Ask the Home Expert

Q: We have so many things we want to do to our Cambridge triple-decker, but don’t know the best way to approach the renovation. It has an old, dark kitchen, a full bath on the first floor that we never use, and two partially enclosed decks that leak heat. We plan on selling in five years, so where do we start?

[sidebar]A: Realtors tell us again and again that updated kitchens and baths will clinch a sale. And no wonder: It’s not fun to renovate these rooms while you’re living there. A kitchen under construction means lots of pizza nights, and without that second bathroom, you may find yourself in a cue for your own loo. So here’s the question buyers ask themselves: Should I purchase a place ready to move into or carry a mortgage and either put up with the construction or stay elsewhere while the heart of the house is a mess? Given the option, most would choose the former.

When redoing a kitchen for resale, avoid over-customization. While cute fish tiles may rock your boat, the next owner may not dig them. For better or worse, a tasteful, anonymous redo will appeal to more buyers than an overzealous expression of who you are. That being said, paint is an easy thing to change, so go ahead and make a splash with an accent wall in a funky color. Also, carefully consider your finishes. Going too high-end may hurt your chances of making money on the deal. On the other hand, skimping on a countertop (going low-end laminate, for example) may prompt a redo of you redo, so definitely build with the next buyer in mind.

In any case, I recommend consulting with a design professional to examine the whole house and come up with a comprehensive plan before lifting a hammer. Moving a bathroom or opening up a wall may completely change the way you approach your space. You don’t have to do everything the designer recommends, of course, but passing off a professional plan to the next buyer is another way to increase the value of your home.

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