5 Costly Kitchen Problems That First-Time Homebuyers Often Overlook

Realtor June 8, 2024

Buyer

5 Costly Kitchen Problems That First-Time Homebuyers Often Overlook

Probably the most exciting part of home shopping is when you spot a house that makes you swoon. And more often than not, it’s the gleaming, glorious kitchen that does people in.

Maybe it’s the French doors in the kitchen leading to the patio. Or the shiny backsplash that extends up to the skylit ceiling. Or that ample farmhouse sink that conjures fantasies of your living a Chip and Joanna Gaines–charmed life.

While it’s understandable, even exciting, to fall in love with a home, watch out: Love has a way of blinding buyers to some considerable problems.

To help you spot these kitchen flaws before they dupe you, too, we asked real estate agents and designers to point out these hidden issues that first-time homebuyers often miss. Here are some easy-to-overlook blind spots to check, lest you wind up with some major regrets and costly renovations once you’ve moved in.

 
1. Illogical layouts

Efficient workstations and smooth traffic flow are crucial in a kitchen, yet it might be hard for newbies to assess how well a layout will work for them.

Will that peninsula, for example, be a helpful food prep station—or a clutter magnet? A galley-style kitchen may look fantastic, but if you’re constantly bumping into others as you prep for dinner, it’ll get on your nerves, fast. Or if you need a ton of counter space, that tiny peninsula might not be enough for you and your kids.

How to avoid buyer’s regret: Focus on how much counter space you use in your current home or would like to use when making a meal. Bring your measuring tape when you tour homes. In particular, scope out the kitchen work triangle where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time.

Ideally, the sink, fridge, and stove should all be within the same general vicinity to keep you from running to and fro.

“If the layout is poor, the whole room might need reconfiguring, which means redoing the floor plan—in other words, a complete renovation,” warns Cynthia Espy of Amenities Home Design in Chicago. “Depending on finishes, that can run a new homeowner between $25,000 and $50,000.”

 
2. Entertainment space

Also, go beyond meal prep considerations and imagine how you’ll really use the space.

“A kitchen layout might be practical for everyday cooking but lack the entertaining aspect, like wine storage or a proper place to make drinks,” points out Allie Mann, senior designer with Case Architects & Remodelers, in Falls Church, VA.

How to avoid buyer’s regret: Evaluate the basic layout, keeping in mind your wish list. Check if that kitchen island has an overhang, which makes for more comfortable seating for guests. Or do you need to knock down a wall to make room? Just know that opening up a kitchen can be pricy or even impossible if the wall in question bears weight, so make sure to know what you can (and can’t) remove.

 
3. Insufficient storage

Open shelving in kitchens is all the rage today. But unless you’re an austere minimalist, all your dishes might not fit—or if they do, do you want them all on display for all to see?

How to avoid buyer’s regret: If you’re swooning over a kitchen’s open shelves, just make sure there’s enough cabinet space elsewhere for your bigger or less attractive items such as pots and pans.

If you need to replace the cabinets or build a pantry, calculate the cost. To add a pantry, for instance, you might be looking at stealing 30 inches for a 2-foot-deep closet, as well as spending anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000, says Mann.

 
4. Missing appliances

Maria Demme, a broker with Ideal Properties in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, CA, remembers newbie clients who didn’t realize that the home they made an offer on had no dishwasher.

“The couple just assumed that there’d be one, but this was an older house and the seller dined out a lot, so never bothered to put one in,” she says. “That’s why multiple visits [when possible] are important. Something you missed the first time may reveal itself the next time.”

How to avoid buyer’s regret: First-time homebuyers benefit from being methodical. Create a checklist of appliances/features and keep it on your phone as you tour, or download an app that helps you take notes.

Dishwasher, check? Washer/dryer in working order, check?

These details are all too easy to overlook as you walk through a house and soak in its vibe. Each could add at least hundreds, if not more, to your budget.

 
5. Appliances that are too small or too large

Shiny appliances are always exciting, but don’t forget to think about their size, too.

“People can be so enamored by the finishes of a kitchen that they don’t consider that perhaps the 30-inch stovetop is inadequate,” says Mann.

In the same vein, the fabulous fridge with a “Brady Bunch” capacity could be far more than what a singleton or young couple with no kids needs.

How to avoid buyer’s regret: Even if you are impressed by a kitchen and think it’s fabulous, stop, look, and size up those appliances.

Will you have room for three different pots boiling on the cooktop? Is the fridge and freezer as wide and deep as what you have now? Know this before you reach “accepted offer” status.

 


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