Topping the list of remodeling projects undertaken by American homeowners is the kitchen.
But what are homeowners spending to upgrade their kitchens?
Nationwide, the average cost of a kitchen remodel or addition, according to Houzz.com survey data, is $27,000.
Taking a closer look at the nine census regions reveals some significant differences in what it costs homeowners in different areas to build the kitchen of their dreams:
Mountain region: the lowest cost, at an average of $20,800
South Atlantic region: just shy of the national average, at $25,400
Pacific region: an average of $33,600
New England: the highest cost, at an average of $35,100
These averages don't tell the full story about regional spending differences when it comes to new kitchens.
The study found higher budgets in many large cities, with San Francisco coming in at $43,500 and Boston at $41,200. Philadelphia also comes in significantly above the national average, at $35,000, as does Washington, D.C., at $32,000.
Homeowners in Chicago, Minneapolis and Seattle spent around the national average for their new kitchen cabinets, appliances, countertops, lighting and flooring, at $30,400, $26,800 and $26,400, respectively. Renovated kitchens cost significantly less for homeowners in Dallas and Atlanta, who paid an average of $21,000 and $20,800 in those markets.
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Kitchen remodels dominate
Kitchens are overwhelmingly the No. 1 major remodeling project among U.S. homeowners surveyed, measured by past kitchen remodeling activity, future remodeling plans and renovation research.
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Of Houzz homeowners surveyed, 32% remodeled their kitchen in the past five years, and another 45% are planning to remodel their kitchen in the next two years. Houzz also calculates project popularity by looking at the number and type of images that homeowners are saving to their Houzz ideabooks. This data shows that the largest number of images saved are of kitchens, nearly twice the number of bedroom images saved.
What kitchen features do Americans want?
For most Americans, the ideal kitchen starts with better storage. In fact, the most popular kitchen photos on Houzz are pantries with the ultimate in custom shelving for every type of food and other kitchen items. Kitchens with traditional cabinetry, new stainless steel appliances and stone countertops are also at the top of survey respondents' must-have lists, and homeowners are saving these types of inspirational images to their personal ideabooks.
Popular kitchen details saved to ideabooks include large islands that accommodate both a workspace and space for eating, bar stools for island seating, transitional-style metal and glass pendant lighting, wide-planked wood flooring and dramatic ceiling details, from rustic exposed beams to elegant two-tone painted and coffered architecture.
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Who's doing the work?
Kitchen renovation is a major project, and most homeowners recognize that it calls for professional help. Nationwide, 81% of homeowners surveyed reported hiring one or more service providers to do the work. Of homeowners on Houzz, 57% are planning to hire a general contractor, about a third plan to hire a kitchen designer and another third will be working with an architect.
Overall, 42% reported outsourcing every aspect of the project to a professional. Homeowners on the East Coast and in California reported the highest rates of outsourcing their kitchen renovation in its entirety to a professional: 55% of homeowners in Miami and Los Angeles, 54% in New York and 53% in Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Mountain and Pacific Northwest residents are more likely to do at least some of the work themselves, with only 30% of homeowners in Denver and Salt Lake City outsourcing their kitchen remodel completely. Similarly, only 33% of Seattle residents and 34% of those surveyed in the Portland metro area are choosing to hire a professional to do all of the work.
Home remodel as investment?
When we surveyed the Houzz community of more than 7 million homeowners about their remodeling plans and budgets, we felt reasonably certain that return on investment would be a key theme. After all, economic indicators such as the government's latest report on job growth suggest that consumers might be well advised to watch every penny.
What we found instead is that homeowners are putting far more emphasis on making their homes stylish and functional than on trying to turn a profit -- by a factor of 2 to 1. These and other sometimes surprising findings are the subject of this new series, looking at some of the most popular remodeling projects nationwide and how those projects and costs differ regionally or by metropolitan area.