“which features will add the most value and attract the most buyers?”

Photo by PoPville flickr user hellomarkers!

“Dear PoPville,

We’re planning to renovate the kitchen and master bathroom in our apartment and I’m wondering which features will add the most value and attract the most buyers. For example, is a shower/tub combo a must in a master bath or would people prefer a luxury shower instead? What about a double vanity vs a single? Will a gas stove be the most desirable? What counter top materials do people prefer? Any other must-haves in a modern kitchen/bath renovation that we wouldn’t typically think of? We obviously want to design the space to meet our needs and style, but we also want to keep in mind re-sell potential in the next 5-10 years.”

151 Comment

  • Good question! I don’t know that I have an answer, but looking forward to hearing what people have to say.
    I think a bathtub in one of the bathrooms is a must — especially for kids or older people. Generally, stone countertops are a must if its an above average listing.
    Not directly related, but I was told proximity to metro, off street parking and houses with a legal rental unit in the basement are very much in demand.

  • Very interested in comments. We are beginning to plan changes to lighting, master bath, and a couple other updates. (I seriously thought my wife might have been OP.)

    • justinbc

      I think I looked through almost 5,000 lights on Lumens dot com before deciding on the ones for our master bathroom remodel, the selection these days is just crazy.

  • Is it your only full bath, or is there another bathroom with a tub? If you remove the only tub you are basically taking any families with kids out of your resale pool. If there is a tub elsewhere do whatever makes sense in the space. Trends come and go really fast these days, so trying to plan for a market 5-10 years down the line is fruitless. Something classic and neutral (black and white bathroom, subway tile, etc.) won’t get dated. Use paint if you need to add color, don’t go overboard with the tile and fixture styling. For the kitchen I’ve heard more people say they won’t consider a house without a gas range than the converse, unless they *really* want induction burners. Easier to swap an electric range in where a gas one is than the opposite. Again, neutral for the cabinets and countertop. White or gray (ubiquitous these days, but easily painted in the future), shaker style or something with clean lines.

    • Yes, all of this! I wouldn’t have purchased a home without the )at least) ability to have a gas range and at least one tub.

  • Tub/shower depends on whether you have another bathroom. Families with kids will want a tub in at least one bathroom, but are ok having a nice shower in the master (and they tend to look nicer but are very hard to keep clean from soap scum and hard water stains).

    I’d rather have a vanity that fits the space, whatever it is. Don’t sacrifice storage to squeeze in a second sink if it doesn’t fit.

    Definitely a gas stove. Would prefer a quality vent hood that vents to the outside (rather than recirculate the air), but if that’s the only place to put a microwave do the microwave instead.

    Would prefer granite countertops. Marble is going to get stained and look like crap in a few years.

    Mostly, make sure you use quality materials and that it’s done well. If it doesn’t age well, regardless of how trendy it is, it wont’ be a plus for buyers

    • justinbc

      There’s a sealant product you can get at most home improvement stores for your glass shower walls that works wonders at eliminating the soap scum buildup. You still have to regularly clean it, but the buildup is about 10% what it is before the application.

      • That’s good to know. I really can’t stand the glass shower wall trend, because I look at it and see cleaning hell (same thing with stainless steel appliances), but as someone who is about to start looking to buy it’s almost unavoidable.

        • I should pickup some of the sealant, but honestly ours stay pretty clean. We have a squeegee in the shower that we use to quickly clean the water off the walls after a shower and everything stays relatively clean.

        • Vinegar Windex or simple diluted vinegar cleans soap scum with little effort.

        • One of the liquid versions of Barkeep’s Friend works on my shower glass well. Though I agree on stainless steel appliances – why add something harder to clean and make look good there – there IS a reason for some glass in the shower walls – you don’t end up taking a shower in the dark.

          • justinbc

            The problem with not buying stainless steel appliances is that for just about every manufacturer it’s the product they use for their top end appliances, unless you are getting something that has panel applications to match the cabinetry.

          • You really don’t have to buy the highest end appliances. I’ve seen people buy places with recently redone kitchens and redo them for their purpose. Only buy stuff you plan to use.People with cash to burn will renovate.

          • “You really don’t have to buy the highest end appliances.”
            I agree with this. We paid for performance and functionality. We like to cook and bake, so the high-end range and range hood made sense. Despite repeated efforts, no salesman could convince me that a built in Subzero would keep my food colder or preserve it better than a regular stand-alone refrigerator, so we got one with features we liked at less that 1/4 of the price of a Subzero. All drawer microwaves are made by Sharp (seriously, every one of them), so we got a Sharp, rather than paying an extra $200 for a “better” brand. We did spend more on inset cabinets, purely for aesthetic reasons, and don’t regret that decision.

          • justinbc

            Even if you don’t buy the “highest end” almost every model is made in stainless, versus white or black or whatever other color / finish you have in mind. Pretty much the only non-stainless options you can find are either 1) the cheapest of the cheap models or 2) crazy high end French / Italian ones with custom colors and metals.

    • Kaboom in the purple bottle works good on glass though you still have to clean occasionally. I have to say I squeegee my show every time I take a shower and the helps with the build-up.

      • +1 on the squeegee. We had one we picked up from container store or something that was kinda old; my wife just found a simplehuman one at TJ Maxx. Man that thing works excellent and just pulls all the water off the glass and walls.

