Everyone likes a nice kitchen

#585 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 1 2009, Hills Newspapers

The first thing we do to prepare a house for sale is have it inspected. The general inspector looks over all parts of the house, roof to foundation, and writes a report that tell us, the seller and, in the future, people who are interested in buying, what the underlying condition of the house is.

For example, if the roof is worn out, the inspector will see that and write it in his report. If he is concerned about the workings of the furnace, he’ll say that as well. We then can have roof and furnace specialists tell us their opinions and from there decide if either or both should be replaced by the seller or left to the buyer.

We are always present at the inspections. We learn a lot about the house and, by being there for a number of hours, we get a feel for how the house presents itself: tidy, well laid out, good materials, spacious – or not. We can begin planning what changes might be made to make the house more appealing.

Everyone of course likes a nice kitchen, even people who seldom cook. And so we spend considered time studying each kitchen, thinking about what would make it look and function better without getting into remodeling. It is hardly ever worthwhile to remodel simply to prepare for market; it’s just too costly to get the value back in selling price. But painting and floors, yes, and changing out appliances is often worthwhile.

We have had quite a number of dishwashers changed to new in our listings’ kitchens because buyers so like new dishwashers. They walk into a kitchen for the first time and go to the dishwasher, open it and look inside. “Oh, beautiful, stainless steel,” we hear. Cooking with gas is also on many buyers’ A-list. When we run into an electric cooktop, if possible for a reasonable amount of money, we recommend changing to gas. In older homes (prior to around 1950), a gas line is frequently available in the kitchen, but if not, it’s often not expensive to run a new one.

We have had many kitchen floors upgraded, some to engineered wood, others to linoleum. Light fixtures, too, are frequently changed and can make all the difference in the appearance of a room.

All of these items are being changed in a kitchen we are working on now, plus for I think the first time for us, we are having new countertops, sink and faucet installed. This has added to the time needed to schedule workmen and especially for choosing and coordinating materials, but it’s been so very interesting.

The house was built in the late 1920s, the kitchen probably remodeled in the 1970s. We’re keeping the light-wood cabinetry but replacing the old Formica counters. They had some surface damage, their white sprinkle-pattern contrasted too sharply we felt with the golden color of the cabinets and the very high backsplash made for a hemmed-in feeling in the medium-size kitchen.

We looked at all sorts of countertops sold in different places but ended up at Sullivan Countertops in Oakland, and have now placed our order with them. Sullivan has on display every kind of material from which to make custom counters: granite, Corian and similar, laminate, wood, quartz and others. Far too many to easily choose, and so many decisions to make: material and finish, edge detail, backsplash height, sink and cooktop cutouts, etc.

It took a couple of trips to Sullivan and the borrowing of a dozen samples which we took to the house to look at, but we did make our choices and now we can hardly wait for the counter to be installed. We met at the house the man who meticulously measures and makes on-site a template from which the counters will be copied. Measuring and template day was fascinating; we’d never known about this before.

It took more than an hour and there were many questions: Backsplash under electric outlets? Corners eased an eighth of an inch? More? Edges around the sink squared? Splash behind cooktop higher than splash around sink? The measuring man noted all of these details and more, he leveled the cabinet tops using thin pieces of wood in short piles, verified his work with a laser, and only then built a complete template, an exact pattern for the people who will cut the material.

I am no good at measuring anything which is probably why I am in complete awe of someone who does it so well. We were very impressed by him. Next we can watch the installers, just as much fun, and then the rest of the kitchen. Oh, boy.

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