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When it comes to getting ready to put your house on the market, there are a few things we all know to be true: (1) There’s no harm in a fresh coat of paint, especially if it’s neutral. (2) Decluttering is a must (because it makes it easier for people to imagine themselves in your home). And (3), nothing sells a home quite like an epic kitchen. Even amid the pandemic, where flaunting at-home gyms, “cloffices” (aka closets that double as home offices) and botanical-gardens-meets-theme-park-worthy backyards have become trendy perks, people still obsess over the kitchen. It’s no wonder it’s called the heart of the home.

“Upgraded kitchens usually have the highest return on home value, so if you’re going to do anything, it’s a good place to focus your energy,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at real estate listings service OpenDoor.

Large, open kitchens with stainless steel appliances remain in demand, she adds. But before you start planning an HGTV-caliber remodel, there’s one thing you should do first to ensure you’re getting the highest ROI possible: “Look at other homes in the neighborhood to see what they have as the standard,” de Jong suggests.

RELATED: 6 Improvements That Will Get You Top Dollar for Your Home

kitchen roi triptych
Christian Mackie/Collov Home Design/Chastity Cortijo/Unsplash

Check Out the Comps First

Yep, that’s right—a little friendly snooping goes a long way. Just like you’d scope out the comps, or comparable homes, in the area before placing an offer on a house (to ensure you’re getting a fair price), you should see what types of appliances and upgrades are included in the homes listed in your neighborhood.

“It’s really easy to overspend on a remodel,” de Jong explains. And what’s trending in Chicago or top-of-the-line for Dallas may not be the best bet for your area. “If you buy a Sub Zero fridge—those can cost $15,000—you probably won’t see a good return on that unless you live in Beverly Hills, You can spend $100,000 on a kitchen easily, but that doesn’t mean it adds $100,000 to your home.” In the words of our expert, you don’t want to over-upgrade.

Consider Your Buyer’s Needs—But Don’t Obsess Over ‘Em

To that end, it’s worth thinking about your potential buyer. Who’s most likely to be attracted to your home and the surrounding neighborhood? Do you have great schools and plenty of parks nearby? In that case, maybe young families are your target market. (Your real estate agent will have great insights here.) And, if that’s the case, you might see that Carrara marble is trending. Our tip? Opt for quartz instead. This is an easy way to get in on the popular detail—with the durability families like and a more budget-friendly price point that works for you.

That said, don’t obsess too much here. It’s more about working within your budget and what people are looking for in your area than appealing to a specific buyer. “In general, less is more when thinking of other buyers,” de Jong says. “You want to give them some room to imagine the space as their own.” The more niche you go, the narrower your funnel of potential buyers (hence why cloffices may be trendy, but they might not be the best use of your reno budget, compared to general kitchen or home upgrades.) Whatever you can do to make the kitchen feel light, bright, open and clutter-free, the better.

Oh, and one more thing: “If you’re remodeling for yourself, by all means, buy the best of the best, if that’s going to make you happy,” de Jong says. So, you have our permission to go after that Sub Zero life, if it’s been your dream and if you plan on staying in the house awhile.

RELATED: The Four Best Organizational Upgrades to Boost Your Home’s ROI

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