Thursday, August 20, 2009

Granite and Stainless Steel Appliances are Over-Rated (and not required) in all Anoka County Kitchens!

As a REALTOR® I have fun watching the HGTV’s remodeling, staging and sell-your-house-now shows but not all the advice is going to make sense for every home and every market. Case in point, kitchen remodels. You’d think watching these shows that the only way a real estate agent can sell a house with a new kitchen is if it has been remodeled with granite and stainless steel appliances. It seems that every real estate agent that walks through a newly remodeled kitchen is either gushing about the “perfect” choice of granite or lamenting about how the new white appliances were the wrong choice.

Here’s the problem…Each show has one agent in a particular town giving a personal opinion based on their knowledge of their market. Time after time I see these REALTOR’s® crestfallen faces as they enter the kitchen as eager sellers show off their beautifully remodeled space where they have chosen…can you believe it…WHITE appliances! The agent will gush over the granite and maybe the tile backsplash or light fixtures then question the choice of appliances. “Why, oh why did you not choose stainless steel?” they often lament. “But you did make an excellent choice with the granite counters.”

Now add in that some of these shows are reruns from a few years back and one has to ask the question, does it always make sense to always use granite and stainless in a kitchen remodel? My answer is no.

A few weeks ago, I showed late 1980’s built four level split in Ham Lake just a few miles north of Blaine. The selling features included a couple of acres with mature trees, a polebarn garage, a just completed four season sunroom and remodeled kitchen. The kitchen had beautiful granite counters and island accented by high end stainless appliances. Unfortunately, it also had the original 1980’s windows that had seen better days. The wood rot was evident and progressing to a point where the windows would require replacing throughout the original part of the home. Add to this the complete lack of window treatments in the new family room which meant there was zero privacy as the bank of floor to ceiling glass faced the street. If the homeowners had gone with good quality appliances and high end laminate counters instead, they could have diverted the thousands of dollars from the kitchen remodel to replace windows and purchase window treatments for the sunroom.

Here’s another point….Even if the home was in pristine condition, it is doubtful that the sellers would ever see a positive return on their granite investment. In fact, in the Twin Cities the average homeowner will see a return of about 72% on their investment on a kitchen remodel…NOT 100%! If homeowners overpay for the materials used, that percentage will no doubt drop like a chunk of granite used in the remodel! If the homeowner intends to eventually sell, upgrades like granite might help the home to sell faster in a slow market, but dollar for dollar return in most cases would be lower than going with high quality laminate in an older north metro Twin Cities home. (For more information on return on remodeling investments see the
Cost vs. Value Report 2008 for the Mpls/St Paul area.)

Now had the home been a bit newer and located just to the south in one of the Blaine neighborhoods near the Tournament Player’s Club golf course where everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has granite and stainless, you bet, that not having these features would be a big negative when the owners went to sell. But this was not the case in a mid-range 1980's Ham Lake neighborhood.

Here’s the bottomline on remodeling your home…If you plan to move in the near future, make required repairs first and be certain your upgrades fit YOUR neighborhood. As a local REALTOR® who knows the Twin Cities North and East Metro, I am here to help!

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm