Ok, so there are so many facets to rehabbing a house.

Budgets,Contractors,Design,Materials,Layouts,Bump out walls,Breakfast bars,Appliances,Fixtures,Counter-tops Etc

AND, there are lots of other things to consider.

  • What’s the neighborhood doing… or what do the other houses that are selling have
  • Can you just reface the cabinets, or paint them
  • Can you just replace the counter-tops and add a back splash
  • Just paint the kitchen and add new appliances

‘How Far Do You Go With It?’

We’re not going to talk about what you may do for a rental, that’s another ball of wax…

Typically I don’t like to paint cabinets, or save them, resurface them, etc. I have done this before and have had everything turn out just great, but I generally like selling that ‘New Kitchen’ look. IMG_0843

I like to ‘Rehab to the Neighborhood’ meaning, I look at what the other houses around that are selling and try to match or beat their product. If they have higher end looking kitchens, I’ll match that. If they have the classic modern nice clean kitchen for a starter home, then that’s what I’ll do. I don’t like to go way over the top crazy expensive in an area that doesn’t demand that look. No need for a high end custom kitchen with viking appliances for a 175k neighborhood.

So what we will discuss here, is a house we are doing in Mid County. The materials, design, strategy and results.

This was a pretty big house, 1700 or so sqft, and the biggest ‘Value Plays’ on this project was to add a ½ bath on the 1st floor, re-work the bedroom configuration on the 2nd floor to make the rooms a little bigger, and updating the kitchen to fit in with our end marketing strategy of ‘Old World Charm with Modern Amenities.’

So let’s talk materials/design:

This is a VERY important piece of advice… KEEP IT SIMPLE. Have 2 different paint colors to choose from. I like a grey and a tan color scheme. Have 2 different bathroom designs to choose from, have 2 different kitchen designs to choose from. Come in with a plan, because it could take days to pick out these things each time you do it, and if you do several of these a year or a month even, this process of picking out materials will eat up your time and make you frustrated… trust me.

So as far as a budget is concerned, let’s talk numbers. We never put a fridge in our homes anymore. Let the buyer handle that. Unless you are doing high end renovations where buyers want that high end fridge, it is not necessary. If a buyer wants you to include a fridge, let them ask for it in the contract. That’s my take anyway, and a lot of other rehabbers think the same. Stainless Steel appliances are in, so get them. Dishwasher, Microwave, Stove and disposal are all you need here. You should be able to find all of these for 1500.

Cabinets should be broken down to White and Mocha/Chocolate. I like Shaker Style Cabinets. We pick white if we are going with a darker flooring, and Mocha/Chocolate if we are going with a lighter flooring. As far as layouts are concerned, this is about the only aspect that takes time for us. Do we blow out a wall for a breakfast bar, do we move the sink, do we move a window, do we completely redesign… etc. And yes I said a White Kitchen. This is really in right now, and most cabinet makers are saying they are selling more white kitchens than anything else right now.


On this house, we decided to open up a wall for a breakfast bar, rework some walls/access into the kitchen to allow for more cabinets, and use the existing pantry for storage. We used White Shaker Cabinets, a light tan paint color, stainless steel appliances, a light grey/white/specs of black granite counter-tops and brushed nickel fixtures, and a darker stained hardwood floor throughout the house and into the kitchen as well. The dark floors with the white cabinets will look fantastic.

Opening up and moving walls does present a few other challenges. You’ll have to have a header if you open up a wall (this isn’t very scary though and might only add 1200-1500 from a skilled contractor) The header braces the ceiling from caving in. You may also have some electric or duct work that needs moving as well.IMG_0861

The cabinets in this house totaled around 2200. (we got those at Hoods and got some holiday special price with 20% off) The counter-tops can’t be measured and ordered until the cabinets are set in place. They are ordered, and we are going with granite, and they will cost around 1800. Also, we are using Subway Tiles with grey grout for a back splash, it is a nice clean finish and it looks really expensive and polished.

All in all, this project has progressed nicely. Like all projects we are about 2 weeks behind schedule. They always take longer, so face it… that’s just the way it is. And the rest of the house had several other challenges as well. Lots of plumbing issues, electrical issues, water issues, windows, outside, roof, you name it. I wanted to to just focus on the kitchen for this post, because it’s probably one of the most important rooms in the house. It’s where you really want it to look like you put most of your money into it. It has to be the main selling feature of the house. The kind of kitchen where someone can imagine getting a bowl of cereal and making coffee in the morning, making dinner for family or friends, entertaining for birthday parties or at the big game etc. It’s where most people spend a lot of time, or think they’ll spend a lot of time. In reality, the busy lifestyle of today’s most meals will probably be take out or pizza delivery… ha.

Either way, the kitchen doesn’t have to cost a lot, to make it look expensive and to make it sell the house. It just needs the right design, materials and strategy, and I hope this was useful to help you see the potential in your next project.

For now,

Nick Baur
SSIC/Real Estate Rehab