Q: We have an older, four-bedroom home in good repair and are thinking of selling it and buying something smaller. Because home buyers like modern kitchens, we've discussed remodeling ours before selling. The existing kitchen is basically in good condition and the remodeling would cost $10,000. What do you think?
A: Kitchen remodeling is generally considered the most profitable improvement in terms of resale value.
Still, I think you are almost certain to lose some money if you spend $10,000 on the kitchen, then sell the house.
According to a consensus of several surveys on remodeling pay-backs, a remodeled kitchen should repay about 85 percent of the investment if the house is sold within a year.
However, some experts I've interviewed say the pay-back figures in surveys of this type, which usually appear in magazines about remodeling and home improvement, are often unrealistically high. The real return might be much less, if any, these experts say.
Virtually all experts do agree on one thing: Tasteful improvements make a home easier to sell, even if there is not a direct financial return.
In general, it is best to keep pre-sale improvements to cosmetic matters. Clean the house thoroughly, including closets, attic, basement and garage.
If paint or wallpaper in some rooms is in poor condition, redecorate those rooms, but use neutral colors such as white or off-white.
You should also correct obvious problems such as worn-out carpeting and plumbing leaks.
Many modern buyers demand professional inspections before they make commitments to buy homes. An inspection might uncover such problems as a worn roof, a deteriorated heating system and similar major problems that might cause buyers to balk. Negotiating with a prospective buyer and reducing the home price to cover the repair is usually more practical than attempting to make the repairs before sale.
Q: The wood cabinets over our stove have developed a coating of grease that I haven't been able to remove with household cleaners. Any suggestions?
A: Try wiping the wood with soft cloths moistened with mineral spirits (paint thinner). This is a flammable solvent, so be careful not to work around flames or sparks. Open all windows for good ventilation.
The solvent will probably dull the finish as well as remove old wax and grease, so follow up by polishing or waxing the wood.
Readers' questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.