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Kitchen "Face Lift" Needed
Susan Worley
February 4, 2013 in Design Dilemma
We're trying to get our house refinanced and the appraiser docked us $50k because our kitchen was of "inferior quality".

This is our kitchen. The cabinets are wood (vs mdf), and the drawer boxes are sturdy. The main thing I see is that we have tile vs stone/ granite counters, and perhaps the floor dates the room as well. (I don't feel it warrants such a huge deduction, but it's out of my hands.)

We don't want to do a major remodel, and I am planning on keeping the appliances, and the butcher block counter top, the cabinet boxes, and my faux finished walls.

If I replace the counters with either stone or granite, and re-do the back splash to something more current, do you think that would be enough? Is that the right line of attack, or do I need to consider redoing the cabinet faces and flooring as well? Where should I draw the line? (My budget is well under $50k.)
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nFORMAL design
Just interested what your budget is to redo stuff around a Viking stove and commercial style range hood. Those seem like some pretty pricey appliances.
February 4, 2013 at 3:58PM     
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Curb Appeal Renovations
First of all, I don't know where you live, nor what the rest of your house looks like. Your appraiser may be basing it off those. Why don't you ask the appraiser or another appraiser?

That not being an option, just seeing the pictures you've posted, the layout is not good. The frig, from what I can tell, is back in a hole. The MW is not built in. Your cabinets do not go to the ceiling which I'm gathering from your door height you have 6'8" doors so you have 8' ceilings. You have the basic lighting in a kitchen, it isn't task oriented and isn't placed appropriately. The butcher block is not ideal.

You're displaying professional photography...so I guess I too go back to nFORMAL design's question!
February 4, 2013 at 4:07PM     
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lessismoore
I'd get a detailed explanation from the appraiser, or a "new" appraisal. It would be cheaper ($325 to 425?) than redoing the kitchen ... unless you want to redo it. The only thing there that is truly "dated" is the faux finish. Well, the counter top ... but not $50K worth! Yikes.
February 4, 2013 at 4:08PM     
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nFORMAL design
Less Is More (Mies fan?)...I am not sure. If it is in a high priced neighborhood, the type of cabinets (especially the hardware), and the layout (vis-a-vis Curb Appeal's observation) would definitely knock the price down $50K. Plus, a huge Viking and commercial hood without a replacement air system might actually be a deterrent and not an amenity. It takes a special client to buy something like that. Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE that range...absolutely LOVE it, but the common client...not so much.

I'd probably find out what type of cabinets the surrounding houses have that are appraised in your expected range and go from there.
February 4, 2013 at 4:13PM     
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Curb Appeal Renovations
lessismoore you are so correct! however, the appraiser deducted 50K for some reason. They are so particular nowadays...
February 4, 2013 at 4:14PM   
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nFORMAL design
Also, although you want to keep your faux finish walls, I also think that might not be a "Curb Appeal" type of enhancement--again, very personal. Maybe make it more "subdued" until the appraisal and the refinancing, and then re-faux finish it if that is what you really have to have.
February 4, 2013 at 4:16PM     
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Curb Appeal Renovations
nFORMAL design...I think you make a good point. The cabinets would take a big hit. Good cabinetry alone in that kitchen would boost the price quite a bit.
February 4, 2013 at 4:31PM     
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Susan Worley
I love my appliances and was shocked that our kitchen ranked as "inferior" in the eyes of the appraiser. (We live in California.)

The neighborhood we live in is middle class, most of the homes have home-depot/builder grade cabinets, and standard appliances. Nothing custom, nothing high end. The homes are all basically the same and have similar lay-outs and traffic patterns, not ideal but livable.

I asked the appraiser for clarification and it came back to the kitchen wasn't updated, the house and the rest of the rooms were fine. We couldn't get it reappraised without re-doing the loan, so I am now trying to figure out if it's worth updating the kitchen before a new appraiser comes out. (I'm the photographer, so that budget was free.) We hope to do the rest of the work ourselves and keep the budget around $10k. (Thus the reason for just a face-lift vs an entire gut and remodel.)

