What's Your Opinion for an outdated Kitchen?

Home Stager with Judy Heinrich Home Staging

Assuming budget is an issue and you want to get the most bang for your buck...

Would you recommend sellers invest in granite and stainless appliances in an otherwise outdated kitchen.  For instance, say a seller has old, cheap cabinets. Perhaps they've painted them white (or whatever) so they look better, but they're still old and quite frankly, cheap. Or maybe they are the type that were popular in the 80's - those white with wood trim ones (we've all seen them) Would you still recommend putting expensive granite on top of them?  

I ask this question for no particular reason other than I'm curious what others think.  To me it seems like such a waste of money if the original cabinets are ugly and most likely would be removed in a kitchen update.  I'm conflicted because I know buyers like granite and stainless, but would it be better to spend the money on new hardware, paint, nice formica type counter tops (they have some good selections nowadays), a decent looking floor, etc.  For me, I would feel like I was stuck with the dated cabinets just to save the nice granite counters. I'd rather have a less expensive, but nice looking kitchen that I wouldn't feel guilty about ripping out when the time came.  However, I don't want my personal opinion to influence my recommendations to a client should the occasion arise.

So, what's your opinion?


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Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Judy: What kind of countertops are in the house now and what condition are they in? We sold a house a few years ago when we moved from Denver. The kitchen was 80's style white formica cabinets with a gray band on the edge. The countertop was gray formica. I inherited that kitchen from the previous owner, but everything was in excellent condition. I bought new hardware for the cabinets (forks, knives and spoons from Home Depot) and new stainless appliances. Everyone who saw the house flipped over the kitchen and thought it was wonderful. I am convinced that the kitchen staging and appliances are what sold that house, even with the old cabinets. BTW, the house sold in less than 24 hours with 3 good offers all over asking.

The important thing is that everything be in good condition. If not, would they consider IKEA cabinets? With the right hardware and countertops they look great and are very cost effective.

Nov 08, 2008 12:08 AM #1
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Michelle - This is more of a hypothetical question since I don't have a particular client in mind at the moment.  I recently saw a picture somewhere that got me thinking about it and what I've recommended in the past.  I think the price point for the property and what potential buyers would expect to find in that price point plays a big roll as well.  For instance, i recently did a consultation for a client who's house was a very basic, starter home that needed TLC.  She asked me if she should have granite put in (the blue formica counters had to go).  I thought her money would be better spent on other things I recommended such as paint, hardware, update lighting, etc. and recommended she replace the counters with an updated laminate.  I couldn't help but question myself if I gave her the best advice.

Here's a picture of another house I worked on recently.  Here they painted the cabinets, replaced the counters with updated formica, replaced hardware, floor, etc. I think for this type of house, it was money well spent.  Granite in here I think would have been excess, but that's why I'm asking... curious for everyone else's opinion (in case I'm wrong!).  

Nov 08, 2008 12:35 AM #2
Wanda Richards
Shows Great Home Staging and Web Solutions - Roanoke, VA
Shows Great Home Staging

Judy- I agree with you and Michelle.  Granite is always nice but in some price ranges I think it is overkill and not money that the sellers will get back in return.  The photo of the kitchen above is a prefect example of a great kitchen in a moderate price range.  It is my opinion that you have to consider the budget of the sellers and the price range of the property.  I am working with a new company to put an overlayment on old counter tops.  It is much cheaper and looks almost like granite.  I will post photos and prices once I have the job complete.     

Nov 08, 2008 12:46 AM #3
Fernando Rosado
West Palm Beach, FL
561-906-0050 or 561-840-8950

Hi Judy !

 I agree that I would not remodel the old cabinets. Heres my suggestion: I think that all cabinets should be repainted white to make them look clean. Then with the magic of staging place accessories in key places to distract attention from it. But seller should consider putting a sign saying something to the effect of " To help you update your kitchen owner will pay all closing costs" or " owner will give $5000. to help with kitchen renovation"

Nov 08, 2008 02:59 AM #4
AJ Heidmann ~ CRS
McEnearney Associates, Inc. - Alexandria, VA
YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert

Judy - we recommend that many of our sellers upgrade to granite, as this is pretty much expected in this area (as real estate is local).  However, the ultimate decision to do it is based on the condition of the cabinetry.  Please see the photo below of a new listing we just received (it was a rental & the tenant decided to paint!).  We determined that the cabinetry was in such poor condition that to put on granite would be viewed as putting "lipstick on a pig".  So we are in the process of pricing out unfinished oak cabinetry available off the shelf at Lowes for the entire kitchen.  We will then paint them, rather than staining, to compliment the granite & white appliances (also buying flat top stove, full dishwasher and microwave for above the stove). 

