Remodeling Your Kitchen | The most important room in the house

Do kitchens really “sell” houses?

When you need to sell your home quickly, chances are that you’ve heard “kitchens and bathrooms are what sell houses.” Every HGTV home-selling program – from “Get it Sold” to “Designed to Sell” to “Buying and Selling” almost always includes some kind of cosmetic fix to a kitchen and/or a bathroom, then shows a happy family selling their house in less than 3 days because of it.

Yes, they do…

No, these programs are never realistic, but they are right about the fact is that – yes, a nice kitchen will vastly improve the chances of a sale, and a kitchen that’s a dated and dingy mess can kill a sale. And if there are problems in other areas of your house or yard, a nice kitchen can often overcome a buyer’s hesitance to put in an offer. The fact is, it’s far better to spend $2000 to rejuvenate your kitchen than to have a buyer offer $10,000 less than your asking price because the kitchen looks outdated.

But what does a “nice kitchen” mean, and – more importantly – what does it cost?

Re-doing” & “recouping” – total kitchen remodels are $$$$$

Realtors love statistics, and there are innumerable surveys and polls that show that a complete kitchen remodel will recoup at least 70% of the money spent on it when it comes to selling a house. However, here’s a reality check on what it takes to re-do a kitchen:

Based on national averages, a complete minor or low-end kitchen remodel costs approximately $18,500, while a major, high-end remodel costs approximately $54,000. Both of these estimates include things like new appliances, new cabinets, and new flooring.

You don’t have the $$$$ to do a kitchen – but you need to sell your house

If you’re a homehowner who needs to sell quickly because you’re in a financial hole, this is not money that you have on hand to spend. Nor can you afford to lose 30% of any kind of investment to upgrade your kitchen; you need to get back every penny you invested to get your house sold by upgrading your kitchen.

Re-doing a kitchen for $ – it will still add value to list price

Toward that end, there are ways to update and improve your kitchen without replacing anything, or only replacing one or two key elements. These minor fixes can be done for very little money, and will make far more of an impact than you would ever believe. Plus – they generally recoup 100% of their cost, and – what’s most important – will often lead to a faster sale.

Fix it – but keep it simple, safe, and tasteful

First keep in mind that any cosmetic fix you do to a kitchen needs to be neutral so it appeals to the broadest number of people; this is not the time to try out a bold paint color or crazy flooring. Purely personal, eclectic choices can truly stop a sale cold. Keep your fixes simple, safe, and “tasteful.”

The best and least expensive kitchen solutions to sell your home quickly

Here are some reasonable suggestions and estimates on how to do a cosmetic upgrade on your kitchen – and keep your family going and food on the table at the same time. Following each upgrade are approximations on cost in and around Georgia and the Southwest. You should know that prices, material availability, and labor charges vary considerably depending on what part of the country you’re in, and you should make sure that you price out your costs carefully before you proceed.

The low price estimates are if you do the work yourself and use the least expensive materials, the high price estimates are if you hire a pro and go with higher grade materials; remember these are “ballpark” figures only:

  • Painting Walls & Ceiling ($375-$480 materials & DIY to $1450-$2510 material & LABOR for 500 sq ft): Again, in terms of “subliminally influencing” a potential buyer, remember what affects them and use it to your advantage. Visuals are primary, and one of the largest visuals is color. Painting is the single, most powerful upgrade you can do – anywhere in your home. But you need to remember that the colors you choose are very important; what hues you use in a kitchen can make or break it.
  1. Wall suggestions – Interestingly, bright or white-white is not the optimum color for kitchens; it shows dirt quickly, so tone it down with warmer colors that will turn it into a very neutral and light to medium “shade.” You can do this by adding yellow, orange, or warm brown tints at the paint store; look at the color swatches. This will give your walls interest without turning them into colors that possible buyers can “hate.”


  1. Ceiling suggestions – it’s amazing how much time people will spend looking at ceilings, and how much their color affects their impression. Painting them the same or a lighter color than the walls will make the kitchen seem larger; which is always what you want to do
  • Painting Cabinets ($125-$170 materials & DIY to $800-$1,385 materials & LABOR for 250 sq ft)

Painting the cabinets one of the major ways to improve a kitchen. It can bring an outdated kitchen into the 21st century, and totally turn a grungy, boring kitchen around. Tearing out old cabinets and putting in new cabinets is one of the most dramatic and expensive upgrades you can do to a kitchen; but painting them andgood colors to paint cabinets are colors in the same or complimentary color palette but darker. Use gloss or semi-gloss paint so they’re easy to wash off. Find hinges, knobs, and drawer pulls that compliment your home’s building style. An alternative is to take the doors off entirely and leave the shelving visible; this really opens up a kitchen (it also requires that you organize your dishes, cups, and glasses and keep them very neat and attractive, however)