@ Curb Appeal Yes, standard 8' ceilings. I'm wondering why the butcher block isn't idea? At some point we plan on re-doing the lighting, but it's not in our budget at the moment. The other homes in the comps provided still had the standard lighting as well, so luckily that didn't seem to be an issue with the appraiser.

If I were to sell the home I'd re-do the paint, but would like to keep it for now if possible.
February 4, 2013 at 4:39PM   
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maggiemae0552
a fresh coat of paint on the walls is a very minimal expense for a big bang for your buck.
February 4, 2013 at 4:47PM     
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redesign-gallery
Hi Susan. Nice kitchen. Love that range. You are almost there. The faux will constrain you a bit it is truly dated.......lots of work in it though, I bet. So if that is the nostalgia about it then it might be tough to undo. I would immediately reface the cabinets in a maple to go with the butcher block. This would go well with the faux too....maybe but you can change the faux once the cabs are done....use traditional style or mission style doors. Now rush to Granite Transformations to see if they can slip 3/8" stone countertop right over your existing OR (since we have a budget) redo the flooring.
Just for giggles, the refer could go to the left of the dishwasher or down one cab. It would block this end of the counter space but you could get loads more butcher block counter space where the fridge was and all would be much handier (plus you could move all those loose appliances across the kitchen and have that sink side counter top space much more useable. The countertop space you would lose on this end can be used for what you do at that room juncture (phone, mail, etc). Additional cabs can go where the fridge was. Reverse the refer door.
With maple cabs the floor may look fine (utilitarian) and tile flooring can be redone by you whenever (Habitat ReStore is the place to go).
This all accomplished I believe you will take a look at your walls, take some photos for nostalgia purposes and kiss them goodby as they disappear behind a coat of a creamy color. Unbusy your kitchen. Utensils, surface mounted appliances, spice racks, etc. makes for a busy kitchen. You can look like an avid cook but take the tchotchky out of it all. The faux adds business too.
The tops of the wall cabs are hell. My treatment during refacing is to add horizontal frosted glass awning doors the width of two cabinet doors. Store bulk pasta up there but get rid of that crown (doesn't go with the sleeker look you have) and get rid of the tempting cavity to put clutter. These can be made by local woodbutcher pretty inexpensively in maple, install sides stops, hinge right through the drywall to the rafters (on 24" normally). Clean, no one uses them often, no one looks in them often (guests) so I wouldn't go to the trouble of an elaborate framing system. Use long screws through the hinges and magnetic catches, flush with top fronts of wall cabs.
Cabinets are #1 then see how the rest of it looks. Bet your house smells great during meals!
February 4, 2013 at 5:43PM     
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redesign-gallery
And......most important..........don't forget to make cookies for the appraiser.
February 4, 2013 at 5:44PM     
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Darzy
Hi Susan.. Something doesn't sound right. Appraisals are mostly about square footage and comparable homes, and comparable sales in your neighbors. If the "effective age" of your kitchen is "old" that will effect the appraisal but I don't believe there was a appraisal reduction of 50k just because of the kitchen. Plus, lenders these days are quite conservative regarding appraisals due to the maket down turn. (Especially in California). For kicks.. go to www.realtor.com and www.zillow.com. At realtor.com you can find "recent sales" in your neighborhood, at zillow.com they wil "zestimate" but they can be homeowner altered and over estimated. www.realtor.com will show you the actual sale price and estimated home price of yours. Check out the recent sales in your neighborhood and check out the "price per square foot" and see how your appraisal stands up based upon your square footage.

I say this, because a kitchen update will NOT increase the value by 50K so paying another appraisal may be not a good expense for you.
February 4, 2013 at 6:18PM     
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yvonnecmartin
I'd get a second appraisal without doing a thing to the kitchen. Maybe the poor guy had a bad day.
February 4, 2013 at 6:25PM   
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Curb Appeal Renovations
Darzy you are correct, however, there is nothing she can do on the report from the appraiser. Their decision is typically final.