      • justinbc

        Yeah I squeegee every time as well, between that and some sort of sealant you really only get grime down in the cracks.

    • I have a walk-in glass shower (from floor on up) – just three panels of glass. I NEVER have any residue from after taking a shower, the glass dries up without a spot. Is this a specially treated glass? I have normal DC water.

    • We have a walk-shower in our master and I absolutely adore it. There’s no door, but a half wall with a glass divider on top. We have heated floors, as well as a heated towel bar. I have not used the towel bar as much as I thought I would, but the heated floors are easily worth twice the cost. I thought I would miss having a tub, and really, I don’t. I haven’t taken a bath since we moved in almost a year ago (I used to take baths all the time).
      The thing I absolutely hate in our bathroom is the vessel sink. Please don’t do this. They are so hard to keep clean and just really, what is the point? If I had my way, it would be gone tomorrow. Remember folks – friends don’t let friends install vessel sinks!!

  • For my money, a gas stove is a necessity. I strongly dislike granite countertops; much prefer manufactured. I look for a good layout in a kitchen. The work triangle (stove, fridge, sink) is very important. I would kill for a butler’s pantry, or something that serves the same purpose– a place to store less-frequently-used kitchen items.
    As for the bath, if you have babies/ small children, a tub is pretty important.

    • What kind of countertops do you prefer?

      • Something that isn’t quite so environmentally disastrous as mined stone, and not so precious in terms of maintenance. Manufactured quartz for example.

        • Same, I love quartz. I wish people would stop with the granite (I actually thought it was out of style by now), but most people I know doing renos go with the granite.

        • They’re expensive, but recycled materials are a good alternative. When I tested samples, the GEOS product was more resistant to knife cuts than Silestone. GEOS will distribute heat up to a point. Granite can have hidden fissures that break under heat. Burcher block will distribute heat but more TLC than stone.

      • I Dont Get It

        I read on a website once that granite countertops can be radioactive so I keep mine covered in aluminum foil.

        Bonus: They match my hat.

    • What do you mean by “manufactured” — manufactured to look like some kind of granite/quartz/stone? Or something else?

      • Or glass, or epoxy/ resin.
        Mined stone like granite and marble has a colossal carbon footprint, and of course the mines themselves are an environmental nightmare.

        • And there are so many really affordable manufactured products out there now, that cost the same or less than granite or marble. I have paperstone in my kitchen, which is made from recycled paper and resin. It looks like a dark marble and has proved to be really hard wearing (no water marks, etc.). There’s also a fantastic product called neolithe that’s made from manufactured glass/quartz/porcelain. It comes in any color/style you’d like, can look like marble or granite if that’s your preference, and its virtually indestructible.

          • Ugh…we have paperstone countertops from the previous owners and I absolutely despise them. They are extremely difficult to keep clean and no matter what I clean them with (even the paperstone brand cleaner) it leeches green coloring onto whatever I am cleaning it with (cloth, paper towel, etc). I cannot wait to have something different.

        • Huh? In what sense is a marble mine in Italy an “environmental nightmare”?!

          • Deforestation, habitat loss, erosion, sediment runoff and watershed destruction, air pollution from the machinery and the disturbed earth… And that’s the good mines. The bad ones use corrosives and don’t care where it goes.
            Then you have to ship the product, which takes massive amounts of fuel and dumps literal tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
            And of course, most of it comes from the developing world, where environmental protections are few and worker protections are non-existent.
            I mean… how did you THINK your marble or granite got to you? Just found sitting in perfect slabs on the ground of picturesque villages, and then flown across the ocean by fairies?

        • HaileUnlikely

          FWIW Consumer Reports rates countertop materials on a bunch of criteria that I”ll take on blind faith somebody smarter than me put some thought into, and marble was their second lowest rated countertop material ahead of only bamboo.

    • Also, on your counter tops, PLEASE don’t make it a single color. I currently have all black granite and it shows every darned water spot and food bit.

      • An an upvote of +1,000,000 from me on that. Just moved from an apartment that had all-black countertops to one with a pattern, and the difference is palpable. A very first-world issue, to be sure, but still….I hated always feeling like my counters were dirty when a stray dust mote would make its way over.

        • I’m going to be the contrarian on this – I love my black granite, and can’t stand the look of the speckled beige/brown (for lack of a better term) countertops – they look super dated to me. (That said there may be other options that aren’t solid colors that don’t have that dated look).