  • Switch out cabinet knobs and drawer pulls ($110-$250 lower-end materials & DIY – $350 to $1100 mid-range materials & LABOR): Switching out hardware can be an inexpensive way to give a kitchen a “pop,” and most people are surprised at how dramatically new cabinet knobs and drawer pulls can change the look of a kitchen. However, people can also be surprised by the costs of a kitchen handle or knob, because one handle can cost anywhere from $1.79 apiece to over $22.00 and more apiece. The average kitchen has approximately 36 handles to install, plus
  • Install new sink & faucet ($129-$210 materials & DIY to $600-$825 materials & LABOR): Installing a new sink and/or faucet can be a budget-friendly way to spruce up an older kitchen. Whether its stainless steel or porcelain, a sink will start to show wear and tear after about 7 to 10 years, so if your sink is looking tired, it automatically dates your home. If there are scratches and chips in the basins, it basically says you haven’t touched your kitchen for a number of years. Remember, buyers want to see and feel that you’ve taken care of your home, that it’s in good shape. A new sink sends the subliminal message that a kitchen is newer than it may actually be. It’s a good idea to replace the faucet at the same time that you replace the sink, so you can match the faucet to the sink:
  • Install new lighting ($70-$110 materials & DIY to $350-$475 materials & LABOR per light) having great light in a kitchen is crucial, but unless you have a relative who’s an electrician, it can be pricy. Still, replacing an unattractive ceiling light with a more modern one, or a pendant light can be relatively inexpensive. Again, if you’re trying to sell your home, you want to get the most bang without spending too many bucks. The prices here reflect different lighting solutions such as installing inexpensive “under-cabinet” lighting strips, replacing the usual single light fixture in the ceiling with a pendant light, and re-wiring fluorescent lighting into a mounted light fixture.
  • Upgrade window treatments ($25-$150 materials & DIY to $175-$425 materials and LABOR up to 3 windows): Having natural light in a kitchen is great and helps to give the open and airy feel you need, especially if your lighting system leaves something to be desired, but you must have great window treatments. Sad, limp curtains, dark shutters, or – worse – nothing at all, can turn a kitchen into a cell. Putting new, light, bright window shades, blinds, shutters, or curtains is an all-important improvement for kitchens. Don’t forget that the trim around the kitchen window is important, and should be carefully painted. Whatever window treatment you get needs to compliment your kitchen’s wall and cabinet colors as well.
  • Put in new backsplash ($100-$200 materials & DIY to $300-$600 materials & LABOR for 50 sq ft – or area behind stove & sink): Installing a new backsplash isn’t all that hard, and not that expensive if you do it yourself, but it can have a big impact on your kitchen’s overall appeal. If you’ve painted your walls and cabinets, installing a new backsplash of tile that matches or compliments your colors will, again – make it seem like you’ve done a total remodel recently.
  • Install new countertops ($210-$900 laminate & DIY to $1200-$1950 laminate & LABOR for approx. 30 sq ft countertop area): Next to painting the walls and cabinets, this update will have the biggest impact. In terms of affordability, putting in new kitchen counters are also where you can find good-looking, and budget-friendly options. The least expensive countertop material is laminate; installing any other kind of kitchen counter will cost significantly more, even for tile, or butcher board. Again, the idea is to make the kitchen look fresh and attractive, and like it’s in great condition, without spending more than you have to get there
  • Install new flooring ($320 up to $995 for vinyl or linoleum for 12X12 sq ft kitchen): a kitchen floor has to be able to handle spills, splatters, and more foot traffic than any other part of the house. Real wood, travertine, or stone floors are all high-end choices that are too expensive to use in a home you need to sell, but fortunately – there are a good many lower cost options that mimic the more expensive choices, or look good on their own.
  1. Vinyl ($320-$720 material & DIY to $450-$845 material & LABOR for 12X12 kitchen floor): Vinyl is one of the least expensive and most durable choices on the market now. It resists stains, spills, damage – even flooding, and requires almost no maintenance. Plus, it’s now available in a variety of expensive “look-alikes,” so you can get the look of hardwood, bamboo, natural stone, etc. – without the cost.


  1. Linoleum ($470-$870 material & DIY to $600-$995 material & LABOR for 12X12 kitchen floor)– Linoleum is another one of the least expensive, and most economical options you can choose to rehabilitate the floors in a kitchen. Linoleum got a bad name in the late 1950’s when shoddy manufacturing processes resulted in a very poor product that looked cheap, was easily damaged, and lasted a short time. But the linoleum being produced today is almost as durable and resistant to stains and spills as vinyl, plus – it has the added advantage of being eco-friendly and completely natural, which more and more buyers are attracted to.

Putting $ into your re-habbing a kitchen means $$$$ when its time to sell

The amount of money you spend on upgrading your kitchen depends on the size and condition of your home, its location, and the price of the other comp homes in your area that your house is competing against. If your home is 1500 sq ft or under, and its in a marginal area, it may not make sense to put any more than the bare minimum into improving the kitchen.

If, on the other hand, your home is 2000 sq ft or above, and in a relatively decent area, it could make sense to invest more time and money in a kitchen, because you would be fairly certain of recouping your investment, and it will help you when it comes to keeping buyers from lowballing an offer on your home.