In regards to the butcher block, it is very personal. This was something seen more common back in the 80's, not so much now. If seen now, it is much more substantial.
February 4, 2013 at 6:25PM     
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Susan Worley
Hi Darzy, I agree with you. Unfortunately, we just had a very bad appraiser, and we can't get a new one without a new loan. (We came in well under the market value listed on Zillow and Realtor.com) The two comps that he said were better than ours had inexpensive granite counter tops and home depot cabinets.

I know when we get a new loan and new appraiser we'll definitely increase our value without having to change anything, but I'd like to give it the extra edge and do a few upgrades to ensure we don't run into another bad egg. (Or if we do they can't blame our kitchen!)
February 4, 2013 at 6:33PM     
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karmeg
I think you need to create a more sleek look to accent your high end appliances.
Before you star spending money, seriously,the faux finished walls have to go.It Is a dated look, and detracts from the value you have added. No matter how much you love it or how much it cost, or how long it took to paint, it dates the kitchen immediately

Next, neutralize the green door.
The idea is for the room to have a more streamlined or cohesive feeling. Choose a more updated paint color - more sophisticated and less bright.

You should definitely reface the cabinets or have them painted and add large silver hardware in place of all the small knobs.

I would leave the floor alone for now, it is neutral and doesn't jump out as offensive.

Definitely replace the counter top ( you could go with concrete instead of granite ).

Little things detract from the feeling of high end.
Is that a plastic garbage can under the wood counter ( replace with a sleek stainless one if it has to be visible) ?
I would ( even though it might be a pain in the neck ) investigate stainless cladding of some sort for the black side of the refrigerator - it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb , OR, maybe put a "cabinet wall"
To make it look recessed if you know what I mean ( the side of the wall facing the wood counter can hold a nice piece of art or something to integrate the side as part of the design.

Remove all the little things lining the top of the cabinet and remove the huge line-up of things on the counter ( especially when an appraiser comes - even the counter top microwave ! ).

If there is a recessed light over the wood counter , you can get a drop pendant ( quite inexpensive ) that actually adapts into the recessed socket .
You can do the same ( matching ) over the sink if you have a recessed light there.

Perhaps hang a flat fold roman shade on the window, but hang it high, so it meets the upper cabinet line. You might consider a textured woven treatment ( whatever you choose, carry the feeling of the wood counter top over to that part of the room, so it looks like it is part of a plan and not just a separate element).

New backsplash is a must.
Something with shine (to balance the sheen of the large stainless pieces ) such as glass mosaic, stainless tiles or even copper ( depending on your cabinet color ) would work.
Remove the rug from in front of the sink.

I can't see the wall with the sunflower picture that well, but I would consider hanging something simpler, less " provincial", like maybe an open stainless shelf or grid or a magnetic knife bar.
IF you do decide to change the floor I would consider doing wood or tile on a diagonal.
It makes the room feel wider.

Hope this helps !
REMEMBER' sometimes less is more .
February 4, 2013 at 6:34PM     
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collettec
I agree with Darzy - something doesn't sound right. I would make sure that the reason for the lower appraisal rate isn't because of the downturn in the market and general market conditions. You don't want to put more money into the kitchen if the reason for the lesser value is because of the market. Is the 50 thousand dollar amount the difference between what you would need to refinance? I would check with the potential lenders, your current mortgage holder and perhaps get a real estate person in for some information about your area and your home specifically. As well, I would do what Darzy recommended in terms of checking comparables in your area. I would do these things before spending for another appraisal and before investing more money in your kitchen. (Sorry, you added your comment before I added this, but still to be safe, I think I'd check it out further before more expenditures. Good luck!)
February 4, 2013 at 6:35PM     
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Curb Appeal Renovations
Susan whatever upgrades you do...it'll bring value in the long run. Value to your home and to your enjoyment!
February 4, 2013 at 6:54PM   
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Susan Worley
Thanks Karmeg,

The green is actually a hallway. I will paint it another color so it’s not as noticeable.
I agree on making the kitchen more streamlined, and will look into a color for the walls, but will likely do that last. (The color is a bit brighter in the pictures than the actual color.) But I can tone it down; maybe I’ll post an after photo of the cabinets and counters and get some color input at that point.
I will be refinishing/re-facing the cabinets and will look into larger hardware for the doors; I loved redesign-gallery’s idea of adding horizontal frosted glass awning doors at the top of the cabinets.