I anticipate a budget of roughly $4,000, which will turn this from the least desirable unit in the developement to one in the top 10%-15%.  This should allow us to increase our list price by roughly $15K versus selling it in it's current state.

Wanda - this kitchen had a overlay treatment of some type applied within the past 2 years, but it is not aging well, with chips & stains.  Does the company you use have a solid substance that they put over the old cabinets, something like a bath fitters treatment, or is it a liquid/paste type material?

Nov 08, 2008 03:48 AM #5
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

AJ & Jodee: Just a suggestion - If you are going to paint the cabinets, select a wood with a small, tight grain like maple or poplar, or get cabinets with MDF (medium density fiberboard) doors. Oak has a noticable grain which will show through multiple layers of paint. Maple, poplar or MDF do not.

Nov 08, 2008 03:58 AM #6
Robyn Guinn
StageAZ - Phoenix, AZ
Home staging, Arizona

I too think it's the price point for the decision, we wanted to put granite in the house we are flipping but decided against it and going with some very cool laminate.  We are painting the cabinets as they are the whitewashed look from the 90's but they are the 42" inch cabinets so they look newer.  

Nov 08, 2008 09:18 AM #7
Gayle Balaban
The Best Spot Realty/Waterfront Real Estate/Ooltewah Real E - Chattanooga, TN
E. TN Waterfront Real Estate

i am a Realtor, not a stager, but, I have been doing a lot of thinking on this for my own home.  I believe that stainless and granite has run it's course and something new will pop up that is warmer and considered upscale.  JMO

Nov 08, 2008 10:01 AM #8
Margaret Oscilia
Creative Concepts-Home Staging and Contracting, Salem Oregon - Salem, OR
Home Stager, Salem Oregon

Another option for cabinets (if they are decent like Robyn's) is re-staining them.  Miller Paint has a product - RUDD which can be used directly OVER varathaned surfaces.  It is a glaze - you can take the whitewash look and transform it without sanding.  Top coat it with varathane and it's as hard as the original stain . . . I need to do a blog about this product because I'm really sold on it!

Nov 08, 2008 10:16 AM #9
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

Granite is over-rated, and soon I suspect a strong backlash against it. Once you breach that sealer, it's curtains, and it's VERY EASY to do this. I also find people not complying with the re-sealing needs, which you MUST DO every two years. So all that purty rock is going to look like crap, and just like wallpaper of the 80's, because it costs so much, people will hang onto it despite the fact it is tore up, and people will avoid it like the plague on resale.

Kitchens often times happen to have red wine, oils, and spaghetti sauce being used on those counters. One little cut, that stuff gets in the pores, and it's virtually ruined unless you can afford to refinish. The granite re-surfacing business will be make a fortune very soon.

So, I recommend look-alikes that do not harbor bacteria and do not have the same issues as granite, and never will. Here's an article at HGTV about it. I usually unfailingly recommend Silestone quartz, or WilsonartHD Laminate. Laminate is incredible these days... I have  on purpose in my own kitchen because I cannot destroy it and it looks great. I am practical about stuff like that. There is a reason why it is still in so many houses after 30+ years, often showing no wear!






Nov 08, 2008 02:40 PM #10
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - BuyStageSell.com - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

Depends on the price range really, doesn't it?  There are certain areas where formica is not a choice that would be accepted.  SO, granite it is.  I think you've done a great job on the kitchens you are showing, so looks like you've made a good choice for your clients.

Nov 08, 2008 04:32 PM #11
David Saks
(retired) - Memphis, TN

Anything to brighten it up and create space is a thumbs up, Judy. I've always felt that the maximum use of the open area, and restricting storage to the walls, creates the optimal working and unwinding environment. More visability is good. Hope your having a great weekend.

Nov 08, 2008 05:17 PM #12
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Wanda - I would love to hear more about the overlay.  I know when I was in California everyone had white tile counters and there was a company that made something to cover them, similar to a corian type product.  It looked nice but I didn't care for the thickness - made the counters look really think.  Anxious to hear more about what you've come across

Fernando - Painting old cabinets instantly refreshes them.  I'm not sure I would put a sign on the counter, but the listing details should certainly address that.  I usually recommend my clients take care of the updates rather than giving an allowance, if possible.

