If you were to look at the kitchen wish lists of homebuyers, you'd see some pretty specific preferences. They may want a certain style cabinet or a style of flooring. They may prefer quartz counters over granite countertops. They might insist on stainless appliances, a farmhouse-style sink, gas stove, or large center island. 

Even if you undertake a major kitchen remodel, replacing your cabinets, flooring, backsplash, and appliances, you're not going to satisfy everyone. 

Some industry experts estimate that the ROI for installing a new kitchen can be as high as 82.7 %, depending on the kind of remodel, the condition of the rest of your home, and your location. Usually, a well-done minor kitchen remodel can reliably return about 80 percent of your expense when you sell.  

It's estimated that about one in three Americans cook at home every day, and even people who aren't cooks want a kitchen that looks good. So, let's not minimize the value an impressive kitchen can add to a home's appeal. And to its selling price. 

The good news is that your kitchen might need only minor updates to land you a purchase offer. There are some techniques that can still put your home on the must-see-again list of those picky buyers. 

Streamline and clean it

You've heard it before: the first step in prepping your home for the real estate market is clearing away whatever is visually distracting or doesn't add to the perceived value of the home. Yes, we're talking about decluttering. 

If you have multiple small appliances crowding your countertop, it's best if you pare it down. Store elsewhere (offsite if necessary) what you don't use regularly, and find convenient places to hide other small appliances. 

Remember the rule of thumb: declutter first, then clean. Every kitchen benefits from a deep cleaning, something that's not as daunting if you've pared down your belongings first.   

An appliance garage like this is an ideal way to keep oft-used 
equipment close by but out of sight. Photo: LB LegacyBuilders
This heavy-duty lift mechanism is designed to be 
 installed in a base cabinet. It's a great way to get
appliances off the counter. Custom Hardware Service
Sometimes there is room in a kitchen for a narrow
pantry to be added, or for existing cabinets
to be retro-fitted to accommodate appliances. 
Of course, you would stage it to
look enviable! Photo: House Beautiful 

Make smart color choices

I think we all know that painting gives you the best return on your home staging budget. Since minor kitchen remodels have a worthwhile return, and since most kitchen walls are hidden by upper or lower cabinets or by appliances, painting your kitchen walls won't require a big investment in either money or time.

But the choice of paint color will take some smart consideration. I've blogged about my foolproof formula for choosing a paint color. You can read the easy steps there, but I will summarize here. Work with the existing fixtures like flooring and counters that will stay in place, and then determine the undertones that work with those fixtures (Do you have a warm and creamy white, or a cool and blueish white, for example). 

When you are staging your home, the kitchen needs a simple color scheme that revolves around three colors, just like every room in your house. Choose a neutral background color that repeats itself on the major surfaces like cabinets and walls. Usually, white, a pale grey, or pastel works best.  Your second color will be flooring or appliances. And your third choice is where you'll add smaller does of a more interesting color, like red or copper or bright green or lemon yellow or turquoise or navy. 

This kitchen's color scheme limits itself to varying
shades of greys and whites, with accents of
an appetizing, lemony color. Photo: BHG 

It's difficult to go wrong with a black and white
kitchen color combo. Here, the wood and brass
accents add some warmth. Photo: Wit & Delight 
 via Apartment Therapy. 

Add interesting details

One of the most wallet-friendly ways to get your kitchen up to speed with today's real estate market is to add embellishments that modernize the look.  Some examples would be interesting overhead light fixtures, stylish cabinet hardware, a new faucet, a coffee station, or some of the other economical kitchen upgrades I've already blogged about.  

Here is my list of want you don't want to add --

  • Cutesy knobs made from forks or spoons
  • Small white ceramic knobs unless you are going for a country or cottage look
  • Collections of things like ceramic animals, salt and pepper shakers, or liquor
  • Signs and labels that say things about your politics or religion or jokes about your bad habits
  • Fake food like bread or cupcakes (lemons and artichokes get a pass) 
  • An abundance of oven mitts or potholders 
  • Photos of your family
  • A trash can that's conspicuous
  • Multiple fruit bowls or vases of flowers
  • Expensive family silverware
  • A backsplash with too much personality or contrasting colors
  • Kitchen sponge, dishrag, or multiple cleaning products

What I do think adds visual value to a kitchen are some handsome cutting boards, an impressive appliance like an espresso machine or KitchenAid mixer, copper or cast iron cookware, or a simple green plant.    

Stylish, new lighting fixtures like these can update
any kitchen. Photo: LB Legacy Builders
Cabinet hardware needs to tie in with your
existing color scheme, the way these handsome
black, drawer pulls do. Photo: Country Living

Have literature available

I always like to see a handout at a home that is being sold. Househunters often view multiple homes in  one day, or over the span of a hectic weekend. If they leave your property with printed material, they have an easily accessible visual reminder of where they've been. Even if they are taking cell phone photos, most people will appreciate a paper printed with specifics about your property. Construction blueprints are two-dimensional drawings that will be impressive reminders of qualities your home has that other properties might not offer. 

A handout is an opportunity to include facts that an online MLS listing doesn't show, such as the exact distance to the nearest coffee shop, appliance brand names and models, what you especially like about your home, and the age of things like the roof and your HVAC system. 

Get the look, get the  book

Whether you are planning a major kitchen remodel, or just putting the finishing touches on your kitchen in preparation for showings, let my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your You Fast and For Top Dollar, be your guide. It has all the formulas, techniques, inspiration, and encouragement you need to stage your own home with the least amount of trouble and the most amount of return when you sell.

Top Photo: Greige Design