I thought about concrete, but may stick with granite or a neutral stone.
Will look into hiding or replacing the garbage can I agree on the refrigerator and am thinking about how I could incorporate it into the cabinet re-design. I thought about putting my spices in a hidden compartment on that side.

Will clean up the counter-top, I likely will want it neat and clean once we pay for the new counters anyway. :-)

Love the dropped pendants idea, (It’s a great interim solution) and the flat roman shade to tie-in the butcher block. (I will look into faking the thickness of that counter it so it looks more substantial as well.)

Definitely a new back-splash, I had been thinking about stainless tiles, but like the copper idea as well.

Thanks to everyone for all of the great comments. Some are hard to swallow for sentimental reasons, (my faux finish) but I appreciate the honesty and great feedback.
February 4, 2013 at 7:36PM     
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The Virtual Designer- Kitchens & Bathrooms
Hello- I live in New South Wales Australia and sold our Sydney home 3 years ago. We agreed to get a professional valuer in to price our home and he priced it at $150,000 less than what we ended up selling it for. I remember being shocked too at the estimate when we first recieved it and lucky for us I completely disregarded that valuation. They don't always get it right!
In my old home I had the same problem as you with an older kitchen that was showing it's age a little so did some re-arranging of cabinets, took out some cabinets to give us a more streamlined look, purchased new appliances (looks like you don't need to) and new countertops (just in laminate, nothing really fancy) and new glass splashbacks. it looked for all the world like a new kitchen.
Are you open to doing something similar? And, can you send me a rough layout of your present kitchen particularly, the placement of the stove and sink ?
February 4, 2013 at 8:05PM   
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Curb Appeal Renovations
Susan...there are great do it yourself back splash'es out on the market that look awesome. Basically peel and stick. They aren't inexpensive, but they are labor un-intensive!! Why don't you post an overall floor plan of your kitchen?
February 4, 2013 at 8:30PM     
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The Virtual Designer- Kitchens & Bathrooms
Hello again- I have doctored your images a bit and hope it is helpful to you.
I'll work in point form to save time:-
- Choose brilliant white for all cabinets & a light, softer, warm grey for walls- choose glass or wall tiles first to get the right color & match paint for walls
- You could move wall cabinets up higher an the wall to gain more space between them and counter
- Placing opaque glass to all wall cabinets might assist with overall glam
- Light up interior of wall cabinets if glazed
-Place lighting under wall cabinets as well
- Place MWave on shelf or underbench if possible
- Adding timber moulding to base doors might be an option
- Straighten up the line where the stove is with adding more drawers ( you might have to buy another set to match existing or purchasing 2 new sets would be worth it) & bring the fridge in line, if at all possible.
- New countertops for both sides of kitchen- do you have cheaper butchersblock style available at Lowes? I purchased some from Ikea and put a black wax over it and looks gorgeous, especially with white.
February 4, 2013 at 9:36PM     
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sjkingston
Your kitchen comes across as "eclectic" which I suspect is what is gave the appraiser fits. The cabinets read as '80's contemporary with country bin pull handles. An extremely high end stove sits between a cabinet that reads as Ikea and a regular (non built-in) fridge out of alignment with everything else on the other, it's black sides showing. The walls read as Tuscan which clashes with the contemporary cabinets. Add a high number of small appliances and things on the counter and above the cabinets (I think, its a bit hard to tell), and what the kitchen lacks is cohesiveness. No one element is bad and you love all of them individually, but they are not reading as a cohesive design. Other kitchens in the neighborhood may be blah builder's kitchens, but they are easy to classify. I suspect what the appraiser was saying is the average buyer would have to spend a minimum of $50k to get to a cohesive updated kitchen. It might be worth paying an imaginative kitchen designer an hourly rate to come in and make recomendations on the best way to pull things together to achieve a cohesive look at various budget points. For example, white walls would neutralize the style of the white cabinets but granite will further date the current cabinets unless its carefully chosen. Where and how to site the refrigerator will be key. Be clear about your budget though!
February 4, 2013 at 11:05PM     
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nFORMAL design
@Darzy @Susan...if you remodel your kitchen, the NKBA says that you should spend about 15-20% on a kitchen remodel and 5-10% on a bathroom remodel -- percentages based on the value of your home. I guarantee that, in California, that would bring a kitchen remodel to to well over $50K. With cabinets being 33% to 50% of that budget, you are up to about $25K on cabinets. However, that is a pretty small kitchen.

