Looking to achieve a better return on investment from your next home remodel? The design options can be staggering and a remodel can quickly become overwhelming if you’re inexperienced with what design options will attract future buyers.

It’s important to focus on what needs improving, in the space people use the most. In Chicago, that’s the kitchen. Real estate agents here agree almost unanimously that the space you cook and entertain in yields the best ROI at time of sale. This is where all the action is. So, to make it the best it can possibly be you should focus on updating the things people value most: the cabinets, counters and appliances.

It should come as no surprise that these are typically the most costly items in the kitchen. Luckily though, updating them can return anywhere from 60 to 100 percent of your initial investment. Granted, this is if you know what you’re doing, and have the right help.

Rule number one: Know what the market sale of homes are in the area. You don’t want to drop $50,000 dollars to improve the home only to find out you’ve priced yourself right out of the market. In most neighborhoods a kitchen remodel that falls between $25,000 and $35,000 has a better chance toward a greater ROI. So with a budget in place, you need to know how to divvy it out for the big-ticket items in your space.

Appliances: Unfortunately, there’s really only one aesthetic choice that people like right now: stainless steel. The pros: it’s clean, sleek, and fits with nearly anything. The cons: it will generally cost more. So, if your dishwasher, oven, and microwave are relatively new and fully functioning, you might be better off looking elsewhere for ROI.

Cabinetry: It’s probable you look at it almost every time you step into your kitchen. Are you satisfied with the appearance? What would your dream cabinets look like? The image in your mind is actually not that unrealistic, so long as the cabinet structure stays in place. Everything else can be replaced. 

Doors, drawers, hardware—it can all go. This is nearly 75% of what people see., and resurfacing costs nearly half that of a full gutting and replacing. Save money and time by installing new door and drawer fronts, new veneers, and new cabinet hardware.

Once you’ve removed the above sections and the cabinet is down to its skeleton, you’ll want to affix some flat panel doors. These offer a sleek, simple, and most importantly, modern look. Glass panels are also popular, though more depth usually comes with a little higher cost. Still, if you want to show off what you’re storing, this is the option for you.

Countertops: After the cabinets are in prime shape, you’ll want to turn your attention to the countertops. A good stone can make or break your kitchen at the point of sale, so you want to get the best material on the market. None is better than granite. Chicagoans are enamored by granite at the moment, and why shouldn’t they be? Granite is a powerhouse — resistant to stains, scrapes, scuffs, spills, and nearly anything else you want to throw at it. You can beat it up all you want, it will still outlive the house and you.

Granite has it in the looks department as well: greens, reds, blues, grays, and everything in between. Best of all, it works with any aesthetic preference, whether you’re a traditionalist, modernist, or fan of something else entirely.

It’s not necessarily how much money you spend, but how you spend it that matters. Don’t spend money for things that don’t need fixing, and keep in mind that most homes will be on the market for three to five months. We are confident you can cut this time in half, and recoup most — if not all — of your money by updating the things people look at the most, in the space people use the most.

About the Author: Stephen Joseph Constable is in the business of home remodeling and owns Chicago Kitchen Remodeling Inc. He graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 1999 and grew up in Oak Park, Illinois.

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