When you’re selling your house, it’s easy to start looking at features that were once fine but now are reconsidered through the lens of “how does this impact home value?” After all, home sellers want to maximize the value of their investment when they look into finding a buyer.

For instance, even if you were happy with the look, feel, and function of your kitchen before, you might be interested in making your kitchen easier to use, more modern, or just brighter to appeal to potential homebuyers. If this is the case, it usually costs more to do a full kitchen remodel than it does to update the kitchen in a few strategic ways. Because updates cost less, you can often see a stronger ROI if the potential buyer is impressed with the kitchen but doesn’t know that you didn’t spend tens of thousands of dollars to get this new look.

So how to go about creating a strong kitchen update plan? The best path is to start with cleaning and then work on one or more small projects that make a big impact.

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A Deep Clean Identifies Challenges

While cleaning your kitchen is usually a daily and weekly task, we all have more thorough cleaning tools at our disposal that we don’t use every time we clean. In a kitchen, it helps to start by digging in and getting as deep a clean as you can. You’ll be surprised how much occurs to you while really getting the oven and other nooks and crannies fully cleaned. This effort itself will impress potential buyers, but the bigger value is that it will help you identify what specific projects will benefit your home the most.

Modernize Cabinets Without Replacing the Entire Cabinet

A big part of a major kitchen overhaul is removing and replacing cabinets. However, many homes already have solid cabinets that really just need a facelift in order to look their best and appear contemporary. Here are three ways that modifying your cabinets, rather than replacing them, can be an affordable and beautiful solution.

Open Shelving

Removing cabinet doors can allow you to create the visible shelving trend that has become so popular, especially in kitchens that have a modern farmhouse feel. By removing the doors and hardware, you can allow your most beautiful dishes, pottery, or fun kitchen gadgets to be in easy reach and to be part of the decor. Staging these kinds of shelves for a home sale is a breeze and gives the kitchen a more lived-in feel, adding to the coziness.

Repaint In Neutral, Bright Tones

Even in kitchens with plenty of natural light, dark wood tones can make a kitchen feel less cheery. Painting your cabinets in a satin white, off-white, or light grey can be a way to evoke the modern “new kitchen” look without having to commit to an entire renovation. Coordinating this color to appliances, countertops, and backsplashes will make the space even more harmonious.

Pick Modern Hardware

An upgrade with a surprising level of impact, changing the knobs and handles in your kitchen can really change the feeling of the space. When you take a moment to look at decades-old hardware, you see that it just doesn’t resemble the current trends in hardware. Talking to a kitchen design specialist at a home improvement store or getting your real estate agent’s quick take on the best options for your kitchen cabinets’ hardware can really make a buyer see your kitchen with new eyes.

If You Can’t Replace All Appliances, Think Strategically

Of course buyers like new appliances, but if you are having to choose between a range/oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher, consider doing 1 or 2 of the three and pick a brand that is in the same style as the third one (ideally that one should be the newest/best). By updating two items and getting the same chrome, sleek black, or white finish on them, you can create the cohesive feel and make the buyers happy that updates have been made, even if not everything has been updated at once.

Get Bold With Backsplashes

You’d be surprised how much a backsplash can work to upgrade and give a kitchen some beauty and impact. From a classy chevron or herringbone style to a bright and colorful print that coordinates with another color in the room, your backsplash is the place to be a bit more bold, since, after all, it’s possible to replace it if the new buyers love everything else. Updating a backsplash can also be more calm and be a way to tie together a few other elements that might have otherwise felt like they’d been updated piecemeal (since, let’s face it, many of us do updates here and there, not all at once). This choice makes the final look more like a kitchen out of a magazine.

Consider Adding an Island or Bar Cart, At Least For Staging

If your kitchen is low on display surfaces or countertops, an island or bar cart can really be a nice option for displaying the spaciousness and utility of the kitchen. Obviously this will depend on the structure of your kitchen, but if staging or actually installing an island or bar cart is an option, you’ll draw attention to the space and still save when compared with a full kitchen remodel.

No matter what your goal is, be it to enjoy cooking a little more or to focus on the best updates to sell your home quickly and for a competitive price, small kitchen updates are often a better choice, especially when it comes to ROI. Full kitchen remodels are of the highest value when the cook or family who designs the remodel gets to enjoy it for years to come, gaining their value that way. Otherwise, a few strategic and careful projects, some of which can even be DIY, are enough to make a kitchen stand out among the many that a given set of buyers have been viewing.

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