    • We just did a gut renovation (basically built a new house), and confronted the same questions. I’m going to put all comments here; sorry if they seem out of order.
      Kitchen: We went with manufactured quartz countertops for many of the reasons identified. The only think I don’t love about it is it’s not as hear resistant as granite – it’s a bit of a transition because we had granite for 11 years, and never worried about a trivet. Agree about not selecting a single color for countertops. Get the biggest sink you can – we didn’t, and I regret it. I love a prep sink, but that is personal preference and a function of available space. As far as appliances go, I favor spending money on the range/rangetop/ovens, rather than the refrigerator (so no built-in). For lower cabinets, do as many as large stand-alone pull-out drawers (not cabinet doors will pull out shelves) as you can, and do them at the beginning – it is cost prohibited to convert it later (although part of that is a function of the style of cabinet we selected. The pot-filler is nice, but expensive and unnecessary. The kitchen is the place where you really can blow up your budget, if you have the space – pot filler, refrigerator drawers, wine coolers, inset cabinetry, etc. – so be careful.
      Bathrooms: Agree that there should be one tub in the house. We have 3.5 baths, and one tub (in the upstairs non-master). We prefer a stall shower in the master suite, and stall showers with no lips are much easier to access for aging parents with bad knees, so we put one of them in the basement. We have a faux jacuzzi tub (just some small holes that make it bubble) and my 10 yo uses it every time she takes a bath. If you only have one tub, I would NOT put class doors on it – I speak from frustrating experience when I say that bating a kid when there are sliding glass doors and a metal track on the bottom is an enormous pain in the ass. We have double vanities in the master and upstairs bath, and they are great. If you have the space, a separate water closet (toilet in an enclosed space, segregated form the rest of the master bath) is the best thing ever – I wish we had one. Get a Japanese toilet seat, too – you won’t regret it.

      • A comment below made me think of perhaps the most important general point. The most important consideration has to be what works for you, not resale value. At a minimum it needs to be the tiebreaker. This is your home. Our agent and contractor both tried – hard – to convince us to put 4 bedrooms upstairs in our renovation. We are a family of three, there’s a spare room in the basement already, and a stand-along office on the mail level. To accommodate 4 bedrooms upstairs, a lot of tradeoffs would have to be made, including very small 3rd and 4th bedrooms, and substantially trimming back the closet and bathroom square footage. We decided against it, and went with 3 rooms upstairs, which gave us space for a laundry on the second floor, 2 spare rooms, a good-sizes master bath, and huge master closet, and large closets in the other two bedrooms. They also tried to convince us to put a master bath on the mail level (that’s a huge selling point with an aging population), but we’d have to sacrifice a lot of pantry space, and we decided it wasn’t worth it. In 20 years, we may have to move because we can’t make it up the stairs, but that’s OK – in those 20 years, we’ll have a better quality of life.
        All of this “what works best for you, not resale value” has to be within reason – a friend’s parents once wanted to renovate a house without a range because they didn’t cook, and why waste the space. Thankfully someone talked them out of that.

        • justinbc

          Second floor laundry was a game changer for us. Hauling those clothes all over the house before made me dread doing it even more than I already do naturally.

        • LOVE my second-floor laundry. Whatever level the bedrooms are on, that’s where the washer/dryer should be. I’ll never buy another house with laundry in the basement.

          • pneumatic elevators. In our design we are ensuring we have space for one down the line. They arent as expensive as traditional ones.

      • Who was your contractor? Would you recommend them?

        • Leveille HIC. Yes, I’d recommend them. If you like, have Dan give you my email address, and I can send some more information.

  • In the kitchen, I think quartz counters are the way to go. In style and I don’t see that changing in a while. I think real cooks like a gas stove, but unless you have gas now, I don’t think it’s worth the extra money unless you want gas yourself!

    In the bathroom, yes to a double vanity if you have room. As for a tub, if your apartment is large enough for folks to have kids and there is no other tub, and that’s the target population for your apartment, buyers might like that. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with a luxury shower.

    However, overall if you’re staying there five more years styles will change and you can’t guarantee the specific buyers will like your taste. Don’t do anything garish, but buy what you like at the end of the day!

    • justinbc

      Most gourmet restaurant chefs that I’ve seen kitchen features on are switching to induction in their own homes, although most buyers still aren’t familiar enough with it to recapture the costs if that’s your main concern vs functionality.

      • It must have gotten better, then. I had an induction cooktop many years ago, and found it no better than coil electric.

        • If you have the right pots, it’s amazing. I have an open burner gas range where one burner is 25,000 BTUs, and that boils water really quickly, but it’s nothing next to induction.

          • justinbc

            BlueStar? If so, how do you like it? And yeah the induction premise is all about the pot compatibility, which is something potential buyers have to factor in as well.

          • Yes, the 36″ Blue Star Platinum Series. I absolutely love it, especially the oven that fits a full-size cookie sheet, and the ability to use a round bottom wok simply by removing one of the grates. My one regret is that I got the Platinum series because it has an interchangeable grill and griddle, and that it has a 25,000 BTU burner, rather than 22,000. The grill and griddle are an enormous pain in the ass, and I don’t ever use them. In retrospect, I could have gotten the Precious Metals model, with an infrared broiler, French doors and a French burner. But I’m not sure that has the same flexibility re the wok, so it’s a toss up. If you have the space, the 48″ RNB seems like the best value.

          • justinbc

            Excellent info, looking at the same model but in the rangetop (with matching wall oven elsewhere). Good to know about the griddle, that’s a feature I’ve been heavily considering…what’s the annoyance to it? I figured it would be something I use constantly, but if it’s one of those great things in concept but awful in practice kinda things then it makes the decision process a lot easier.

