If given the chance to renovate one in four Aussies would start with the kitchen, research shows.
A realestate.com.au survey found 26% of Aussies would prioritise kitchen renovations over any other kind of renovation.
So if we're so keen to re-do our kitchens, do homes with killer kitchens sell for more?
Arch Staver, Sales Director at Nelson Alexander – Fitzroy, says a kitchen has the potential to be the main selling feature of a home's marketing campaign. But it must be functional, have good quality appliances, fittings, fixtures and a sense of space.
Kitchens must have function and form to win buyers.
"There's no doubt in my mind that an impressive kitchen will bring an impressive purchase price," Staver says.
"The kitchen has always been the very heart and soul of the house, but even more so now with the increasing number of home cooks.
"The whole MasterChef phenomenon has gotten into virtually every household."
TV aside, the kitchen remains a focal point of the Australian home. "It's where you go first thing in the morning and usually the last place you leave before you go to bed," Staver says.
The MasterChef phenomenon has gotten into virtually every household.
"You could mount an argument for the kitchen being the most important room in the house."
The kitchen features that matter
More than half of Australian property seekers want lots of storage and bench space in their kitchens, according to the realestate.com.au survey.
Almost 40% want natural light and 27% want open-plan layouts and appliances included.
Natural light is important to property seekers, tap fittings are not.
On the other hand, appliance cupboards and tap fittings were seen as least important in the kitchen, with only 4% of Australians preferring these features.
Australian property seekers want lots of storage & bench space in their kitchens
Staver says people will design their kitchen around how much they cook and what they need. He says the kitchen is a personal place but also a very public one.
"More often than not the design of the kitchen is incorporated in an open-plan living space," he says. "It's a chance to show off to friends and relatives – to say 'look at my fabulous kitchen'.
"It's been my experience that people are more prepared to throw more money at a kitchen than a less public space, like an ensuite."
In terms of style, only 7% of property seekers were concerned with colour palette.
Tom Roberts, a partner at Nelson Alexander in Carlton North, says renovators with resale in mind should stick to neutrals.
"Vivid colour polarises people and can turn buyers off," Roberts says. "Some buyers will look at a kitchen with bright colours and factor in the cost of a new one."
Steer clear of brights if you're renovating for sale.
Staver says a lot of buyers will pay close attention to where the kitchen is positioned in the house. "Everyone is drawn to the kitchen so it has to play its part in the floor plan," he says.
For mum and dads, it's important to have a kitchen that looks onto the outdoor area so they can watch the kids at play. "A kitchen that doubles as a hallway can be problematic," Staver says. "There needs to be connectivity between the kitchen and the rest of the house.
"It's important that the kitchen not be isolated because whoever's cooking needs to be included."
Top 5 tips for renovating kitchens
Roberts says renovators should invest in a kitchen that fits the value of the home – and do it right. "If your renovation is over the top, people won't necessarily pay the premium that you've outlaid."
So what elements should you invest in for a timeless kitchen?
Travis Dean, Director of Melbourne kitchen design, manufacturing and installation company Cantilever, says there's no reason why a kitchen shouldn't last and look great for decades.
These are Dean and Stavers' top five tips for getting maximum buyer appeal out of your kitchen renovation.
1. Classic surfaces
"Reconstituted stone bench tops or quality white laminate with ply edging are durable, stylish options for different budgets," Dean says.
Staver agrees that surface quality tops the list of importance for buyers. "It's about aesthetic first and foremost – the type of surface will define the whole look."
2. Adaptable aesthetic
White surfaces are timeless. Add colour with accessories.
Dean recommends whites and neutrals – complimented with natural materials like stainless steel splashbacks – to increase saleability over the long-term.
"Everyone's tastes are different, so it's important that the kitchen design provides a canvas for the buyer's individual style. A neutral colour palette and open shelving allows any buyer to make the kitchen their own."
Dean says finish options can vary to accommodate entry, middle or high-end budgets, but attention to detail and quality of the materials and the hardware should never be compromised.
"Cabinets that are millimetre perfect and the use of consistent shadow lines to create features from breaks in materials can make a big impression on how a well kitchen does or doesn't sit in a space."
4. Quality components
In-built wine cellars are a practical storage solution.
Dean says to look for pragmatic designs which show a degree of thought behind them, for example:
· Swing-out pantries
· Corner cupboards
· Storage systems that use lost space
· Organisation inserts
Staver says there are plenty of quality appliances out there, but buyers always have their favourites. "You'll get devotees of Miele and Smeg – people barrack for their brands, not unlike football teams."
5. Special features
The golden rule is: Don't sacrifice usability for luxury features
Whether it's display shelves or a butler's pantry – a little something extra in your kitchen might give buyers that extra push on sale day.
For Staver, the butler's pantry is great for tucking away bulky appliances and other essential items you don't want on show. "The beauty of the butler's pantry is you can make a great deal of mess away from view."
Dean says shadow boxes (open display shelves) are a design element that can add a touch of warmth and contrast to a kitchen. You can style or add personality by interchanging potted herbs, utensils, crockery or cook books for a pop of colour.
"We suggest that people keep the design simple, the colour palette neutral and incorporate open shelving for displaying objects that reflect their personality," Dean says. "This way if their taste changes they can re-style their shelves rather than updating the whole kitchen.
"The golden rule is don't sacrifice usability for luxury features."