7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling

Follow these seven strategies to get the most financial gain on your kitchen remodel.

Homeowners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project. And with good reason: Kitchens are the hub of home life and a source of pride.


A significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. Kitchen remodels in the $50,000 to $60,000 range recoup about 74% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to recent data from Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

A minor kitchen remodel of about $19,000 does even better, returning more than 82% of your investment.

To maximize your return on investment, follow these seven strategies to keep you on budget and help you make smart choices.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning your kitchen remodel should take more time than the actual construction. If you plan well, the amount of time you’re inconvenienced by construction mayhem will be minimized. Plus, you’re more likely to stay on budget.

How much time should you spend planning? The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least six months. That way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction and create change orders, which will inflate construction costs and hurt your return on investment. 

Some tips on planning:

Study your existing kitchen: How wide is the doorway into your kitchen? It’s a common mistake many homeowners make: Buying the extra-large fridge only to find they can’t get it in the doorway. To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, walkways, counters, etc. And don’t forget height, too.

Think about traffic patterns: Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets; counter heights that can adjust up or down; a wall oven instead of a range: These are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone — and a pleasure to work in.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Build in a little leeway for completing the remodel. Want it done by Thanksgiving? Then plan to be done before Halloween.

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors. Expect fees around $50 to $150 per hour, or 5% to 15% of the total cost of the project.


2. Keep the Same Footprint

Nothing will drive up the cost of a remodel faster than changing the location of plumbing pipes and electrical outlets, and knocking down walls. This is usually where unforeseen problems occur.

So if possible, keep appliances, water fixtures, and walls in the same location. 

Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you’ll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.


3. Get Real About Appliances

It’s easy to get carried away when planning your new kitchen. A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator may make eye-catching centerpieces, but they may not fit your cooking needs or lifestyle.

Appliances are essentially tools used to cook and store food. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be about the tools, but the design and functionality of the entire kitchen.

So unless you’re an exceptional cook who cooks a lot, concentrate your dollars on long-term features that add value, such as cabinets and flooring. 

Then choose appliances made by trusted brands that have high marks in online reviews and Consumer Reports.

More tips on planning a kitchen remodel:


4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Lighting

Lighting can make a world of difference in a kitchen. It can make it look larger and brighter. And it will help you work safely and efficiently. You should have two different types of lighting in your kitchen:
Task Lighting: Under-cabinet lighting should be on your must-do list, since cabinets create such dark work areas. And since you’re remodeling, there won’t be a better time to hard-wire your lights. (Here’s more about under-cabinet lights.) Plan for at least two fixtures per task area to eliminate shadows. Pendant lights are good for islands and other counters without low cabinets. Recessed lights and track lights work well over sinks and general prep areas with no cabinets overhead.

Ambient lighting: Flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights create overall lighting in your kitchen. Include dimmer switches to control intensity and mood.


5. Be Quality-Conscious

Functionality and durability should be top priorities during kitchen remodeling. Resist low-quality bargains, and choose products that combine low maintenance with long warranty periods. Solid-surface countertops, for instance, may cost a little more, but with the proper care, they’ll look great for a long time.

And if you’re planning on moving soon, products with substantial warranties are a selling advantage.

a kitchen remodel:


6. Storage will never go out of style, but if you’re sticking with the same footprint, here are a couple of ideas to add more: 

Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more — and you might need a stepladder — but you’ll gain valuable storage space for Christmas platters and other once-a-year items. In addition, you won’t have to dust cabinet tops.

Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas and inside cabinet doors; hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling-mounted rack; and add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.


7. Communicate Clearly With Your Remodelers

Establishing a good rapport with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. To keep the sweetness in your project:

Drop by the project during work hours: Your presence broadcasts your commitment to quality.

Establish a communication routine: Hang a message board on site where you and the project manager can leave daily communiqués. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.

Set house rules: Be clear about smoking, boom box noise levels, available bathrooms, and appropriate parking.

Be kind: Offer refreshments (a little hospitality can go a long way), give praise when warranted, and resist pestering them with conversation, jokes, and questions when they are working. They’ll work better when refreshed and allowed to concentrate on work.



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Gen Y is Ready to Buy

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When to Consider a Price Reduction

Now that we are entering summer there has been a sharp increase in available homes for sale. July is traditionally the biggest month for new listings in San Diego. So now that sellers are facing more competition to sell their home, pricing correctly is even more important. The market will tell you if you are over priced, no more having to listen to that pesky agent. What are the clues?

1. Your home isn’t getting seen.

Buyers are really smart these days and have tons of tools to help them research their purchase. Buyers know when they are seeing a price that is over the market. An over priced home isn’t worth their time. If your home isn’t getting seen it can’t sell. Buyers are telling you that your price is turning them off.

