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Splurge on the kitchen and you'll likely cook up a sale

It can be well worth the investment to create an attractive kitchen, since that is often the first thing home buyers are looking for.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 23, 2002


If you're thinking about selling your house, think about your kitchen.

Is it everything it could be?

If not, it would be well worth the investment to crank it up a notch.

Real estate agents say kitchens are the first things home buyers scrutinize when looking for a house.

"It's at the top of the list," says Jackie Hutchinson, a real estate agent with Smith and Associates. "What people want is a nice kitchen."

"It's very, very important," says Coldwell Banker real estate agent Kathy Pawlkop. "When they walk in to look at the house, the first things they're going to look at are the kitchen and the master bath. It's got to look good."

"Anything that you do to a kitchen with taste you can usually recoup," says Ginger Crabtree, a real estate agent with Florida Executive Realty in South Tampa. "It's very, very important that kitchens and bathrooms look their best when you go on the market."

When you fix up a kitchen, you will recoup the money you spend on the project and then some.

"It can add money to your sale," Pawlkop says.

At the very least, says Crabtree, clean out the cabinets and remove all clutter from the countertops.

"Take everything off the refrigerator," Crabtree advises. "All your children's pictures from schools. You'd be surprised how many homes we walk into and you can't see the refrigerator."

The goal is to make the kitchen look spacious, clean and bright.

A fresh coat of paint can work wonders, Pawlkop says, but it won't hurt to spring for new cabinets and countertops, which can cost as little as $2,500.

"It's not expensive to do now because you can go to Home Depot and sit on a computer and they'll lay it all out and show you what it's going to look like," Pawlkop says.

Add new appliances, and the cost can increase to $10,000 or more, but even that can be worth the expense.

"Anybody can go hog wild and you can spend any amount you want to spend," Pawlkop says. "You can spend $25,000 on a kitchen. But if it's done right you're definitely going to get your money back. Absolutely."

If you'd rather not renovate, Crabtree suggests discounting the price on the house and getting an estimate for new countertops and cabinets so potential home buyers will know how much they'll have to spend to upgrade.

Cosmetically, the trend in kitchens right now is Corian or granite countertops and light wood cabinets. Gas appliances have also become popular, and are standard in some newer communities, including Westchase and Waterchase in northwest Hillsborough county and Arbor Greene in Tampa.

"It's a nice way to cook and it saves on electric," Pawlkop says.

If there's room for it, kitchen islands are gaining in popularity, and kitchens that integrate into the family room are also appealing to buyers.

"Face it," Pawlkop says. "When you're entertaining everyone congregates in the kitchen."

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