I love telling "stories". We had a potential client that was actually a friend of ours. He was remodeling kitchen and master bath and we were within 10% of kitchen bid and 5% of bathroom. We educated him on building process, etc., but (and to quote him) he met a woman in his building that was an interior designer who was "young and had a nice ass and rack". (Don't get offended...I'm quoting HIM! We were flabbergasted.) Anyway, he lives right behind the Merchandise Mart in Chicago (if you don't know...the Merchandise Mart is one of the interior design centers of the world). Anyway, she took him to her cabinet supply company (who also did "cabinet refacing"). He DID NOT want to buy new cabinets. We explained that in the area that he was living in, refacing cabinets wouldn't bring the value up much...if at all.

Of course, he went into the store and since he was adamant about not buying new cabinets, the company was like, "Just reface them...it's just as good anyway." You knew they were going to give him that advice because they didn't want to lose the sell.

Regardless, he went with the refacing, and then a friend of his from out of state was visiting, admired his new kitchen, and then opened the cabinet and said, "Oh my god, I can't believe you refaced the cabinets." (He didn't tell him ahead of time.) He still had the white, powder coated drawer slides that are two generations old on the drawers.

The point I'm making is that if you do a simple "paint over" the entire kitchen, future buyers (if you decide to sell) will know. Good appraisers will know. What was custom 15 years ago is now standard (i.e. granite).

Just trying to camouflage your kitchen will probably not work. People who really know what they are doing will figure it out.
February 5, 2013 at 7:10AM     
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Susan Worley
Thanks nFormal. Great story, and good points. I don't want to completely remodel our kitchen. We hoped to do it at a later date. We just wanted to update the look enough that it showed better. (Using quality materials.)

The appraiser only spent 10 minutes on our house and didn't open any cabinets, but just breezed through and snapped a couple of photographs. I realize he wasn't a good one, but hoped that by updating a few things it would help the house show better without a complete gut and re-start.

I think I have enough to go on based on everyone's comments, and will see how things go. I may end up deciding it doesn't make sense to do a face lift at all and then just wait until we can do a complete gut and re-arrange later on.
February 5, 2013 at 8:43AM   
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lessismoore
But the thing I keep thinking about here is that Susan here is trying to refinance, not sell, the home. So any "real $" expenditure seems odd to me; you get a lower interest loan (ideally) for the valuation the bank places on the the home (which in any case, I assume more than the current loan, leaving some money to do things) but before you even get the bigger/better loan, you are spending $50K on improvements? Seems convoluted to me. Since, except for some minor "wants" (which we all have, all the time) she is essentially happy with her kitchen. And the other thing is, here in California, it used to be that your lender assigned an appraiser, who you were stuck with - but an appraiser friend told me that now a days, for just these kinds of reasons, the owner had to choose the appraiser. When we were looking at refinancing, I got some suggestions for appraisers, picked one, and our appraisal came in much higher than I anticipated - and I have a tile counter. What does your insurance agent say? They have to come up with a "replacement" valuation - how off is that from the appraisers?
February 5, 2013 at 8:44AM     
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pitbulls
What does the real estate agent say? They see it all and I'd bet they could give you some good advice on what should be changed or added. I think the faux paint look is dated.
February 5, 2013 at 9:04AM   
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Susan Worley
Yes, lessismore, that's correct, I'm just re-financing and wanted an inexpensive "face lift". I don't have a $50k budget, and was hoping to keep it under $10k. We didn't buy very long ago and our house needs to appraise at market value. (We don't expect any money back, we just want a lower payment.) The $50k hit would require us to put money in to close the loan and since it also put us under the market value for comps in the area, (and lower than the comps a Realtor gave us) we felt it would be better to put a bit of money into the kitchen "just in case" and then go with a different lender who hopefully has a more realistic appraiser.