Al & Jodee - Wow, that's some paint job!  Sounds like the changes you are planning are right on track.  I echo Michelle's comment about the type of wood concerning the grain. 

Robyn - There are some really great laminates available today... sounds like it makes sense here.

Best Spot - I'm sure you're right, something new and different will pop up, it always does.  But for now, at least in my area, everyone wants granite.

Margaret - sounds like a great product, I'd love to hear more about it.... please blog!

Michelle - Your absolutely right, granite is a commitment to maintenance.  Something very easy to forget about until it's too late.

Nov 09, 2008 11:01 PM #13
Michael Fontana
Round Rock Home Stager Austin Home Staging - Round Rock, TX
@ The Stage Coach

hi, Judy:
I admit I only read the first few responses, so I apologize if I am repeating some one else here.  It's my opinion that the kind of renovations you are mentioning are not likely to add value in the short term. Depending on the expected list price of the home, cleaning, painting and Staging would be my first investments. 

But, and there's always a but, if three out of four of the neighbors have done these renovations, like new cabinets and countertops, it would help bring the house up to par.

It really depends on the situation.  One of my clients was listing their disabled father's home, and it was his, free and clear from the bank.  He paid $40k for the home back in the 1960's. Today, the list price was expected to exceed $250k in As-Is condition. They might have seen $300k for the home had they invested in kitchens and baths, etc.  But frankly, I suggested they take the money and run.  As it was an old house, you never know what lies behind the walls.  And if you discover some thing horrible, and not disclose you it, you could get in big trouble. Let a young couple or flipper grab it and do these renovations.

Just my 2x Cents.

The Stage Coach Home Stager Austin Home Staging Round Rock Home Stager

Nov 10, 2008 02:47 AM #14
Laurie Logan
Keller Williams Realty, Inc., Broker Associate - Madison, WI
South Central WI Real Estate

If the cabinets are poor and due to be replaced, the buyer will also consider reconfiguring the cabinetry - which menas the counters will go into the dumpster.

Putting granite on crappy cabinets is a waste of money.   JMO!

Nov 10, 2008 03:50 AM #15
Allegra Dioguardi
Styled and Sold Home Staging and Staging Training - Westhampton Beach, NY
Home Staging & Training, Suffolk Co. Long Island

I think the popularity of granite has peaked. Aside from the maintenance issues has anyone read anything about the radon content in granite? It's starting to come in the media, it could potentially be a buyer turn off. Stay tuned! Soapstone which is more organic looking (not as shiny) as granite and some of the new counters made of recycled materials may be the next contenders. Also, I attended a trend seminar earlier this year. Colored glass (white, black and even red) appliances are supposed to be the next stainless, stainless is a maintenance problem too.

In answer to your question, if the kitchen is a tear down, the budget is limited and the rest of the house needs work it's a tough call but I think I'd rather see the money spent else where as you mentioned.

Nov 20, 2008 11:22 AM #16
Kathleen Lordbock
Keller Williams Realty Professionals - Baxter, MN
Keller Williams Realty Professionals

Make it as neutral and undisgusting as possible. Sparkling clean, painted cabinets and an appropriate countertop for that price home.   In my area a tile countertop goes in easy and looks fresh and nice. Million dollar mansions here have all the bells and whistles which will be the latest and greatest technoloy and maybe cement countertops or an exotic wood. Price and the standard for the neighborhood.

Dec 07, 2008 07:56 AM #17
Kelly Townsend
Coldwell Banker - Santa Rosa, CA
CDPE, Realtor

Hi Judy -

This is a really good question. One that we will all face at some point. I really think you have to take into consideration what the other homes in the neighborhood and the comparables look like in that price range. I don't think I would go with a granite slab, but I might consider a company called Granite Transformations. We actually did this in our kichen and I am very happy with it. It is eco-friendly in that you don't demo anything, it goes right over the top. It wears better than granite because it has a 5% polymer so that it doesn't stain. The other thing I would suggest when painting cabinets white is not to go with a bright white but something with a bit of tone to it. It keeps it from feeling too stark. I think overall with a small budget, it just has to look clean and put together. I usually try to figure out how to take away the worst of the negatives and work from there.

Dec 19, 2008 06:26 AM #18
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