The kitchen is one of the most carefully scrutinized rooms in a home that's on the market. It’s imperative the room looks clean, bright and welcoming because the buyer has to consider the amount of time that will be spent there cooking family meals, entertaining and even helping with homework. Somehow everyone congregates in the kitchen, so it’s no surprise homebuyers look for an updated kitchen.

According to a 2013 National Association of Realtors Home Features Survey, granite countertops were important to 20 percent of homebuyers. While new kitchen appliances and eat-in kitchens were most important to buyers, the kitchen was the most common home improvement made after purchase.

But if homebuyers plan on improving the kitchen after the sale anyway, shouldn’t a seller leave it as-is to save money?

Definitely not. A home seller needs to inspire the buyer and show the space has potential. If not, it’s likely the buyer will make a low-ball offer. Here are a few projects that a seller can implement to freshen up the kitchen for less than $1,000.

[See: 9 Easy Ways to Boost Your Home's Curb Appeal.]

New coat of paint. Painting a room is one of the easiest, most cost effective ways to update its surface. Choose an off white, beige, gray, yellow, green or even a blue to give the kitchen new life. If using a pop of color, make sure it fits in with the architecture and design style of the property. Avoid using bold hues during a sale that can put buyers off.

Cared-for cabinets. The cabinets and drawers are a major component of any kitchen. What do yours look like? Replacing cabinetry can get expensive, but sellers can cheat by painting them or just replacing the doors with a newer look. Consider doing a combination of both. A popular kitchen trend today is having mismatched cabinetry with different materials and colors, so replace the top and paint the bottom. White kitchen cabinets are still the most popular.

Open shelving. Replace some of old cabinetry with open shelving to create a functional place to display your favorite dishes. Make sure the shelf is at least 12 inches deep to hold items, and the shelves can be wood or painted for a custom look.

Blinged-out hardware. For less than $200 a seller can replace the knobs and pulls on their cabinets to create a completely different look in the room. It’s amazing how these small details can set the tone for the kitchen. Have a tighter budget? Take your old hardware and wash them well with warm water and soap, than spray paint them in a metal finish – gold is making a comeback, and would make for an on-trend look.

[Read: 6 Easy Home Upgrades for Under $100.]

Resurfaced counters. The Real Estate Staging Association’s report on kitchens, published in 2014, notes the most recommended countertop material for resale is granite and replacing the kitchen counters is one of the top recommendations made among home stagers for resale. Granite is about $30 per square foot, so you may want to replace the countertop only for smaller kitchens. On tight budgets focus on keeping the surface clean and clutter free by reducing the number of appliances on the counter.

Added personality. If you’re kitchen is bland, boring or old, plan on changing out the backsplash. There are several affordable options that can spice up the kitchen. Look to install laminated thermoplastic panels, stainless steel or mosaic tiles.

Fresh fixtures. Buy a new faucet to mount if your old one has seen better days. There are a variety of styles and finishes that can vary in cost. If your sink can handle it, choose a faucet with a considerable spout height and reach to look more sophisticated. If your budget allows, a faucet with a pull-down sprayer is often a plus for potential buyers.

Lighting. If your light fixture is dating the room, replace it with a newer version. Look for pendant lights for the ceiling that can enhance the design style over your kitchen island, and replace discolored and sticky hi-hats. Try adding inexpensive under-mounted cabinet lights to add task lighting and set the mood.

[See: Current Design Trends That Will date Your Home.]

Appliances. Buying brand new appliances for less than $1,000 can be hard, so hit up manufacture outlets, check for tax credits or work with what you have. Use appliance paint or consider changing out the front door of a rough-looking oven. There’s even stainless steel appliance film that sticks to the front of the machine for a newer look.

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, existing home sales, home improvements


Tori Toth is a best-selling author, DIY and lifestyle expert, award-winning home stager and lifestyle authority. She can show anybody how to add more value to their home by giving the tools needed to prepare and showcase any home for sale. She works with consumers, real estate agents, or anybody else who wants to make their home look its best quickly and easily. Home staging is a strategic marketing tool for the biggest return on investment of a home, focusing on renovation and creative design. By creating a lifestyle that buyers will find aspirational, Tori Toth will demonstrate methods of rearranging, organizing and in many cases, adding or editing furniture and home décor. The best, clearest, most helpful information of how to stage a home with and be an immediate success can be found in Tori’ best-selling book "Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell."

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