By Ryan Nickum
The past few months have shown plenty of signs the housing market is recovering, but it's interesting to note the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University says spending on home remodeling projects will accelerate as well.
"Strong growth in sales of existing homes and housing starts, coupled with historically low financing costs, have typically been associated with an upturn in home remodeling activity some months later," said Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center. "This combination is expected to produce a favorable outlook for home improvement spending over the coming months."
Not only is this good news for the economy, it's great news for those with outdated kitchen cabinets, subpar appliances and linoleum floors. Consider this news your green light to finally upgrade your kitchen.
Gallery: Mouth-Watering Kitchens
Consider the Costs
When determining whether to remodel your kitchen, make sure you're scaling it to your budget and your available time. There's nothing fun about a partially completed remodel because you ran out of time or money, unless you're looking for an excuse to microwave Hot Pockets for all your meals.
If you choose to embark on this home improvement project, take heart in the fact that many experts say a modest kitchen remodel offers a higher level of return on investment than most other home improvement projects, especially if you do the work yourself. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll end up making that money back. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2011-2022 Cost vs. Value Report, a kitchen remodel has an average of 65.7-72.1% return on investment when you sell your home.
If the increased popularity of cooking programs and home improvement television shows is any indicator, the kitchen is rapidly becoming the focal point of not only homebuyers, but also homeowners. It seems an increasing number of homes hitting the market have more cash sunk into the kitchen than other rooms in the house. From expensive countertops and industrial stoves to spacious kitchen islands and farmhouse sinks, Americans are committed to maximizing their kitchen space.
Gallery: Top-Rated Kitchens: Before + After
While American homes are awash in stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, there are plenty of other options out there. If you're looking for inspiration, the internet is a treasure trove of inspiring kitchens. Pinterest is a great source for photos of dream kitchens and innovative designs to get your creativity flowing. Members tend to repost identical photos, but with thousands of new members joining each day it's a great source for ideas.
Online real estate listings are another great way to see firsthand how other people have made made the most of their kitchen. Unlike the staged photos you'll see in design magazines, these listing photos show the kitchens of actual people like yourself. It's a simple way to virtually tour thousands of kitchens around the country, which is helpful because styles tend to vary by region. Compare the edgier, modern kitchens in Los Angeles and Miami with more traditional kitchens in Atlanta or Washington, D.C. Or check out beach houses in the Hamptons or ranch homes in Austin, Texas.
For more rustic kitchens, look for areas outside major urban areas and play around with the keyword search by typing in "farmhouse" or "country." For more modern styling, try keywords like "chef's kitchen" or "contemporary kitchen."
There's a lot of decisions to make before starting on a kitchen remodel, especially the budget and the scope of the project. Starting with firm plans and a concrete budget will keep the project from running away with itself. Whether it's just a general update or a full-blown remodel, it's important to have the paramaters firmly set.
Cosmetic changes like paint colors, cabinet doors or countertops are far simpler and cheaper than redoing the floors or replacing appliances. Be sure to consider storage options, how much counter space you'll need for prep and appliances, and other variables that will affect usability. It's tempting to go with the latest trends, but those often end up looking dated the fastest. It's hardly worth the effort if you end up with a kitchen identical to everyone else on the block.
For those who've put off home improvement projects like a kitchen remodel because of the recession, key economic indicators are saying the time is right to start them now. On the other hand, sometimes it's easier to change houses than to update an existing one.
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