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  • Yomari Cruz-DeWeese

Will building a dream kitchen cook up a better deal?


This subway tile backsplash might seem cliche, but it is classic and unlikely to go out of style.

When you think of buying a or selling a house, a perfectly remodeled kitchen is the most important thing it needs to have right? Or is it? Anyone who has watched HGTV knows their sponsors really want you to believe it is! And while it is true that many real estate professionals live by the classic “kitchens sell houses”, in reality, when it comes to the question of “Should I renovate my kitchen before selling my house?”, the answer is a big fat “It depends”.


A fancy kitchen can increase the value of a home and help sell it faster, but it is difficult to get a big return on your investment when doing a major kitchen renovation. In fact, the ROI on kitchen renovations varies by region, neighborhood, the condition of your home and the price point you are selling at.


A big kitchen remodel is expensive, with the national average cost being around $65,000. Although ROI calculations vary, I have never seen the percentage being higher than 80%, and it can be as low as 53%. Minor kitchen renovations fare much better than larger ones. This is why working with a real estate agent you can trust is key. Your agent should be able to give you an idea of whether or not a kitchen renovation would be advisable by considering factors such as market conditions and competition, neighborhood demand, and your home’s price point.


On the other hand, minor changes and good old elbow grease can go a long way to impress buyers. A good realtor knows who is buying and what they are looking for and will provide you with recommendations on how to make each room in your house desirable to buyers in your market (i.e. unless you are selling a mountain cabin in Montana, you will do better to put away the taxidermy deer head). When it comes to kitchens, minor changes that can improve your chances of getting asking price quickly include:


  • Changing cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. Here in Portland, finding cool hardware for this can be the most fun project of all. If you have mid century cabinets that have seen better days but are original and cool, all you may need are some cool knobs and pulls to wow your buyers. You can do it on the cheap side without compromising on the cool factor by going to places like the Rebuilding Center on Mississippi Ave, or Hippo Hardware on Burnside St. Alternatively, you can go all out and get some Rejuvation or Schoolhouse Electric goodies that never disappoint.

  • Installing new light fixtures that speak to your home’s style. That same mid century kitchen that now has new knobs and pulls would look amazing with a simple but beautiful light fixture like this one from Design within reach.

Open shelves are inexpensive and make a big impact when buyers enter your kitchen, but be sure to keep them tidy!
  • Remove worn or damaged upper cabinets if needed and replace them with open shelving. It can make a big impact and Ikea can be your friend here. I love this post on the Upgrade Design Blog for ideas.

  • If you have vinyl flooring in your kitchen, it is time to upgrade. This is admittedly a pricier improvement, but a necessary one in most situations (ask your realtor!). Buyers absolutely hate vinyl flooring. And who knows, there may be some gorgeous hardwood under there!

  • If your budget allows for it, upgrading your appliances can be an easy way to add value and excite buyers.

  • Add a few inexpensive but cool and practical features such as one or two USB outlets, a cool faucet, and maybe even a pull out trash unit complete with a recycling bin. It’s Portland! The garbage not being out in the open will make a difference.

  • Buy inexpensive bins for all your cabinets and drawers and declutter and organize everywhere. THIS IS HUGE! Buyers WILL open your cabinets and drawers and it's a big turnoff when they see a mess, plus it screams “there is no space in this kitchen for my stuff!”

Everyone appreciates organized drawers.
  • Make sure you do a really DEEP clean. Even if you think it’s perfect, clean it again. MAKE IT SPARKLE.

Finally, if you do decide your kitchen needs a complete overhaul and remodel, my biggest piece of advice is to not go cheap with things like cabinets and countertops. Kitchens that scream Ikea or Home Depot EVERYWHERE can have all the chevron backsplash and white cabinets in the world and still feel cheap, and will not justify trying to up the home's asking price by $30,000. Also, don’t go full trendy. I mean who wants granite countertops in 2020? Nobody. Well nobody should anyway. Trends come and go quickly. Go with sensible, classy choices that will attract a bigger number of buyers and never go out of style, such as subway tile, deep sinks, shaker-style cabinets, marble or butcher block countertops, and white paint.


I love the choice of cabinets, countertops, light fixtures and colors in this kitchen design. Smart.

Personally, our kitchen is the most important part of our house because we are avid cooks and bakers. We bought our family home in 2017 and our kitchen is not modern or overly renovated. While I do have some plans to renovate a few things in the near future, I love it just as it is. And I loved it as soon as we saw it. The reason? Shaker style cabinets that go up to the ceiling, sensible countertop tile that's easy to clean, simple colors, and the fact that its was impeccably clean, ready for me to move in and make some Puerto Rican Lechon, with this recipe (ok ok not exactly this one, but I can't give you ALL my secrets can I?).

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