Often the first thing investors turn to when buying a property is to renovate a kitchen or a bathroom.
To renovate a kitchen can be the most expensive part of any renovation - almost on a level with the bathroom because you have lots of fixtures in a bathroom, and lots of appliances (and fixtures) in the kitchen.
It doesn't have to be so, though. With a little creativity and research, you can renovate a kitchen to a high modern standard without having to rip everything out and start again. It just depends on what is already there when you arrive.
Things to check before you buy.
Before you buy a property, if your budget is too tight to start from scratch and completely renovate a kitchen, you should make some basic checks.
Now that I have figured out what needs doing, what next?
It's surprising how cheaply you can renovate a kitchen if you know how. A simple renovation, involving a coat of laminate paint, a change of door handles and some tap fixtures can cost as little as $500, and the change can bring the space out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st Century.
My parents are a good example of this. They had a beautiful custom kitchen in their home, that had been built in the 1980s. There was nothing wrong with the structure of it. The cabinets were still solid. Even the doors were quite stylish in themselves, being a nice dark timber with routed decorations on them. The letdown was in the flooring (a linoleum that was getting a bit tired and worn), the benchtops (cream laminex with a timber edge) and the tiles on the splashback, which were a sandy colour and very "country style" in a dated way. Handles were also the matching timber knobs that really aren't very inspiring.
With a quick coat of paint, the walls and tiles were sorted out. To quickly renovate a kitchen, you can buy special tile paint from your local hardware store, or have it done by a professional. Because it was a house at the higher end of the market, we replaced the benchtops with a stylish granite (at about $400 per linear metre), and changed all the knobs to a brushed steel at a cost of around $6 each for the whole 30 of them. A quick touch-up to the stain on the kickboards and some new flooring changed a still-lovely and very big kitchen from drab to fab for minimal cost, and because they had already changed all the applianced to steel, they didn't need to do any more than that.
Remember that when you renovate a kitchen, it's better to spend a little bit more to get fittings that look closer to a high contemporary standard. Brushed or matte textured steel handles in clean and stylish lines are what you should be going for. Plastic handles are a complete no-no.
Another thing you can renovate a kitchen with is light.
If you're keeping the costs down with the coat of paint and handle-change idea, you can also consider changing the light fixture to something stylish and modern (steel with halogens is very smart), and put some task lighting under the cabinets to help with lighting the worktops. This modern touch will bring out the glamour in your rental property kitchen.
Failing all of the above...
... you may need to rip out the kitchen and start again. At the low to middle end of the property market, it pays to shop around for flat-packed modular kitchens that can be fitted to the space you have with minimal cost.
We did this with a small apartment where the kitchen was a disaster. Full of damp and disintegrating, it hadn't been well cleaned for years either and the tops of the cabinets were covered in half a centimetre of grease and dust from the lack of a range hood over the stove. The sink was dented and the floor was covered in grimy, worn lino tiles that had somehow been varnished over at some point. Perhaps they thought it would make it look better. It didn't.
It had to go
For a total materials cost of $2,000, we were able to renovate a kitchen with new floating timber floor, new cabinets, sink, lights, a new coat of paint and a good-as-new rangehood and stove. The difference was staggering! We even managed to improve the layout, space and storage by putting extra wall cabinets above the counters, and doing away the breakfast bar that had taken up one entire wall of the galley-style room, was obviously never used, and had caused a cleaning nightmare. In its place, anyone could have installed a little drop-leaf breakfast table on the wall and still had space to move.
Higher up the market, it doesn't have to cost the earth to renovate a kitchen either. If you are prepared to do it yourself, it's possible to install a modular kitchen with a nicer grade of doors and countertops for between $8,000-$12,000. Many showrooms offer timber and glass or aluminium or steel doors instead of the plain white melamine fronts we used in the apartment, and the result is a state of the art kitchen for a much lower price.
In the case of a really high-end or special heritage home, it does pay to have a professional designer come through and have a fully-fitted kitchen made. These can range in price from $10,000 to $30,000 or even higher, but when you are talking about a house priced over $700,000, that expense is generally worth it to get the exact look you need.
Watch points when you renovate a kitchen:
That's quite a bit to think about!
Renovating a kitchen can mean the difference between getting what you want (in rent and sale-price) for an investment property. I have actually seen it (combined with a few other things) add up to 50% more to the weekly rent, so i cannot stress enough that it the kitchen is terrible, you should do at least something to improve it.
Just make sure that when you buy a rental property, you have enough in your budget to renovate the kitchen if it is going to need it.
Do you have a question about Kitchen Renovations?