Kitchens are an important room in any home. People spend hours in them cooking, eating, and cleaning. The cabinets and countertops see a lot of action, so there comes a point when some sort of renovation is called for. The question every real estate investor asks is: Should I repaint, reface, or replace the kitchen cabinets?” There are basic factors to take into account:

The Basic Factors

1. Do you, as the real estate investor intend to rent the property or flip it?

If it is a rental, will an improved kitchen encourage prospective tenants to choose your property before others currently available for lease? If you intend to sell the property, will improving the kitchen help you to sell quickly and at a higher price, and will the higher price at least cover the costs of improvement?

2. How does the rest of the interior compare to the kitchen?

If the other rooms’ fixtures, carpets, etc. are all in good shape, but are let down by the kitchen, then bringing that up to par with everywhere else may be a good decision. If the whole house would benefit from improvement, is it worth only renovating the kitchen cabinetry?

Repaint, Reface, or Replace

Consider the cabinetry as a whole:

  1. Are the fronts simply out of style? If so, the decision is about repaint or reface. If the cabinetry is metal and rusty, then repainting makes less sense. There is often so much work involved in preparing old metal doors, interior surfaces, and shelves, that replacement may be the only sound option.
  2. Are the cabinets too outdated, poorly designed, and constructed? If they are not very functional in terms of size, load-bearing capacity, location or the number of cabinets, then replacement may be the best solution. Families want and need enough space to store all the pots and pans, plates, drinkware, and other cooking items to meet today’s fashions and needs – woks, pizza stones, etc.
  3. Have the floor or walls sunk or moved resulting in gaps between them and the cabinets? If so, can that problem be solved without tearing out and replacing the cabinets? If not, full kitchen refurbishment may be the best option.
  4. Is the cabinetry moldy or hygienically compromised in other ways? If so, can it be corrected to meet state or municipal standards? A buyer’s home inspector or future tenant who discovers what they consider to be an attempt to hide such a problem may cause a bigger problem than replacing the old cabinets would have been.
  5. If the cabinets, themselves, are sound, focus on aesthetics and cost. Can the door and drawer fronts be painted, so they look new and welcoming? If not, it may be better to avoid the “instant turn off” by a prospective buyer or tenant by refacing them.
  6. What will the initial cost be, and can it be easily recovered in rental income or sale price?  Replacing a set of cabinets can cost anywhere from $10,000 and up. Refacing will cost $5000 or so depending on the materials used. Painting is the least costly solution.

Final Comment

If the current kitchen cabinetry is safe and functional enough to attract tenants or buyers, then refacing or repainting may be the right choice. If simply addressing the surface issues will not deliver a lasting and sound result, then full replacement may be the right route to follow.