Should I Buy New Appliances Before Selling the House?

Gleaming appliances that work like a charm can be a huge selling point for a home on the market. If you aren’t sure about that, then imagine how a kitchen with dated, yellowing appliances compares! But even if your appliances leave something to be desired, replacing a whole kitchen’s worth is no small purchase. A new refrigerator, range/oven, and dishwasher could cost anywhere from $2,000 up to more than $10,000, and the average price tag for a new washer and dryer ranges from $1,100 to $2,000.

Does it make sense to invest in new appliances before putting your home on the market? We spoke with a top real estate agent and some home appliance experts — and dug into some recent industry research — to find out how to know when your appliances are on their last legs, what impact appliances have on a property’s value, and how to select the right replacements for your home.

An up-close view of a stovetop with a pan of cooking vegetables.
Source: (Ela Haney / Pexels)

How to know when an appliance should go

It’s one thing if your appliances are a little dated but will still heat up a frozen pizza or keep your groceries cold like they’re supposed to. But a broken appliance is another story. Before you sell your home, you’ll either need to repair or replace any broken appliances unless you plan to disclose the issue to buyers upfront, says top-selling Georgia real estate agent Justin Woodall.

Leah Kalemba, a home appliance expert and director of Middleby Residential Marketing, notes these top indications that it’s time to upgrade your appliances from a functional perspective:

  • A high electricity bill:
    According to Consumer Reports, appliances are responsible for around 9% of a homeowner’s energy costs, and older appliances tend to consume more energy. If buyers are concerned about keeping utility costs down, a kitchen full of brand-new, energy-efficient appliances could be a strong selling point.
  • Age:
    Shirley Hood, an appliance specialist with Abt Electronics, says a good rule of thumb is to replace an appliance if it’s more than 10-12 years old and if it’s not cooling (refrigeration), cleaning (laundry or dishwashers), or heating (ovens or microwaves) as well as it did when it was new.If you’re not sure when your appliances were manufactured, check the serial tag to confirm the age of the units. This appliance life-expectancy chart from Mr. Appliance can also help you gauge when a unit is living on borrowed time.
  • Cost of repair:
    “If your unit requires a repair that exceeds half the value of the appliance itself, it might be smarter to invest the money in an upgrade if you are able,” says Kalemba.Also, if you find that an appliance has required multiple service calls or if you have started to rely on “creative” ways to keep it working — such as unplugging and replugging it in to get it to start — it’s likely time to look into investing in a replacement, says Hood.
  • Signs of malfunction:
    Even if your appliance is still within its typical life expectancy period, certain telltale signs might indicate that it’s on its way out.For instance, Kalemba says, if your refrigerator is noisy, has dramatic temperature swings or causes condensation or frosting of the contents, it might be due for repair or replacement.

    For a stove or range, the signs might include the inability to preheat within a reasonable timeframe, visible damage to surfaces, or permanent baked-on stains that cause odors.

How appliances play into your home’s value

Although Woodall says home appraisers won’t assign a great deal of value to appliances, they will check that they’re in good working order. He also notes that most lenders require that a home has a functional kitchen before approving financing of the loan.

Kalemba points out that appliances are typically the focal point of the kitchen. Choosing the right ones can directly boost the home’s “wow factor” for buyers, and could provide the nudge they need to make an offer.

“It’s just one less thing the future homeowner has to take care of,” Hood points out. “If you looked at four homes in your desired area, all relatively in the same condition with similar square footage, and you noticed that only one of the four had brand-new appliances, chances are the home with the newer appliances would be the deciding factor in the purchase.”

Consistency is also important when it comes to boosting your home’s value with new appliances. If possible, they should all be the same finish, brand, and age, and should complement the style and appearance of the rest of the home.

It’s also important that they are clean and in good condition, which will help give prospective buyers peace of mind that the other, less visible components — such as the water heater, sump pump, and HVAC system — have been equally well-maintained.

A kitchen with stainless steel appliances.
Source: (Curtis Adams / Pexels)

What to look for when choosing an appliance

To get the most bang for your buck, keep an eye out for these key criteria when choosing new appliances:

  • Quality:
    Kalemba stresses the importance of examining the quality, construction, and attention to detail that goes into manufacturing the unit. “Is it crafted with careful details, premium materials, and quality assurance processes to ensure better longevity and durability?” she asks. Consumer Reports is a good place to start, and be sure to read reviews from real consumers who have purchased and used the appliances.
  • Brand:
    Certain brands are more recognizable and trusted as hallmarks of quality, which could help sway certain buyers. For example, Kalemba notes that kitchens with Viking products are a draw, as the brand is considered a value-add to the overall home purchase.Reliability is important, too: According to appliance rankings from Yale Appliance + Lighting, the top 10 most reliable (least serviced) appliance brands for 2020 included Whirlpool, GE, LG, Gaggenau, Samsung, Bosch, Miele, Fisher & Paykel, Thermador, and KitchenAid.
  • Finish:
    According to a recent HomeLight survey, 75% of top agents around the country agree that stainless steel is still the most popular finish among homebuyers.However, Kalemba is seeing other finish colors growing in popularity, such as black stainless, midnight sky, various shades of blue and gray, rich shades of green, and bold reds. Check out this guide to choosing the right appliance finish for your home.
  • Energy-efficiency:
    According to a study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), nearly 90% of moderate-income homebuyers preferred homes with energy-efficient appliances rated with the Energy Star symbol, which indicates that they use less energy while maintaining high-performance levels.Take a look at some of the most energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers, and washers and dryers, according to research from Consumer Reports.
  • Features:
    Depending on whether the buyer is a gourmet cook or more of a microwave aficionado, the desirability of certain features will vary.According to Hood, some of today’s most popular add-ons for ranges include higher CFMs (the measurement of the power of air movement) on hoods, five or more burners along with convection, smooth-gliding racks, and portable griddles. Angie’s List recommends budgeting somewhere in the range of $650-$2,000 for a new unit.

    For dishwashers, buyers tend to prefer ultra-quiet operation and third-row racks, with prices ranging from $400 to $700 on average. For refrigerators, Hood sees a lot of demand for three- or four-door models. Depending on features, the average cost of a new fridge is anywhere from $900-$8,000.

  • Price:
    When choosing appliances for a home you’re planning to sell, you probably don’t want to spend top dollar for top-of-the-line options, as you’re not likely to recoup the full cost of the investment.That said, you don’t want to choose the lowest-price option with subpar features. Instead, consider mid-range appliance suites that have high consumer ratings. Also, when budgeting for appliance replacement, be sure to factor in the cost for installation and removal of the old units.

Consult with a trusted agent on your ultimate decision

As with any investment you make before selling your home, it’s wise to speak with a knowledgeable real estate agent before making an appliance purchase. They’ll be able to offer insights on things like the popularity of certain finishes, buyers’ preferences for brands and features, and what types of appliances are in competing homes in the area.

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