Why Real Estate Agents Wish You Wouldn’t Get Discouraged by Outdated Kitchens

published Feb 23, 2023
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When I was searching for my first home, I saw the most incredible outdated kitchen. The cabinets were mint green, the appliances were all white, and the backsplash was shiny gold. I adored it. I know, though, that a lot of people don’t share my quirky taste, and many buyers might be turned off by an outdated kitchen. But here’s why you shouldn’t be.

The reality is, most kitchens are outdated in some aspect.

Unless the house has just been renovated, the kitchen is often at least a little outdated. “Most buyers want new, within five years old for example,” says Compass broker Michael J. Franco. It’s rare to see a sparkling new renovation like that, he explains.

But don’t let that stop you from buying your dream home.

Just because a kitchen is outdated, that doesn’t mean it’s going to cost a fortune to update. Take stock of what’s there and see if you need a gut renovation or just a facelift, says agent Steven Gottlieb of Warburg Realty. Generally cosmetic changes won’t be that big a deal, but “if the kitchen needs to be completely gutted, then the buyer should really think about whether they have the bandwidth for this,” Gottlieb says.

Agent Parisa Afkhami, also of Warburg Realty, notes that an outdated kitchen could even be a good thing for you as a buyer.

“I have seen, in smaller studios or one bedrooms, an outdated kitchen becomes a negotiating tool to a lower price offer, but not a reason to walk away,” she says.

In either case, you can factor the costs of any update into the purchase price.

There is one instance where you should walk away from the sale, though.

“A kitchen is the heart of today’s home and is often a focal point for home buyers,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at Opendoor. “Unlike other rooms in a house, kitchens experience heavy traffic and a lot of movement.”

That means it can get uncomfortable or frustrating when a kitchen isn’t laid out the way that works best for your family. If you need to completely change the layout or size, de Jong says, it would probably be more cost-effective to walk away. That being said, though, she also notes “remodeling a kitchen is one of the smartest investments you can make,” so it may be worth the extra cost anyway.

If you don’t have the budget or desire for a remodel, try these quick fixes.

All the agents we interviewed agreed that some minor cosmetic changes can make a big difference in an outdated kitchen. You could replace the cabinet doors or paint them (after all, Gottlieb says, “they’re just wooden boxes”), you could update the backsplash or countertops (de Jong says faux stone is a great option), you could add an accent wall or change the cabinet hardware. For a slightly higher investment, but still much lower than overhauling the kitchen completely, change out the lighting, update the floors, or get new appliances.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Why Real Estate Agents Wish You Wouldn’t Get Distracted by Outdated Kitchens