Get up-close-and-personal with your big investment

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions in life. It is a major financial and emotional investment too. As the heart of the home, the kitchen can often make or break a deal. So, it pays to take plenty of time and effort to determine a kitchen’s quality. Both functional and design.

No two people are alike though. We all observe our surroundings and make choices differently. There are, however, some questions to keep in mind when checking a kitchen’s quality.

I’d like to get hands-on with my viewing. Is that okay?

Yes! If you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t expect the paint on the walls to tell you much. If you’re interested in a home, get your hands on everything! Turn on the faucet. Open and close every cabinet and drawer. Check the tops of the cabinets. Lift rugs. Get under the countertop. Test the outlets and the light switches.

Experiencing the kitchen by using your senses of touch, smell and sound (in addition to sight), will tell you much more about its quality.

© Bulthaup

How can I tell if a kitchen has been well cared for?

There are pretty clear signs that a kitchen has been neglected. Long burnt out light bulbs, leaky faucets, loose flooring and dirty appliances are often indicative of deferred maintenance. Not only could these clues mean the kitchen is in rough shape, but the house too.

What should I be looking for in terms of cabinetry?

Cabinetry style can be a make-or-break factor in a kitchen’s appeal. Remember that stylistic changes can be made with relative ease and low cost. To check a cabinet’s quality you should first consider the material. Solid wood is a very durable cabinet material. Cabinets made of melamine and other man-made materials are not as durable.

Once you’ve done a visual check, test the cabinets and drawers. Open the cabinets to ensure the insides are in good shape. Verify drawers pull out and close smoothly. Check that the handles are secure.

© Nolte

Plumbing and electrical are out of my depth. Should I get an inspector?

Absolutely! A home inspector is a professional who will make sure the kitchen’s plumbing, electrical and structure is up to code. You simply should not invest in a home without a thorough inspection.

There some things you can look for on your own. Check that all of the light switches work. Bring an electrical device to check every outlet. Turn on every faucet to test for water pressure and leakage. Then get on your hands and knees to look at all of the pipes. You don’t have to be a plumber to see signs of leaking.

Something stinks. Is that a bad sign?

Depends on what you smell. A scented candle is a typical housewarming feature used by real estate agents to make a home more appealing. If however, a scented candle is accompanied by potpourri and air-fresheners, there may be a problem.

So, take a big whiff. A musty scent could mean there is mould. Even the faintest aroma of sewage could mean broken pipes. The smell of pets or cigarette smoke could mean the home has been neglected.

How do I know if the flooring is solid?

The most popular kitchen floor materials have telltale signs that they are in good or bad shape. Hardwood is durable over the long run, but scratches and dents mean maintenance is required. Tile that is cracked or loose is indicative of poor installation. Vinyl should be without tears or stains.

© Bulthaup

What should I look for in countertops?

Each popular kitchen countertop material has a unique way of telling you its quality. Marble and granite should be polished and unstained. Tiles should be chip-free. Laminate should be free of scratches and stains. Overall, make sure that any seams are tight and that the sink is well caulked.

Is there anything else I should think of?

Definitely, make notes and take photos. If you are looking at a lot of homes (and kitchens), these will be helpful later.

Also, think about what your kitchen quality deal breakers are. If you love a traditional galley kitchen layout, but don’t want to deal with dated plumbing, a recent build is a better deal. Remember, cosmetic changes can be made with relative ease. Quality issues relating to structure and utilities should make you think hard about the investment.