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Remodel Recoup: Kitchen Changes that Pay Back


•Learn how to design a kitchen with an eye toward a future sale.
•Get tips on adding features buyers will embrace.

Of all the rooms in your home, remodeling the kitchen recoups the most value at resale. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2008-09 Cost Vs. Value Report, a minor kitchen remodel recoups 79.5 percent, and a major kitchen remodel comes in at 76 percent. Why the higher payoff? Because homeowners spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and they want a space with style and functionality that suits their needs.

It's smart to consider future buyers when planning a kitchen remodel. But because sellers seldom recover 100 percent of their investment, boosting your house's resale value should be a secondary concern, says Don Van Cura, president of Don Van Cura Construction, a remodeling company in Chicago. He says creating a kitchen you will love is more important--especially if you plan on staying in your home a few more years.

Cura and Chicago real estate agent Kathleen Krist-Krueger do agree, however, that certain kitchen improvements are more likely to pay off in the long run. Here are a few tips about remodeling projects that return the biggest bang for your buck.

Counter culture

Some homebuyers view laminate countertops as "substandard and unacceptable" and will pay a premium for upgraded surfaces, according to Krist-Krueger. She and Van Cura both recommend granite. "It's the best thing going right now when it comes to lasting value," he says.

If you're looking to go green, try recycled glass countertops. They are eco-friendly and durable, and they cost about the same amount as granite. Quartz is also a great option if you're looking for low maintenance and durability, and it's available in a wide range of colors.

Into the woods

For floors and cabinetry, "wood is always good," Van Cura says. "Trends come and go, but natural wood always comes back in style." Woods that aren't too light or too dark are less likely to go out of fashion than blond or very dark woods.

Sensible storage

Van Cura calls extremely high-end cabinetry a "losing proposition" when it comes to recouping costs at resale. On the flip side, "cheap cabinetry is also bad," he says. Choose cabinetry priced in the middle range if you want to recover the cost. Because homebuyers are demanding more storage space, roomy 42-inch cabinets are "practically a requirement," Krist-Krueger adds.

Kitchen islands are handy and create a work triangle that's both appealing and useful. If you have the space, install an island in the center of your kitchen that serves as both a workstation and a place to gather. Adding an entertainment sink and coordinating faucet to the island will further increase functionality and boost your kitchen's appeal to potential buyers.

...and the kitchen sink

Stainless steel is a popular choice for appliances and sinks. Although plenty of his clients opt for double-basin sinks, Van Cura believes a capacious single-basin sink, coupled with dual dishwashers, is a forward-thinking choice, "because people don't really need the two basins to wash and rinse by hand anymore like they used to."

If you prefer cast iron, think about the color scheme. Soft, neutral hues are easier for homeowners to work with than bright, bold colors. On the other hand, if you fall in love with a richly colored sink, go for it. You're remodeling to please yourself first, after all. And, chances are good you'll find a like-minded buyer.

Consider your setting and home style when choosing a sink. Styles that might be perfect for a cottage-style home, for instance, may look odd in an urban loft. Some sink types, such as apron-front, come in variations that work with a multitude of styles. You'll have even more options if your taste is eclectic.

Faucet facts

Attractive mid-range faucets that are high enough to accommodate large pots are more likely than extremely costly ones to provide a decent return on investment. Most homeowners expect a pullout or pull-down faucet, as they are standard in many new homes and extremely handy.


Extras that pay

Certain improvements, like a walk-in pantry, appeal to a prospective buyer's sense of practicality. Other improvements add pizzazz that people not only appreciate but also are willing to pay for. Some of these "extras" include crown molding and elegant trim work, undercabinet lighting, wine coolers, commercial-grade appliances and pot filler faucets installed next to or directly over the stove.

That's entertainment

A wall-mounted, flat-screen TV linked to a sound system is one kitchen addition that is sure to please current owners and entice future buyers, Van Cura says. He has installed recessed televisions with wall art that slides over and conceals the screen when it's not in use. "That's hard to resist: As soon as a buyer walks in and sees that, they're going to picture themselves having family pizza night," he says.

Cosmetic fixes

Can't afford to remodel extensively? Not a problem. One quick fix will go a long way toward improving your kitchen's appearance and boosting your home's resale value. In fact, minor remodeling projects recoup over 5 percent more value than major ones.

Small changes include installing new cabinet fronts, repainting cabinets and walls, changing cabinet knobs, replacing a faucet and affixing stainless-steel panels to existing appliances. Small changes like these can make a big difference, and give the kitchen a fresh feel for both you and prospective buyers.


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