What about residences that don't have ultra-modern kitchens and baths? Can they still attract buyers in today's market, or must the owners first spend thousands of dollars to upgrade these key spaces?
What attracts buyers most strongly when touring a home for sale in the real estate market? RE/MAX brokers report that buyers love to find modern kitchens with granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and new cabinets. They also like large bathrooms with tile floors, steam showers, twin sinks and luxurious tubs.
Kitchens and baths, more than any other rooms, can help sell a home.
What about those residences that don't have ultra-modern kitchens and baths? Can they still attract buyers in today's market, or must the owners first spend thousands of dollars to upgrade these key spaces?
There is good news for homeowners not blessed with showroom quality kitchens and baths. Brokers with RE/MAX Northern Illinois are confident that homeowners can sell their residences even if the kitchens and bathrooms are older in design. They just have to set the right asking price, highlight the other positive features of the home and perhaps make a few minor improvements to a dated kitchen or bath.
"It almost always comes down to pricing," said Rick Sandberg, an agent with RE/MAX Action of Lisle, Ill. Sandberg works primarily in the communities of Oswego, Naperville and Aurora. "Every home will sell. It's just a question of working with the sellers to set the right asking price."
Sandberg advises owners to be flexible on their asking price if they want to sell a residence with older and smaller kitchens and bathrooms. The good news is that with the right price, these homes will sell, and if the home is clean and uncluttered, it can sell quickly, Sandberg said.
"When we help a seller set a listing price, we Realtors® look at everything," Sandberg said. "We always know the pricing of competitive homes. We always tell our sellers that pricing is key. If a home is priced correctly, and we give it the exposure it needs, any home can sell, no matter what kind of bathrooms or kitchen it has."
How important are kitchens and baths to today's buyers? Consider some recent studies. The National Association of Home Builders in its 2013 What Home Buyers Really Want survey found that 84 percent or more of buyers want the kitchens in their new homes to feature such amenities as double sinks and walk-in pantries. More than 80 percent of buyers want their bathrooms to come with both a shower stall and a separate tub.
The financial Web site 24/7 Wall Street recently created its own list of home features for which buyers will pay more, using data from the National Association of Realtors. The site reported that 41 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for stainless-steel appliances in their kitchens; 48 percent will pay more for kitchen islands; 49 percent of buyers would pay more to have a master bath as part of a master bedroom suite.
These are amenities that many older homes lack. RE/MAX brokers, however, contend the surveys' findings don't mean owners must make expensive and extensive upgrades to their kitchens and baths. Often, owners can entice buyers simply by making sure these rooms are clean, well lighted, uncluttered and mechanically sound, and taking those steps won't put a big dent in owners' finances.
According to Jim Anderson, a broker with RE/MAX Premier Properties in Chicago's Gold Coast who specializes in the neighborhoods of Andersonville and Edgewater, homeowners can improve their kitchens and bathrooms significantly without spending a small fortune.
"What the typical older kitchen and bathroom need most is to be cleaned out and de-cluttered," he said.
Owners should also handle any deferred maintenance, such as fixing leaky faucets, painting chipped or peeling cabinet doors and making sure windows work smoothly. New shower curtains and well-scrubbed floors can also make a positive impact. A fresh coat of paint in both kitchens and baths can go a long way toward making these rooms seem more modern.
Installing new and better lighting is another way to improve the appearance of these rooms, according to Anderson.
"A lot of times, these rooms are so dimly lit that they don't show well," he said. "If you increase the light in these rooms, if you clean them, you can make a surprising impact."
Of course, it can be worthwhile to invest in some remodeling to make a home both more saleable and more valuable, according to Kevin Burke, a broker with RE/MAX Synergy in Orland Park, Ill. You have to weigh the potential benefit of the work you do against the costs involved.
Burke recently sold a four-bedroom home for clients who had invested $30,000 to fully update the kitchen and 2 ½ baths, as well as paint the entire interior.
"It was an estate sale situation, and I'm confident my client more than recouped his investment, plus the home sold in just two weeks," reported Burke.
However, Burke noted that there are many less costly steps to consider that can also give new life to a dated kitchen or bathroom:
-- Repaint kitchen and bath cabinets, then give them new, more contemporary hardware;
-- Regrout and reseal tub and shower areas;
-- Install new faucets in the kitchen and baths;
-- Replace a dated bathroom vanity with a pedestal sink;
-- Put in stainless appliances; appliance packages often are available for less than $2,000 and typically include a refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave.
"Bathrooms and kitchens are definitely the rooms that buyers focus on, but the rest of the house is important, too," Burke noted. "If you show a clean and uncluttered home, that definitely helps. If you depersonalize your home so buyers can picture their own families living there, that helps. Offering a home that is clean, spacious looking and thoughtfully presented is the best way to overcome not having a kitchen or bath with the latest bells and whistles."