As soon as we moved into our house, we discovered the pain of our poorly designed kitchen. In our former home, we had spent about $25,000 on a kitchen remodel. That kitchen was our favorite room in the house, and was a focal point for family gatherings and social occasions with friends.Our new house had a smaller kitchen, and the traffic flow passed diagonal through the center of the room, bisecting our “work triangle.” This is a design no-no, as it leads to constant collisions between the folks working in the kitchen and those passing through.Additionally, the entry and exits to the kitchen were pinch points – the front entrance required a zig-zag motion to navigate between two counters. The exit to the rear was about 30 inches wide at waist height.The final flaw – with only two adults and one kid in the kitchen, chaos ensued. We have two kids. It was impossible to gather in our kitchen as we were accustomed to doing without constantly colliding and tripping over each other. Before our first full week of in the new house was complete, we were ready to remodel or move.

This Old House Magazine has a fantastic article titled, “Remodels That Give You a Return on Your Investment.” I recommend this for anyone considering a home remodel. You should also discuss the potential financial benefits or risks of remodeling with a realtor, particularly if you’re contemplating selling your house in less than 5 years from the remodel. Here’s the thought process that went into deciding if our remodel was the right thing to do for us:

  • Improving Resale Value. When we bought our home, we were fortunate to enter the market early in the recovery in an up and coming neighborhood. A modestly priced remodel had strong potential to ensure a good return.
  • Eliminating Mortgage Insurance. When we purchased our house we had to take Mortgage insurance because we had insufficient equity. One method to obtain more equity is to invest in home improvements that increase the value of the house.
  • Improving Domestic Tranquility. When every morning involves sleep deprived parents colliding as one attempts to brew the coffee while the other is making kids’ lunches, trouble ensues. Solving the traffic problem in the kitchen could significantly improve domestic peace.

While domestic tranquility is certainly a good enough reason on its own, for the financially conscious home owner remodels should have some kind of investment justification. In our case we saw the opportunity to improve our home value enough to achieve the minimum valuation required to drop mortgage insurance. This has the double win of saving us $300 per month in insurance premiums, and setting us up for a nice return when we decide to sell our house.

Here’s a final personal view for those contemplating the value of remodels. If you have a problem with a kitchen or bathroom that constantly aggravates you; chances are prospective buyers are going to notice that when they view the property. It’s my personal view that solving an obvious design problem in a high value room like a kitchen or bathroom pays great dividends if it’s done well and within a reasonable budget.

For Realtor advice we turned to a realtor and trusted friend, Joel Hamley. He agreed that our kitchen left much to be desired, but questioned whether a major remodel would generate acceptable financial return in the near-term. Taking that advice to heart, Kristin and I decided to keep a lid on our budget in this project.

The images to the right are the renderings of our final kitchen design. The green we chose in the end will be closer to spring green, and the tile will be blue-green penny tile with white grout. More details to come…

Mac & Kristin
Southeast Portland

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