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As I work with 203K and HomeStyle clients on rehab projects I often see them experience a sense of being overwhelmed by decisions and choices to be made. Meaning in the course of rehabbing a single family home for example, a buyer or owner is called upon to make dozens, even hundreds of decisions. As someone who is responsible for arranging renovation financing I do feel a responsibility to stay with my clients all through the process. That’s part of my job as I see it and I’m happy to give advice or suggestions in this overwhelming decision process.

Doing a renovation of a kitchen, baths, and other rooms plus exterior can be very scary for someone who never has done a rehab before. Or someone who has never spoken to a general contractor before. Add to the mix a first time buyer who has never made choices in a home may feel singularly burdened. Certainly the contractor should be there to help and show examples too. Most of the contractors I have worked with are experienced in hand holding to the extent they can as well as presenting choices to buyers. But still the owner may be overwhelmed with so many choices and learning the language of rehab in the process.

But it really shouldn’t be so overwhelming that buyers say a 203K or HomeStyle rehab is a bad experience. In fact it should be a great experience resulting in a home that is not only updated but one that has increased in value. Part of my job is to make the process clear, predictable and successful. I’m writing today to give those future rehabbers a little help with all those overwhelming decisions.

In this first part on this topic I’m listing basic decisions involving a kitchen rehab you will be asked to make. Below is my “quick & simple choices guide” and I invite you to comment on others I may have missed and relate your own experiences with a 203k rehab or HomeStyle rehab.

  • Flooring – Tile or hardwood ? Hardwood looks great in most homes and even better if it’s the same wood as in the other rooms. Dark hardwood with lighter cabinets often looks good. Tile can be resilient, durable and comes in many shapes, colors. Porcelain tile has surpassed ceramic in recent years with its variety of textures and durability over simple ceramic. Ask your contractor about porcelain tile options.
  • Cabinets – Lots of choices, many woods to choose from. Always check the construction of the “boxes” as they are called. Is it pressed board or more solid plywood ? Big box stores have nice displays but is the quality there ? Ask your contractor if he or she works with a local cabinet maker for better quality at an affordable price. Styles range from plain front to more furniture-like detailed finishes. If your plan is a darker floor then a lighter cabinet finish is safe and vice versa.
  • Pulls & Handles – For drawers and cabinets the choices here can be another overwhelming element. Leave this choice until last after you see the cabinets installed. Generally here simpler is better. If you have very detailed fronts that are more furniture-like, choosing a small pull will always be safe. If your fronts are flat with no detail then a good choice might be a stainless steel horizontal or vertical bar type handle.
  • Counter Tops – Part of all these decisions involve the budget in the rehab loan agreed upon at the outset. Many clients really like granite. The choices are almost endless and it usually adds value. Generally a good choice is lighter counter with darker cabinets and darker counter with lighter cabinets. Other materials like laminate will be less costly.
  • Sink – I have seen clients puzzled when “undermount” is mentioned. It is another choice but usually an undermount sink works better than one sitting on top of the counter. These days there are many sizes and shapes but stainless steel is always a safe choice. Your contractor will have ideas.
  • Faucet – Another decision… most clients are selecting the taller “goose neck” stainless steel versions to match stainless appliances with the hose concealed inside. Don’t forget a matching liquid soap dispenser.
  • Lighting – This may be an overlooked item and a tough decision. We all see kitchens with just one large light on the ceiling or a big square fluorescent fixture (some refer to these as the “Autopsy Light”). The best lighting I have seen is a series of “can “ lights or sometimes called “pot” lights recessed into the ceiling, arranged in front of the cabinets. In addition an under cabinet LED light is great to illuminate the counter top work areas and show off the counter top. These have become inexpensive in recent years and are a great addition if you have the budget.
  • Appliances – Unless you’re a fan of vintage colors the safe choice is still stainless steel. I have seen clients be really happy with the French door refrigerators. If you have the space and budget a double wall oven can be great. If you are energy conscious I have seen induction cooktops selected over gas or plain electric. They save energy. Ask your contractor if he or she has a discount at a local dealer so all appliances can be purchased once in a group for a discount. Be careful about mixing manufacturers appliance stainless steel types or colors. There may be variances in stainless steel or color appearance. It is best not to mix appliance manufacturers generally so they all match exactly for the best look.

I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging to those that may have thought a Renovation project was too complex or beyond their ability to manage. My intent is always to inform, educate, and generate discussion. Please call me or email me directly or visit my website for more information on renovation loans. I welcome your comments and questions!