          • To use the griddle or grill, you have to remove two burner grates and the square holders that go around the burner itself. Each is cast iron, and heavy. Then you need to put in a rectangular cast iron frame, a diffuser (if you’re using the grill), and the griddle or grill itself (which also are cast iron and heavy). It’s cumbersome, often dirty and time consuming. In addition, the parts are bulky and take up a lot of space – I didn’t want to waste that much kitchen storage space, and the further you keep the parts, the more of a hassle it is. Plus, it’s a hassle to wash because it’s so heavy.
            We’ve thought about keeping the griddle up at all times, but then you turn a 6 burner range into a 4 burner range. I rarely have more than 4 pots or pans going at once, but the griddle frame makes it more difficult to put large pots on the stove, especially if you have the griddle on the center burners. Considering you won’t put the simmer burner under the griddle, you’re left with three true multi-use burners. We don’t actually use a griddle that often – weekends for pancakes and French toast – and the lightweight, $50 electric griddle that fits nicely into a cabinet works fine. If you’re using a griddle more often, the calculus might be different. But really, a large frying pan works just as well as a griddle in most instances (for us at least).
            Quick question, if you don’t mind – for me, the main attraction of Blue Star was the range, and the oven was fine (the large size helped a lot). The lack of ANY bells and whistles wasn’t ideal. We didn’t have the space to do a separate wall oven, but if we did, we’d likely have done an electric convection oven – probably a double oven with steam option. It would have to be smaller – I think Blue Star makes the only 36″ wall oven. Is the size the main consideration (it really is nice).

          • justinbc

            I know Wolf makes a 36″ wall oven as well, but we’ll be getting a 30″ for the oven whichever model I decide to go with. That’s part of the reason for breaking them up, given the constraints in a 20 foot wide rowhouse, and the rangetop/cooktop allows for a cleaner island/peninsula look than a slide-in. Right now it’s between the BlueStar, Wolf, Miele, Thermador, and Bertazzoni models with varying specs. We went up to a few NYC showrooms so I could play around with them all, and I’m still kinda torn. The main appeal of the BlueStar was the open burners, quality, colors, and the griddle layout.

      • Just as an FYI, if you have a pacemaker or certain other kinds of implanted medical devices, induction stoves are NOT recommended!

        • justinbc

          Yikes, interesting side note!

          • I mean, maybe now things are different, but I know for a while if you got a pacemaker or similar device, especially anything that can be messed up by magnetic fields, doctors were recommending against the use of induction cook tops. There have been small studies conducted and most demonstrated a very low probability of interference, but I think it’s one of those “better safe than sorry” type of things!

  • I’d suggest checking out some of the more common home improvement sites and resources on HGTV’s website, etc. Free advice from experts is always beneficial πŸ˜‰

    • Are they experts? Or just shills?

      • justinbc

        I’ve gotten a lot of good expert advice on Houzz, from across the country with no attempt at selling products.

        • Agree on Houzz. My favorite feature of our kitchen is a pull-out lower cabinet that houses a knife block and 5 canisters for cooking utensils (wooden spoons, whisks, spatulas, etc.) So nice not to have all that stuff on the counter, or have to rummage through a drawer for it. I got the idea from Houzz.

        • Agree with Houzz. Use the “Advice” section. Many professionals and hobbyists comment and provide feedback for free with no strings or selling

      • I wonder about that too — seems like many people have a vested interest in convincing homeowners that Look X is dreadfully outdated and that they MUST, MUST upgrade to Look Y.
        If and when I renovated my kitchen or bathrooms, I want to do it in as “future-proof” a way as possible — not in a way where it looks very “in” at the time but looks noticeably dated 10 years later.

      • And PoPville commenters ARE on resale value, etc? Real estate professionals know more about this than a layperson who may or may not be buying or concerned with the OP’s budget.

        • justinbc

          Many PoPville commenters have sold their homes, so they know what they get back, or have bought homes, so they know what they look for.

        • PoPville commenters aren’t in for a cut when you buy a certain product. Which makes them much more trustworthy, IMO.

        • None of us are (as far as I know) experts, but there’s usefulness in crowd-sourcing a question like this — you can get a sense from a broad range of people about the features they like/dislike.

        • I Dont Get It

          What would we have to discuss here if people went directly to experts?

  • coming from a person currently looking to buy a place in NYC: for the bathroom, ideal would be to have both a tub and a glass door shower, but i value the glass door shower more (no kids, but i agree with the earlier comment re: people with kids needing a tub), i personally like all white everything as i think that is the cleanest but would rather have white and blue than white and black but thats just personal preference, i think a double vanity is a waste, just get one with big enough counter space;
    for the kitchen: coming from a place with an electric stove top, gas in my next place is as close to a “must have” for me as you can get; again i prefer the light color kitchen, simple backsplash as i think its timeless and exudes cleanliness; i also like an island or peninsula, no double sink as i think that is also a waste; an unobstructed island is a plus to me.

    hope this is helpful!

  • I’ll second the gas stove as a must. I also am quite partial to a nice large, deep kitchen sink. For a master bath, double sinks is nice but not a deal breaker for me. If you do a tub in the master bath, don’t make it a crazy jet one – those rarely get used and they’re quite expensive.

    • +1 on the jacuzzi tub. We have one and NEVER use the jets. Too noisy.

      • We inherited a jet tub and never use it because it’s a shower combo, so we don’t want to use it without scrubbing and sanitizing it first. So we’re starting to look into replacing our master bedroom fireplace with a separate shower stall for the master bath. We’re not yet sure if that’s as crazy as it might sound.

        • Yeah, I always wonder what mold is hiding in those jets.

          • When my kids were little, every other month or so I used to fill the tub with water, add a splash of bleach, and run the jets for a few minutes.
            Then I stopped freaking out about stuff like that. I mean… they would happily eat cheerios off the floor.

