PHEASANT RUN ROAD,
Landau hatched a design plan that included keeping the kitchen’s basic footprint, but enhancing its look, flow and function: He widened the hallway between the kitchen and laundry room. He enlarged a picture window over the sink. He replaced all of the original cabinetry and added even more. He installed new appliances where the old ones existed and made a seamless home for a second oven and a stacked microwave. He swapped out the old countertops for new granite and added a beautiful stonewall focal point behind the cook-top.
The process lasted seven months — the hard-core construction took three months — but when her kitchen was finally finished in August 2010, Lefkowitz was thrilled. “ There was a cutting board that pulls out over the garbage. A corner drawer. A cabinet that hid the water cooler. Massive storage. We had exotic wood countertops and bronzite granite on the peninsula,” she says. “It was very pleasing to the eye and very unique.” Then in May 2011, less than one year after her kitchen overhaul when most homeowners would be still basking in new-renovation bliss, Lefkowitz put her newly perfected Pleasantville home on the market. Were her costly kitchen upgrades all for nothing? Did she and her family endure months of invasive, inconvenient construction without a payoff? Absolutely not, she says. “The kitchen helped sell the house.”
In fact, in one of Westchester County’s worst real estate markets, when, according to Coldwell Banker in Pleasantville, area properties in the spring of 2011 were sitting on the market for an average of seven months (this year the average is four months), Lefkowitz sold her house in remarkable time: She put it on the market on Memorial Day weekend in May 2011 and was in contract roughly six weeks later on July 4 weekend.
Not only did she sell quickly, but in a buyers’ market, this savvy seller had multiple bids to choose from, and she was happy with the numbers. “We paid less for the home than we sold it,” says Lefkowitz. “We were lucky. Things were sitting for months and months.”
While Lefkowitz didn’t redo her kitchen specifically to sell her house, she knew that moving was a possibility. “Part of our thinking was ‘when we do sell this home, the kitchen would help sell it,’” she says. Today, she’s sure her plan worked. “I think the kitchen absolutely helped sell our home. I think a lot of people really look at the kitchen because it’s the hub of a home.”
Area real estate agents agree. “A kitchen renovation can help sell your house regardless of what town you live in,” says Michele Flood, associate broker at Coldwell Banker in Rye. “It’s the very first room that people look at when they look at a house. When you renovate a kitchen, it sets the tone of a home that’s been updated and well maintained.”
Not only do new kitchens attract attention from buyers, but even in this housing market slump, homeowners are recouping most of their investments on kitchen renovations.
Remodeling Magazine’s “2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report” reveals that in the New York metropolitan area, which includes White Plains and surrounding towns, homeowners get back 62.9 percent of their initial investment in a major kitchen renovation (adding square-footage, an island, new appliances and cabinetry, among other upgrades) and 68.3 percent in a minor kitchen renovation (a string of small spruce-ups like keeping cabinets, but replacing cabinet doors, replacing appliances, while leaving the general footprint intact).
The trick? Deliver what today’s buyers want to see: updated cabinetry, new floors, top-of-the-line appliances, a peninsula or island, and eating/breakfast area.
“They want to see counter space, and that counter space should be in the form of granite,” says Flood, who just sold a home in Rye, thanks in large part to the renovated kitchen. “It was beautifully renovated with a sitting area and a lovely fireplace as a focal point. It had a butler’s pantry, an extra sink, extra storage. Everybody who walked into that kitchen said, ‘wow.’” That house went into contract in a month. “Amazing in this market,” she says.