2. You are getting a lot of traffic but no offers.

You will get the highest traffic during the first 14 days your home is on the market. But if all that attention isn’t resulting in an offer, buyers are telling you something. Either the condition of the home is turning them off or your price is. Most buyers understand that they will have to pay something close to asking price for a great home, but if your home is over priced, they won’t even bother trying to negotiate you down to market.

3. Your home has been on the market longer than similar homes.

As I mentioned, buyers are smart and if a home has been on the market for 30 or 45 days when other homes in the neighborhood have sold in 15 days, buyers notice. The first question I get from my buyer clients is “What is wrong with the house that it is still available?” There can never be a good answer to this question from a seller’s perspective. A close examination of why you are still sitting while everyone else is selling is often price related.

4. You have a deadline.

We are finding more and more “motivated” sellers on the market. In real estate speak “motivated” means the sellers need to sell for some reason. Yesterday I saw a home and the agent told me the sellers were very motivated. I have to question just how motivated the sellers really are as the house is at least $25,000 over priced in my opinion. Remember a home is only worth what a qualified buyer will pay, not what a seller thinks it is worth. Your deadline means nothing to a buyer, your price does speak volumes to a buyer.

5. You can’t make upgrades or repairs.

Chances are sellers are tapped out when it comes time to sell their home. Many homes have differed maintenance or are a bit out dated. Sellers are putting their money into a move, another house, retirement or any of a huge number of other pots and don’t have the time, energy or desire to do even basic updates. If this is you as a seller then a price adjustment is in order. I met with a seller recently who told me all about the price of homes selling in his neighborhood in hopes his would sell as high. Problem, his house needed a ton of work to match those sold homes. Condition still matters and if you don’t have the money to make the upgrades be prepared to adjust your price accordingly.

6. Competing homes in the neighborhood have changed.

If your home was listed 45 days ago and since then, 4-5 other homes have come on the market, it might be wise to reevaluate your home and price against these new homes. Real estate is constantly evolving and smart sellers use that evolution to make necessary adjustments.

If you are thinking about selling your San Diego home, contact me for a complementary market analysis so you can see how you stack up against the competition.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

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Sellers Are Feeling Good About Home Prices


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How Did Home Sellers Handle Multiple Offers?

How Did Home Sellers Handle Multiple Offers

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California Spring Home Buying Season 2014

California Spring Home Buying Season 2014

There is a lot of good news for home buyers as we enter the Spring home buying season.

Interest rates have recovered from the first of the year. Historically interest rates rise at the beginning of every new year and then settle down about 6 weeks later. 2014 was not different as home buyers watched interest rates drop almost 1/2% from January to February. While rates are still almost 1% higher than this time last year, they have remained in the 4%’s since last June.

The inventory of available homes for sale is increasing. Home owners have seen nice increases in home equity over the last 2 years and many can now make that move they have been putting off. California in general has risen 1 full month since February, 2013. In February, 2014 California saw a 4.7 months supply of available homes. Some very popular areas are still struggling but the trends seem positive.

Lenders are again offering a mixed bag of financing options. During 2011-2013 just about every lender was offering only 30 year fixed mortgages as the safest instrument available. We are now seeing lenders offering adjustable rate mortgages with attractive rates. Adjustable rate mortgage can be very attractive if you know you will be moving within the locked rate period. Many first time buyers typically live in their first home 5-8 years. For these buyers an adjustable rate mortgage with a lock period of 5-7 years can be a nice option. Be sure to check with your lender for all of the disclosures associated with these mortgages.

The California Spring Home Buying Season in 2014 looks brighter for home buyers.

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FHA to offer Mortgage Insurance Discount to First-Time Buyers

FHA to offer Mortgage Insurance discount to first-time-buyers

Carol Galante, FHA commissioner, announced on Tuesday that FHA would offer discounts on mortgage insurance premiums to first-time buyers who completed housing counseling.

FHA mortgages have been an important sources of loans for many low-income and middle class home buyers for years. During the housing meltdown, FHA became the preferred lender when traditional banks pulled back on mortgage lending. However, the FHA target market also were some of the most at risk home owners and many lost their homes during the meltdown. FHA came under fire from Congressional leaders for poor lending standards, as millions of Americans lost their homes during the meltdown. In an effort to shore up their financial base, FHA raised mortgage insurance levels over the last few years and now carry the highest insurance levels in the market place. This rise in mortgage insurance premiums has caused many buyers to abandon the program for more conventional financing.

During her speech on Tuesday at the NCSHA The Affordable Housing Opportunity conference, Ms. Galante told the audience that first-time buyers who complete HUD-approved home buying counseling will get a discount on their mortgage insurance. According to HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan, evidence is showing that home buying counseling actually lowers the risk of default for borrowers.

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