          • We have to scrub and run the bleach before we’re willing to use our tub. The kiddo tub doesn’t have any, which is fine by me.

    • justinbc

      I would say that if your house has multiple full baths as long as you have at least one tub in the house there’s no need to have one in the master, if that space can be better used for something else, especially if you’re not a bath taker.

      • Yes, while I like my current set up with a roomy shower with glass on two sides AND a deep soaking tub, if there wasn’t room for both in the bathroom, I’d say go for the roomy, glass-doored (and at least one more side of glass, if possible) and put the tub in the second bathroom. I’m not saying you need a bathtub-sized shower for two – mine is a square that is roomy for one. (I hate those old, tiny, dark shower stalls in houses and apartments of a certain era that feel cramped for one and are dark inside except for a possible light fixture in them because they are enclosed with tile on 5 sides.) But if the second bath is in the basement, then no – basement bedrooms and bathrooms don’t count, they aren’t places I want to be spending my time. Do think about putting a deeper soaking tub/shower combo in that second bath – not a clawfoot, as they are hard to get in and out of for showering. If you don’t have a second bathroom, or room for a decent-sized shower and tub in the only bath, then I far prefer a tub/shower combo in the main bathroom to lack of any tub in a home.

  • The fact of the matter is that every person is different. For example – bathrooms. I think a nice sized glass stand up shower is a great selling point (and I purchased an apt with that) – particularly for me who’s tall. But I know people with children (and even some without) who REQUIRE having a tub for their kids or themselves. So a tub may not be attractive to me, but very attractive for someone else.
    I think it also depends what you living in and what you see other “competing” apartments feature or not feature. For example, if you are in a 3 bedroom where it’s an incredibly small room/office type of space, weigh whether it could be beneficial to create a master suite with a walk-in closet, luxury/large bathroom, etc. – and whether that could be good ROI even if you lose that extra space to market as a 3 bedroom. I don’t know the answer to that question and depends on what exactly your apartment is.
    People these days do not really think – it’s why staging has become a thing. How many times do you see people on HGTV freak out about easy changes like paint colors? So honestly I would say keeping things rather neutral is your best option. When I was looking for a place, I looked at a place that was brand new basically and everything was amazing – but the kitchen was shiny/plastic looking red cabinets. It had wonderful appliances and such, but 0 chance I was buying that place because of that.
    Also – keep in mind that people typically max out their budgets in DC. They usually don’t have a lot of wiggle room to do updates. And people are not smart – they look at cosmetic, not quality. So getting a vanity for a bathroom at Lowe’s that looks cool can do the trick that makes it look more updated without shelling out for expensive custom cabinetry. Unless you’re truly marketing it as a luxury apartment, people typically do not notice custom/expensive finishes. They just want something that looks expensive/nice for the most part.
    These are just a few thoughts…

    • Agree on the custom/expensive finishes. Don’t kill your budget w/ expensive tiles or vanities. Most people do not know the difference at all. I think the same goes for countertops and cabinets. Someone mentioned this above, but manufactured countertops can look just as great (and hold up better) than granite or marble. We have Corian and have been so happy, cheaper and so durable. No one knows it’s not granite just from looking at it. And I doubt that would be a deal breaker as long as it looks great.

  • Gas stove is a must – we don’t even look at condos w/o gas. A dishwasher, if you don’t already have it. I like quartz countertops (have marble and it is such a pain to maintain).

    You can get away with a single vanity if it’s a large one with plenty of counterspace. Look at flooring in the bathroom – something clean, simple, and classic will always be in style. Agree with the other comments re getting rid of the only tub in the house. Also, look into carving out a shelf in the shower.

    I know it’s not kitchen/bath per se, but definitely look at the functionality of your closets. It may be worth spending a few hundred or even thousands to give it a custom look, and you can do it a fraction of the cost if you’re the DIY type.

  • diploj

    Definitely go with gas if you can. Replace all track lighting with recessed lights (when/why was track lighting a thing?). I recommend installing lighting underneath the cabinets. Aesthetically, keep things simple to appeal to buyers. Agree that you should keep the tub if it’s your only full bathroom. You can do a glass door so that you avoid the eyesore of a plastic current. If you can send me a private message I’ll share pics of what we did a few years ago to our place (we also did a kitchen/bath gut job, keeping resale in mind).

  • **Residential new home construction consultant here** – Quartz countertops (the new-age granite/marble), gas stove, stainless steel appliances, white cabinetry or tuxedo cabinets (white on top, black on bottom), absolutely a free standing tub and shower in master ensuite, double vanity in ensuite, and any type of smart home/green technology (thermostats, light bulbs, windows just to name a few) adds a tremendous amount of value and can be done cheaply (plus DC offers rebates for green thermostats and lightbulbs). Hope this helps!

    • Also – subway tiles are in right now for both bathrooms and kitchens. Backsplash is also a very nice touch in both the kitchen and shower design.

    • Count me OUT on the tuxedo cabinets. But everyone has their own opinion πŸ™‚

      • agreed – I’m personally not a fan either, but they’re a trend right now

        • justinbc

          I think they look odd in small spaces (as most rowhouse kitchens tend to be), but in bigger kitchens can be pulled off nicely.

