Remodel for yourself, only after that as an investment #673

#673 in a series of true experiences in real estate

Every time I go to the grocery store I am amazed by the quantity and variety of pre-prepared foods available now. To have a complete pot roast dinner with potatoes and broccoli, you just add heat. Or, without heat, just by opening a package, every sort of salad can be had, many even including fruits and cheese.

Plus, outside in the parking lot of many groceries, they’re barbecuing ribs and roasts. I’m guessing that a lot of people make a quick stop on their way home from work to grab dinner for the family. It certainly looks as though there is a big demand.

So, I wonder, who is cooking now? Does anyone make “real” dinner for themselves, their partners, kids? I did used to cook dinner everyday when my kids were younger, and I packed a lunch for them too. Not as elaborate as the ones my mother provided when I was growing up. In those days, most mothers were at home, and everyday dinner included salad, meat, starch, vegetable and dessert.

Surely it is still true that some parents do cook, from scratch, full meals, good food, both for nourishment and because they enjoy cooking. New cookbooks are always being published and new recipes appear all the time in newspapers and magazines. Farmers markets, too, seem to be doing a lot of business. So someone must still be cooking.

We will be putting on the market soon a house with a big kitchen that the owners, both chefs, designed. It’s set up for them to work at the same time with two work stations and a huge restaurant-style gas stove. The owners tell us that while the 80-pound turkey is cooking in one oven (apparently such turkeys do exist), pastries can be baking in the other.

We are of course hoping that someone who cooks – although, perhaps more modestly — will see this kitchen and lust for it. But even people who do not cook may want this kitchen.

We have one such friend who is currently in the process of expanding her old kitchen and making it all new, beautiful and functional. She says she never cooks but she is very excited about her kitchen. We’ve been hearing from her for awhile now about counter top choices, linoleum versus wood flooring, free-standing or a built-in range.

Designing a kitchen, she tells us, is complex. There are a lot of choices and decisions to be made. There are many materials available and all sorts of appliances. Our friend began by asking her contractor for help and by visiting model kitchens but she ended up engaging a kitchen designer and is thankful she did.

Several other friends recently have embarked on kitchen remodels. Some are cooks, some not, but all are looking for good layout and good materials, a functional and beautiful kitchen. They are all hoping that what they do will increase the value of their houses, and so they have asked us for our opinion about what to do and how much to spend.

Hard questions to answer. We don’t know, can’t know when these houses will be for sale, what the styles and preferences will be then, who will be looking at houses at the time, how much they will pay or for what.

We can say that the appeal of good design is usually lasting and that fine materials are almost always worth the money. But beyond that, changes and improvements to a house should be considered first as accommodations to your own life and only after that as an investment. It’s just too hard to figure what will be added value at some unspecified time in the future.

What tends to make the biggest impact on buyers is fresh and clean and beautiful. The two-chef kitchen in our new listing looks great because the deep wooden counters have been renewed, the walls painted, the appliances cleaned and serviced.

Everything in the kitchen is ready to go and looks it. The kitchen will likely be one major reason that the house will be chosen by a new owner. But that was not the main reason the owners put it in. They remodeled it for themselves.

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