Kirsten and Darrell Becker, Designer and Contractor
Kirsten, the host of TLC’s Property Ladder, and Darrell, the founder of Becker Construction Corp., have been renovating homes for resale for 20 years.
What advice do you have for owners renovating their kitchen or bath with the intent to sell their home?
Kirsten: Start with a budget. You may have many inspirational photos, but not only do you have to resolve stylistically what kitchen or bath is going to fit your house—it must also fit your budget. If you’re going to sell your house, the idea is to make a profit. You need to make creative choices that look great, feel great, and are going to pull in the buyer emotionally but also stand up to the scrutiny of a home inspection.
How do you find that emotional tug for the widest audience?
Kirsten: Incorporate something innovative without taking a crazy departure from what’s tried and true. For example, you can find a used La Cornue range on Craigslist and build an entire kitchen around that one inspirational item.
Darrell: That inspirational item infuses a bit of soul. Architecture should feel inspired by something. We don’t want to see empty shells. But skip those things that are going to be time-stamped in five years.
Are “smart” appliances worth adding?
Darrell: I don’t like them at all. They are one of those things that really date a project immediately.
Kirsten: We think these appliances are going to simplify our life, but what they really do is complicate it—more things that require maintenance. Reliable, practical, value-driven—those are things of importance. When in doubt, go with energy-efficient stainless appliances.
Are granite countertops still best for resale?
Darrell: People gravitate to what they know, and historically, that has been granite, but quartz and other smooth-surface countertops are becoming more recognizable. They provide for creative design solutions, are easier to maintain, and are texturally appealing.
Kirsten: I feel there is something a little dated about granite. Creative mixing and matching of remnant slabs, other solid surfaces, and wood that’s not going to get damaged by water is the way to go.
What are some trends you do like?
Darrell: Moving away from the rigid concept of designing around the work triangle of the sink, refrigerator, and stove. I have never had a client walk in to a kitchen and say, “The triangle is too stretched out; I can’t work here.” What they do get a bad vibe from is when the kitchen doesn’t have a good connection to the family room or to the outdoors.
Kirsten: Another trend I think is fantastic is keeping everything more hidden. Let’s not go back to the appliance garage, but creating large pantry spaces that hold everything make the kitchen uncluttered, and that’s a big improvement.
What trends are there in master baths?
Kirsten: Sacrificing the size of the master bedroom for the sake of a bigger master bath. People want the spa experience—a nice-size shower with a good handheld showerhead, a decent-size vanity …
Darrell: … and a heated tile floor.
Is it better to renovate the kitchen and every bath, or just focus on one?
Kirsten: For top dollar on resale, it really is about doing the entire house. You have to take a realistic look at your budget, though; if you are going to stretch it too thin by renovating everywhere, I would opt for doing it right in a few places. I’d do the kitchen first, then the master bath, and then the secondary baths.
What strategies are there to stretch a renovation budget?
Kirsten: Doing as much of the renovation as possible yourself saves money—as long as you know what you’re doing. Also important is making decisions and then executing them. People get hung up on “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that,” but they don’t actually pull the trigger on any of it. The sooner you decide what materials and appliances you’re working with and know how much they cost, the easier it is to manage and refine your budget.
Darrell: And setting aside 10% of your budget for the unexpected is a good contingency plan.
What would you say to a couple about to undertake the remodeling of their house so that they don’t kill each other?
Kirsten: You need to set up realistic expectations. Come up with a strategy prior to the project, and then hold each other and any other members of the team accountable to those expectations.
Darrell: And do yourself a huge favor: Don’t live in the house while you’re remodeling 99% of it!
Illustration: Jacqueline Rogers