The kitchen is a major focal point when buying a new home.
“People buying a house look first at kitchens and baths,” said Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
It is important to evaluate the existing kitchen because replacing it can be a significant investment. It will often reflect what you are willing to pay for the home. Key elements to consider are the age and quality of the existing kitchen and whether or not it will fit your design aesthetic and lifestyle.
The quality of the existing kitchen can be evaluated by looking at appliances, cabinetry and countertops.
Begin by evaluating the age and quality of the appliances. The life expectancy of a kitchen appliance is approximately 10 years, and 15-20 years on the luxury brands. High-end luxury brands include Sub-Zero/Wolf, Thermador and Gaggenau. Mid-range appliances include Electrolux and GE Profile, while budget brands might include Frigidaire and Samsung. Be sure to ask the age of the appliances and whether or not they have any transferrable extended warrantees.
To spot quality kitchen cabinets, look for features like solid-wood dovetail drawers, fully concealed full-extension drawer slides, soft-close drawer glides and soft-close hinges. Lesser-quality cabinets have drawers that are glued or stapled together. If you pull the drawer out and see the drawer-slide on the side of the drawer, it is probably an older kitchen. The door and drawer fronts should be made of solid wood.
Other features to look for are standard convenience items like rollout shelves, lazy susans or magic corners, cutlery dividers, spice cabinets, pullout garbage cans with recycling, and adjustable shelves. Open the cabinet to see if the shelves are warped or sagging. If they are, it indicates poor quality construction. Good cabinetry will have a very durable finish. Look for scratches or warn areas that might indicate an inferior quality finish.
Granite, quartz and marble are considered lifetime countertops. Check for chips or open seams. Marble tops are softer and are more likely to have scratches or stains, but these can be repaired. Ask if the granite or marble has been properly sealed. Laminate tops are often used in budget or older kitchens.
Once you have examined the kitchen quality, evaluate whether the kitchen fits your design aesthetic and lifestyle. The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home and is often the social center of activity. Its design focus should be as much about lifestyle and enjoyment as it is about cooking.
Ask yourself questions that are important to you: Is this a good kitchen to cook in? Does it have enough storage? Does it have the center island I always wanted? Is there enough seating? Will it accommodate more than one cook? Can I entertain in this kitchen? Is it adequately lit? Does the existing design match our family’s lifestyle?
After evaluating the quality, aesthetic and lifestyle features of the home’s existing kitchen, you may decide the home needs a new kitchen. Your next step is to budget what it will cost to renovate before making an offer. Many factors affect the cost of a remodel such as quality of materials, square footage, plumbing, electrical and labor.
A budget remodel ($25-$40,000) might include a direct replacement of the kitchen, keeping appliances and fixtures in the same locations
to minimize the need to redo electrical and plumbing. It might also include simple lighting upgrades, budget appliances, ceramic tile backsplashes, vinyl or tile flooring, and laminate or less expensive counters.
A mid to upper range remodel ($40-$75,000) might include a total redesign with new plumbing, electrical, luxury appliances, custom cabinetry, wood or tile flooring, stone counters, glass tile backsplash, designer hardware, and specialty lighting.
A custom luxury kitchen (over $100,000) would include a total remodel of the space that might include a fluid transition to adjoining areas, architectural details, ceiling treatments, high-end custom cabinetry with custom finishes, upgraded wood species like cherry or walnut, luxury appliances with integrated custom panels, stone or wide wood-planked floors, a center island, double ovens, a second prep sink, two dishwashers, a recycling center, innovative interior storage, designer lighting and modern technology.
Experts recommend that the cost of a renovation not exceed 20 percent of the value of the home. For a full remodel, we advise our clients to use 12-15 percent as an appropriate guideline.
Although remodeling the kitchen offers one of the highest returns on investment, many clients embrace a kitchen renovation for reasons beyond economic investment. They also consider it an investment in lifestyle. Creating a beautiful and functional room that brings pleasure every day is an appealing value proposition to many Long Islanders. Getting the details right and prioritizing your budget will be life-changing when you are finally finished renovating and you begin to experience life in your new kitchen. The advantage of renovating is that the kitchen will be customized to your specific needs and desired aesthetic.
When you decide to sell your home, the kitchen will be the number-one attraction. A kitchen that reflects your personality and works well with your lifestyle makes a house a home.
As you see, there is no “one size fits all” evaluation. Base your offer on the upgrades you feel are necessary for your unique situation, and conduct your own research. No matter what your budget, a kitchen design professional can help you get the most out of your space and budget.
Ken Kelly of Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly, Inc., in Williston Park is a Certified Kitchen Designer, Certified Bath Designer and Certified Remodeler. His website is Kitchendesigns.com, and the phone number is 516-746-3435.