        • We put in white along the perimeter of the kitchen, but the island is dark (not black, but very dark, that complements the floors). I was **very** skeptical, but my wife convinced me, and she was right – it looks great.

          • justinbc

            We’re in the process of designing our kitchen remodel now and doing pretty much the exact same thing.

    • justinbc

      Quartz breaks and stains more easily than granite, and doesn’t hold up to high heat as well. If they’re going to be using the kitchen for 10 years before selling it there’s a good chance one or both of those will happen to some degree.

      • that’s just not true. quartz is indisputably more durable and it is not porous at all (like granite and marble) that’s why people buy it, so it doesn’t stain….not sure where you got that info from. We install quartz in every single one of our new homes in McLean, Great Falls and Arlington ($1.5M-$4M homes)

        • Max is absolutely right about the heat resistance.

        • justinbc

          I’m not “getting information”, I’ve seen it in person, multiple times. Comparing percentages might be debatable (although hard to prove), but commenting on whether it happens or not really isn’t, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Just because you install something doesn’t mean it doesn’t stain after you’re gone. All quartz products have a resin in it which is susceptible to staining from heavily acidic products, as well as “burn” marks from hot items.

    • Soapstone looks fantastic and is incredibly durable. I used it for my countertops and am very happy.

  • Energy Star/efficient appliances are a huge selling point for me. They last longer, are higher quality, and use less energy – paying you back quickly with lower energy bills offsetting a sometimes higher initial cost. Go with LED lighting! It’s the future.

  • My Sister-in-Law just had a new house built. When they were in the design phase last fall they asked about resale value. They were advised to have an open concept all white kitchen with quartz counters and gas stove/ stainless appliances. White subway tile backsplash with shaker cabinets. All hardwood or engineered wood floors throughout the house. To have a upscale master bath (fancy shower with high end fixtures) and a second bathroom with basic tub/ shower, double vanity, and nice tiling (either all white subway or that brown basic tile) that would work for kids. Pendant lighting in the kitchen. Statement light fixture in dining area. Trendy lighting in the master bedroom.

    • Ew on that lighting. Pendant lights are annoying – and the custom lightbulbs needed are more so, not sure that’s a major selling point. Sounds like a sales pitch to me.
      If flooring is a thing, I would do hardwoods throughout – at least for the living/dining/kitchen space. I think carpets aren’t a bad thing per se for bedrooms, but wood ideal. I do think having the hardwoods go through the kitchen and a half bath is a nice, seamless, clean look – I am not a fan of tile in the kitchen.

      • we must be thinking of different lights. Because the globe pendant lights she has are from West Elm are beautiful and take a regular light bulb. And ever since she got them I see them (or very similar lights) everywhere.

        • justinbc

          Yeah the expanse that exists in pendant lighting right now is huge, there are types for pretty much any kind of bulb you could imagine. I’ve definitely seen, and purchased, some beautiful pendant lights.

        • To be fair – there’s a WIDE variety of what people refer to as pendant lights. I’m referring more to the small, small light fixtures hanging across a bar – I used to live in an apartment and hit my head once a month on them. There are some large pendant lights that are more along the lines of non-chandelier hanging lights that I think look fine. But pendant lights definitely dive into details that people can be nitpicky on (even though it’s not necessarily a hard fix).

      • Far prefer pendant lighting in old houses. Recessed lights don’t belong with their style – they are something (like exposed brick walls) that I see in renovated old homes that I think “I’d have to remove or cover those up.”

      • Not sure how a pendant light could be annoying, unless you hung it too low and you bump it with your head. Mine are great– they put the light where it’s needed, they take LEDs (or CFs, or incandescents), and they don’t make my kitchen look like an operating room.

      • May want to consider recessed lights instead because you can buy pendant conversion kits and then switch back to recessed lights anytime in the future. Just gives you more options.

  • justinbc

    If you plan to be there for another 5 to 10 years there’s a good chance what’s trendy now will change by then. Outfit the bath and kitchen with what makes you happy. For example, if you never take baths why waste the space on a shower/bath combo? As long as you’re using quality, classic materials they don’t lose a lot of value.

    • Agree. We started our reno going to do white cabinets but then realized that when we sell the house in 10+ years who knows what will be in style (possibly back to natural wood?) so why live with something we don’t want only to have the next owner rip it out? We’re now over the moon pumped for our blue cabinets to arrive!

    • I disagree with this comment. Sure, if it is something that can be fairly easily changed by paint – like kitchen cabinets – then go for what you like. But for removing any bathtub from a house, that is not an easy change to put one back in, but requires a whole bathroom renovation. I would never consider a house without a tub, unless it was a wreck I was buying and planning to gut renovate before moving in. Do what you want – just be aware of changes that will eliminate a sizable subset of buyers when you sell – and if you’re fine with that, then go ahead.

      • justinbc

        Yeah, as I noted above I wouldn’t eliminate the bath if it’s your only one, but if you have an extra then do what you want in the one you’ll be using primarily.

    • justinbc

      For anyone curious this is the master bath remodel we did where we did exactly as I said above…unfortunately they didn’t upload the before pics, but it was a small “2 person” shower (tough squeeze), tiny vanity, and then a giant jacuzzi tub. We ripped out the tub, extended the shower a few feet, and used the remaining space to build a second floor laundry room (rather than double vanities since my wife and I rarely get ready at the same time). Stylistically we went 100% with what we wanted (Moroccan luxury) than what potential resale would demand, but that’s something you have to balance with how long you plan to be in the home.

