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When getting ready to put their home on the market, many homeowners invest time and money into updating their kitchen to attract the best offers. But deciding how much to spend on a kitchen remodel can be confusing. Surely a brand-new, gorgeous kitchen with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances will pay off, right?

As much as I love a well-appointed kitchen, let’s look at whether spending $75,000 or more on a major remodel kitchen pays off. According to the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report (, a minor kitchen remodel (average cost of $23,400) garners a better return on investment (ROI) compared to a major remodel (average cost of $68,500) for mid-priced homes. 

Credit: Mauricio Bergamin

In 2020, homeowners in the Pacific U.S. (California, Hawai‘i, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) saw a minor kitchen remodel ROI of 86.6 percent, based on an average project cost of $26,150. And even closer to us, homeowners in Los Angeles saw an ROI of 95.1 percent for a minor remodel, based on a project cost of $26,993. In comparison, major remodels recouped their sellers only 63.5 percent in the pacific region, and 75.2 percent in Los Angeles.

Here are some ways to give your kitchen a refresh without breaking the bank:

Match or update your appliances.  Rather than spending the entire budget on a Viking range, you’re better off matching your appliances so they are all the same color and finish. If your appliances are 10 years or older, consider replacing with ones that are consistent with the value of your home.

Refinish or paint your cabinets.  Refinishing or painting your cabinets can have a big impact on achieving an updated look. It is possible to do this as a DIY project if you’re up for it, but proceed with due caution, as it requires a lot of time and diligence to do it properly. When selling a home, I recommend playing it safe and painting the kitchen cabinets white. 

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Change knobs and drawer pulls.  Adding or swapping outdated cabinet hardware is probably one of the easiest and least expensive ways to refresh your kitchen. Matte black hardware on freshly painted white cabinets will give a move-in-ready feel, even if buyers plan to do a major kitchen remodel down the road. 

Replace the kitchen faucet and sink.  Swapping out an outdated faucet and sink for something new can go a long way in giving your kitchen a facelift. 

Invest in new counters.  Older countertops should be replaced, as they can make the whole kitchen look outdated. There are many materials available; just be sure to select one that is consistent with the value of your home (for example, it is going to be difficult to recoup the cost of marble countertops when selling an entry-level home).

Credit: Sarita Relis Photography

Swap your lights.  Updating your kitchen with on-trend pendant lights or recessed lighting is a great way to impress buyers. 

And, most important, I recommend getting input from your real estate agent before starting demo to see how much your home value might increase after a kitchen refresh. This can help ensure you are bringing your kitchen up to the standards of the surrounding homes in your neighborhood. 

Christine S. Cowles is owner of Styled & Staged Santa Barbara, offering home staging and interior styling services. She is a certified Staging Design Professional™, member of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Real Estate Staging Association, and a proud WEV graduate. She can be reached at

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