Where we live the lender still assigns the appraiser and I've been told by multiple lenders/mortgage brokers that I can't choose the appraiser. (How lucky you could!) Our insurance agent only offers the valuation for rebuilding the house and does not include the lot, so it's usually lower than our appraisal which includes everything.

Love it that the faux finish is the thing that seems to get the most comments on being the most offensive. Most people that come into the home say they love it, perhaps they're all really good liars, or perhaps it's not showing well in the images. (It has a bit more brown and is darker in the kitchen normally and not so vibrant... I had all of the lights on high to show the room better.) Either way, it's an easy fix. It does a good job at hiding the heavily swirled texture that was applied to the walls, which are quite noticeable when there's just a single color of paint on them and thus the reason I did the faux finish to begin with. (I am NOT floating the walls at this point, so please don't even go there.) :-)
February 5, 2013 at 10:27AM   
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judianna20
My opinion is a facelift will not get you the $50,000.00 you want. And you will be spending $10,000.00 to get it. If you recently purchased your home, your present rate must not be that high. I'd keep your present rate, allocate that $10,000.00 to pay down your principal only (even if in small increments) and wait for the market to rise a bit (which, nationally, it seems to be doing) and try again. Generally speaking, mortgage interest is one of the few write offs we have. How does that affect your income tax return? Paying down your principal with a little extra every month; saving the $10,000.00; reviewing your tax return may be the better way to go for now.

I realize everyone flips over a drop in the rate, but assuming you save $200.00 a month, it will take you 4 yrs to recoup that $10,000.00 you will be spending for maybe nothing in the end.

The best thing about homeownership is you just keep plugging along and 30 years from now you will wind up with possibly your biggest investment. We purchased our first home in 1972 for we thought then was this exorbitant amount of money. We never took money out of the house for anything….not even college tuitions. We sold it 20 years later for almost 15 times what we paid for it. A wonderful way to go into retirement.
February 5, 2013 at 10:52AM     
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lessismoore
It's a bit personal, but can I ask who "owns" your loan. So many homes, in good standing or not, the loans are now serviced by bank X, but Freddie or Fannie actually owns the loan (my case). With so many of these, you don't need an appraisal to refinance under HARP guidelines, as so many homes are classified as underwater these days.
Check this out and see if any of the exceptions might apply to your advantage.: http://www.orea.ca.gov/pdf/Freddie%20Mac%20FAQs.pdf
February 5, 2013 at 11:18AM     
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Curb Appeal Renovations
For lending...you got to choose your appraiser? That's the way it "used" to be and since the housing market took a slump and the banks took a dive, they took that out of the hands of the homeowners. So WOW that you get to do that in California!!! thats a REALLY big deal!!!
February 6, 2013 at 11:57AM   
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Susan Worley
@ Curb Appeal, I wish I could, I live in California and couldn't. I guess lessismore is one of the lucky ones who found a way to do so.
February 6, 2013 at 12:13PM   
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valbos
A neutral paint color on the walls is essential. Much as you love your faux paint job, a solid neutral will be more appealing to buyers.
February 6, 2013 at 12:30PM     
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Susan Worley
Yes, I agree, and if I were selling I would definitely paint it.
February 6, 2013 at 12:33PM   
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jojoem123
Hi Susan. Check out Rustoleums website. They have products to transform your cabinets and your countertops for minimal cost. I have never used the product but it looks great! If your looking for an inexpensive facelift in order to get a higher appraisal this is the way to go. Forget 10k and spend maybe 1k. Hope this helps
February 6, 2013 at 12:44PM   
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MarbleWarehousecom
I agree, granite countertop can add beauty to the kitchen. It is the most important ingredient in the makeup of kitchen.
February 6, 2013 at 3:28PM     
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pitbulls
Sometimes I wonder if peoples comments are influenced by what there are trying to promote/sell
February 6, 2013 at 4:28PM     
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