Which Should You Update First in Your House: Kitchen or Bathroom?

a saleswoman or estate agent shows a couple around a home with new kitchen.
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You’re ready to do some home remodeling, but you’re not sure whether to start with your kitchen or bathroom. Both need work, but you can only take on one project right now.

As a savvy homeowner, you want to focus on the project that offers the most return on investment first. Whether you’re planning to put your house on the market soon or thinking about selling in the not-so-distant future, you want to make sure you’re updating wisely.

Read: 20 Home Renovations That Will Hurt Your Home’s Value
See: Avoid These Home Renovation Horror Stories

A midrange minor kitchen remodel costs an average of $26,214, and you’ll recoup approximately 72.2% of the costs, according to the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report. Conversely, a midrange bathroom remodel costs roughly $24,424, and you’ll recoup around 60.1% of the costs.

“If you want to upgrade your home, the first area that gives you the biggest bang for your buck is a kitchen renovation,” said Betsy Ronel, a licensed real estate salesperson with Compass in Westchester County, New York. “You can increase the value of your home anywhere from 10%-30%.”

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She said this can be as simple as installing high-quality countertops and swapping outdated cabinet hardware for more modern pieces.

“Hardware is like the lipstick effect in beauty — just a little goes a long way,” Ronel said.

She also recommended freshening up the space by having the cabinetry professionally painted white or off-white. Additionally, she said updating the backsplash and countertops with a neutral granite or quartzite will create a seamless look that will make the space seem larger.

Learn: Home Improvements That Are Not Legal To Do Yourself

“Then the biggest ticket item is of course the appliances,” Ronel said. “They should all match with the same stainless [steel] or have an integrated facing and be from the same brand or a sister brand.”

Ultimately, she said new kitchens are very popular with buyers.

“If you can freshen yours up, it will give you the biggest return,” Ronel said.

Secondarily, bathrooms. The primary bathroom in particular. People usually want as few projects as possible. The primary bathroom and the kitchen give the most ROI.

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Ellen Schwartz, a licensed associate real estate broker with Compass in Westchester County, New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut, agreed a kitchen renovation should come first, as they’re the heart of the home.

“Who doesn’t want to have a killer kitchen to entertain in, featuring a large island where you can cook and entertain, with cool appliances of which there are so many to choose from — Bluestar, Wolf, Sub-Zero, the list goes on,” she said.

Find Out: Renovations To Make — and Skip — Before Selling Your Home

She estimates that the cost to do a complete gut remodel of the kitchen would be in the $50,000-$75,000 range, depending on several factors.

“There are many ranges,” Schwartz said. “Initial cost includes demolition of kitchen, the rebuild, plumbing, electrical, flooring and then of course picking out the fun kitchen appliances.”

If you decide to sell your home, she estimated that a great kitchen remodel would get you 20%-30% more — even in today’s market.

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“Kitchens sell,” she said. “They excite people. Especially during COVID when everyone was cooking at home. You want it to be great.”

She said homes with kitchens that fail to impress buyers suffer with the offers they receive.

“There are hardly any buyers that want to renovate a kitchen, unless of course they are doing a major reno,” she said.

While she believes a kitchen renovation should come first, Schwartz believes it’s also important to update the bathrooms — but that should come second.

More: 25 Tricks To Sell Your House for a Bigger Profit

“A master bath should be a washing fantasy,” she said.

According to Schwartz, this includes an oversized shower with a bench and a place to keep toiletries.

“Adding in a steam shower puts it over the top,” she said. “A free standing tub and a double sink vanity is a must.”

If you’re able to modernize a bathroom  — in addition to a kitchen renovation — it can pay off.

“I think renovated bathrooms can bring you the very same return as a renovated kitchen,” she said.

Check Out: 10 Tips To Increase Your Home Value on Any Budget

Of course, making the decision to remodel a kitchen or bathroom can be a challenge, as both are a big financial investment. However, Schwartz believes it’s one worth making.

“Kitchens and baths that are properly renovated and designed are good for living short-term and for long-term goals,” she said.

While updating both rooms can offer a return on investment, start with the kitchen. If you have the time and budget, make the bathroom your next project.

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About the Author

Jennifer Taylor is a West Coast-based freelance writer with more than a decade of experience writing about anything and everything. Since earning her MBA, personal finance has been her favorite topic, as she’s passionate about writing stories that educate, inform and empower. Specifically, she specializes in budgeting, debt repayment, savings and retirement.
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