      • Cool bathroom- but that lighting is a little to dim for normal vanity purposes and wouldn’t be functional as the only lighting source I don’t think. I did that lighting in my half bath and I love but just can’t see it working in main baths.

  • Related but somewhat different question…assuming you have a unimproved standard row house would you install regular central ac/forced air or ductless systems (Mitsubishi and LG make less offensive looking ceiling registers now so not the units that are mounted on the wall)? We are having a hard time making a unbiased decision…would a regular home buyer want to see normal ducted or be happy to have the space efficient ductless?

    • I find those ductless systems to be ugly because you end up with big units on your walls. If the ceiling registers are not noticeable then sure. FWIW, we put central air on our row house and the ducts are hidden in closets. We got a quote for the ductless system and it was nearly 10k more than central. We still have radiant heat, which I love.

    • justinbc

      Traditional system for me, I wouldn’t have even looked at a house that didn’t have this installed (unless I knew it was a gut / rehab job going in).

    • houseintherear

      I love love loveeeeee my ductless Mitsubishi system. But I have very high ceilings and the units are not really noticeable because they’re up high. I hated the idea of losing ceiling height with bump-downs/bump-outs for ducts. I really like being able to shut down a whole room, like a guest room that isn’t used often, or to only have a/c on upstairs and not downstairs, etc. The bills are super low, too. My system is a three split, cost somewhere around $7-8k.

  • Definitely put in a drawer for trash/recycling. My husband and I have actually considered a kitchen remodel in order to get one.

  • The answers to this really depend on the size of your apartment, OP. If it’s a 1BR/1BA you won’t have families looking at it anyway. In that case, I’d go with the luxury shower and a double sink vanity. That’s the ideal setup for a DINK couple with a busy schedule.
    If you have 2BR/2BA you can then start appealing to families, in which case you’ll want one BA with the traditional tub/shower combo.
    Frankly, I wouldn’t renovate if you (1.) plan on moving soon or (2.) will hire out all labor/contractor ($$$). There’s a good chance you won’t make your money back, depending on a bunch of other variables with your apartment (location, size, outdoor space, parking, etc). If the renovations were being done to a SFH, I’d say you are guaranteed to make a premium because families don’t want to deal with construction.

    • As a first time condo buyer (could only afford 1 BR/1 BA) I had to rule out a surprising number of places that had gone shower only. I like to take baths personally but also I was trying to buy something that I could grow into (like add a second adult and even an infant for a bit) without having to move. and that meant having a tub. I do hate my ugly bathroom but it does have a tub!

      • Also going to agree with msfp – I was a first time condo buyer mostly looking at 1BR/1BA, and I also ruled out places that were shower only. I have no kids/not planning to, but a) I like baths, and b) having a bathtub is useful for cleaning some larger items, and has other useful purposes that a shower only does not (as I lived in a shower only apt for a year).

  • First, it really depends on the type of housing that you have and what your budget is. If you have a 1BR/1BA, then it’s probably going to be for a single person or couple without kids. With that in mind, a double vanity is nice to have, but not a must, especially because the plumbing work to add a second sink is expensive. If you have more bedrooms and baths, I would consider adding a double vanity. A tub is also a must in a 1BR/1BA, but if you have more bathrooms, then you can get away with not having a tub in the master bathroom. To get a better idea of what the latest trends are, you should tour some new construction/gut renovation listings to see what builders are doing.

    I renovated both bathrooms and my kitchen in my condo in the past 3 years. I replaced all of my kitchen appliances with stainless steel, including a double oven gas stove (best purchase ever). In the kitchen, I recommend quartz over marble as marble is so easy to stain, even with water and even if it is sealed. Quartz is also pretty maintenance free, as you don’t have to seal it. Also, it’s nice (but not must haves) to have a button installed on the counter top to work the garbage disposal (instead of a wall switch) and electrical receptors in the counter tops that come out when you need them.

    In the bathrooms, dual flush toilets, framed mirrors and nice cabinetry (with lots of storage or built in hamper) are nice. I recommend spending a little more on tile for the bathroom floor (and the kitchen back splash) as those are the first things people see and they are a good way to personalize your bathroom (so that it’s not so cookie cutter). My contractor also recommends adding a handheld shower head, either in lieu of a stationary shower head, or in addition to a stationary one.

    Good luck and if you need a recommendation for a good contractor, my guy was pretty awesome.

  • I have a small kitchen and I had custom cabinets – and not from a custom cabinet retailer but by someone local. That made it possible to get as much as possible depth/width as possible in my 1923 house. Also, take the cabinets to the ceiling. Not only do you get more cabinets but it does fool the eye into think the space is bigger. Also, I didn’t get any detailing at all except one overhead with glass panels. I don’t like detailing in kitchens because of the cleaning and having the smooth wall of cabinets again makes the cabinets not be so obvious.

    For both places – STORAGE. It keeps counters from being cluttered which makes places seem like “you don’t have enough storage” which makes people feel the place is “too small”.

    • janie4

      ET, who did you use for your cabinets, and are you happy with them? I’m thinking custom when I do my remodel, becuase I have a specific retro look I want to try and get. What are yours made out of?

