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Selling your home, Part 2: The right improvements

Kitchen remodelPhoto courtesy Steve Wysall Photography/Bluemont   Kitchen remodel in Leesburg by Advanced Contracting Inc.
So you’re a seller in a seller’s market. The stars aligned and that promotion came just when housing prices started ticking up. How do you capitalize on the moment?

“Kitchens are what stands out,” said Gwen Pangle, a Realtor with Pangle & Associates of Leesburg. “Regardless of trends, whether people are downsizing or upsizing, a remodeled kitchen is probably where you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck.”

Kitchens attract the most attention from potential buyers because they’re the most lived in — they’re where we cook dinner, where our children do their homework, where we catch up with friends over glasses of wine. A prospective homebuyer know they’ll spend more time in this room than in any other, so make sure they feel at ease from the moment they walk in.

“Right now, opening up the space is popular,” said Pangle. “So for flooring you’d be looking at hardwood or ceramic, or some sort of granite. Granite’s big. In upscale houses we’re still seeing kitchens anchored in a lot of granite and hardwood.”

The move towards simplicity and openness extends to appliances as well, Pangle noted.

“Stainless steel is really the trend,” she explained. “If people are upgrading they’re going to stainless steel as the new standard. It used to be that white was standard, but now white’s back at the bottom of the heap.”

And if you don’t have several thousand dollars just lying around so you can knock out a few walls or buy a new stainless-steel fridge, there are other ways to up the value of your home without spending a ton.

“Make sure you have good wooden cabinets,” advised Pangle. “Take a look at your floor. If it’s vinyl, upgrade to some sort of ceramic or laminate that looks like stone. Upgrade your countertop from vinyl to corian or silestone. Consider a backsplash set off by new lighting fixtures — and with the fixtures, people are moving away from gold. Oiled bronze is popular right now. Fresh paint and new lighting fixtures are things you can do in a weekend at Home Depot and spend a few hundred dollars. I can’t say enough how that affects how a house will sell.”

Patricia Iacone, president of Advanced Contracting, Inc. of Round Hill, agreed.

“If people come to us and they haven’t talked to realtor, we always suggest upgrading the kitchen,” said Iacone. “A new sink, new countertop, a good lighting plan, and fresh paint can make kitchen look totally different. It’s a big change without having to spend money on a total remodel.”

Iacone said a majority of her clients are looking to remodel their bathrooms, followed closely by those who want work done on their kitchens.

“The kitchen is always going to be the first draw — but after that people look at bathrooms. They’re going to spend a lot of time in there so they want it clean and they don’t want to see outdated tile.”
Many of the trends in kitchen and bathroom remodeling were similar.

“In bathrooms we’re seeing a lot of people get rid of their Jacuzzis and enlarge their showers,” Iacone said. “Frameless shower doors are quite popular now. People also want to put in a bench seat and different spray heads, especially handheld spray heads.”

Jacuzzis were staples of master bathrooms from the start of the housing bubble in the early 2000s, and their recent decline in popularity has a simple explanation.

“People are not using them and they take up a lot of space,” said Iacone. “Some people do keep them because they feel it might be an important selling feature down the road, so we work with what they have. In most cases, though, we are taking the Jacuzzi out. There’s been a focus lately on open space: double vanities and linen cabinets are really in. And the frameless shower doors are great because they’re nice and clean with straight lines. In some cases we’re even replacing the bathroom door with a pocket door. That works really nicely in a powder room.”

The shower benches — often with granite accents — were not only popular for the convenience they offered women in shaving their legs, but also for allaying concerns some homeowners had about “ageing in place.” For those who wish to remain in their homes well into their golden years, grab bars and benches were key investments for the future.

For those looking to leave, realtor Gwen Pangle had some parting advice.

“Start at the curb,” she said. “People need to like the outside, so cut the grass, clean the doors, get new brass handles and updated fixtures, have the brick re-sanded and bushes trimmed. Look with a critical eye. We get used to looking at our homes and we don’t see certain things anymore. So invite a friend over and ask what they see. It might be a little brutal to hear, but this is going to turn into a product and not a home for a while.”

Part 1: The right time to sell
Part 3: Opening your home


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