the biggest issues, replace the Formica countertop and vinyl floors and leave everything else unchanged. Or paint the cabinets and swap out the hardware to make the room look brighter or more contemporary. If the devices are the problem, get a new set.

But remember, you are shopping in a pandemic and you may be hiring workers. So make sure you have the materials you need in stock and have staff on hand before you place an order. You don't want to wait months for a new countertop that should make selling your home easier, not harder.

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