  • In my opinion a master bath needs 2 sinks. Be sure to build in adequate storage. Regarding materials, “marble” (which in many cases is actually limestone) is beautiful, but a pain to clean and take care of. We regret using it in our own master bath and wish we had used something like ceramic or glass tile instead. I think marble is especially inappropriate for kitchens because it stains and etches so easily, so you have to be very careful with it. We also have clear class for our shower, which was beautiful when new but a pain to keep clean.

  • Gas is great for your appliances if it’s possible (not a possibility for some condos). Induction burners require particular pots/pans–lost of people don’t cook much and won’t care. Convection ovens seem to have peaked and passed–they don’t work well for everything. What restaurants use is pretty irrelevant. It’s what normal people use.

    We have an aging population—-despite the usual wisdom about children and the supposed love of tubs by women, a stall shower may be just fine for resale. Jacuzzis–annoying to clean, seem very 1990s. Twin sinks in the master seems to go in and out of favor. I wouldn’t bother unless you really plan to use them.

  • Not sure anyone can predict trends in 5-10 years. Do what makes you comfortable and works with your life. For instance, when I did my kitchen reno, I could have run a gas line for the stove. But, I fell in love with induction. I love to cook nearly every meal, and induction fit in with how I cook. Side benefit is that the house doesnt get massively hot when you are working on a big meal. Will induction be the big trend 5-10 years down the line? Who knows.

    Agree with the vent hood venting outside if possible. That was one corner I cut that I will correct soon.

    And, finally, everyone needs logical storage in both the kitchen and bath. The rooms look like pieces of art but lack practicality. May be good for someone who doesnt cook or just comes home to shower. Not good for the broader market.

  • Side question- What kind of product do people use to clean the gas stove? I have hard time keeping mine clean. Especially the cast iron grates…

  • HaileUnlikely

    Question: do renovations of properties that are generally in good condition typically pay for themselves in terms of resale in the DC market, and do higher-end finishes typically pay for themselves (strictly in terms of resale) vs. mid-tier finishes, provided they are well maintained, and it is understood that the location and size of the property are fixed.
    My hunch is that they probably don’t, but I honestly do not know. The OP here is talking about an apartment. Thus, its size and location are obviously fixed, and a lot of aspects of the entire building as a whole are out of your hands as well, and your value will be influenced very heavily by the prices of other units in your building. Given that, and given that you are going to remodel for your own benefit anyway, in the event that I found design decisions geared toward “maximizing resale value” to be more costly than design decisions geared toward “doing what I want,” I’d want to think very carefully about the likelihood of payoff of spending more than I needed to (to achieve the design I wanted for myself) in the interest of hoping to make more money later. For one illustrative example: yes, a lot of buyers would likely rather have a gas stove than an electric stove. However, if you don’t already have the hookup for a gas stove, I’d be very surprised if installing one would pay for itself in terms of resale. If you want a gas stove anyway and can afford that, go for it, but chasing resale value is probably not a good reason to pay to have the hookup for gas stove installed if you don’t already have one.

  • Depending on how long you’re going to stay in your house, I really wouldn’t worry abut resale. I mean, don’t ignore it completely, but mostly just to what you want.
    I love my granite counter tops, btw. And my stove hood vented to the outside almost as much as the stove.

  • Gas oven/range for sure. Keep tub if it’s your only bath. Rain shower head maybe. I wouldn’t worry about double vanity unless it’s a large bathroom where counter space isn’t significantly sacrificed. Fit in lots of storage everywhere and keep design scheme neutral and simple and easy to clean/maintain. I agree with many that a manufactured countertop is fine, and probably a texture which stays looking cleaner. Doesn’t need to be fancy. Large sink in kitchen if you can with nice updated faucet. I think white is building in popularity, so maybe
    doesn’t necessarily need to be stainless steel for appliances, although that’s probably still safe.

  • Definitely double sink in master bath! And definitely a gas stove. Please stay far away from the electric flat top stoves — makes me cringe!!

  • Bookshelves, baby, bookshelves.

  • As an apartment-dweller, I think for the bathroom and kitchen, which are likely smaller than in a house, your best bet is to provide storage and function above substance. I would love a kitchen with at least one tall cabinet that could be used as a pantry. The double-vanity for the bathroom would be nice, but if it sucks up a lot of room in the bathroom, I wouldn’t do it. People living in apartments are more used to smaller spaces. Make the space look big and give them space enough to store their stuff so it doesn’t look too cluttered. As for finishes, I would go with the most economically feasible sustainable materials; that’s becoming increasingly more important to people and I don’t think that trend will diminish at all. Lastly, if you’re doing any electrical work, consider adding outlets at levels where its easy to charge phones and such. My bathroom just has one outlet that blocks the medicine cabinet, so it’s weird to leave my toothbrush charger there and then not be easily able to access the stuff in the medicine cabinet. More people are using their phones everywhere so extra outlets are always welcome, I think.

  • What is the consensus on Window Treatments?

  • I posted a couple of other replies, but one other thing I wanted to add, was having storage space under the sink in the bathroom(s). I think a half-bath is fine to have a pedestal sink, but bathrooms where people are getting ready should have storage. My real estate agent would probably attest (during my search for a 1BR/1BA condo) that I would get angry every time I went into a place with one bathroom and there was a pedestal sink with no storage underneath it.

Comments are closed.