When you go to somebody’s house for a party for the first time, the arrival at the front entrance can be a bit awkward. Standing in the entryway, you might crane your neck to take everything in … and then somebody you haven’t met before goes in for a hug. Maybe you make some awkward small talk or start to walk around. 

Sooner or later, you’ll probably make your way to the kitchen … and instantly feel more relaxed. Drinks, food, laughter. The kitchen is the heart of the home, offering physical and emotional nourishment. I bet when you’re in your home, you spend a lot more quality time in the kitchen–eating, drinking, socializing–than in the doorway.

When it comes time to sell your house, tapping into a similar pattern helps build connections for potential buyers. They walk in the front door, and follow the smell of baking bread coming from the oven.

When they discover the kitchen, they find themselves at ease. The counters are completely decluttered, except for maybe a coffee pot, a bowl of fresh apples, and yes, some freshly baked goods to nibble on.

Small things that are normal but subtly distracting–a garbage can, fridge magnets–aren’t around to grab their attention.

Setting the stage this way allows the buyer to really imagine what it will feel like to live in the space. This psychological and emotional connection allows them to feel that the house is different than the others they’ve seen.

Consistent communication isn’t always verbal–all the above cues help build interest and trust. The kitchen is also the best place to start a conversation. As a realtor who provides the WOW (what others won’t do) factor, I prefer to introduce myself and offer refreshments in the kitchen. When people are at ease, they open up more, which allows for a more open exchange. A real connection gives them a sense of what it’ll be like to live there.

Some older kitchens need minor refreshes–but I mean really minor, like painting a door. Remodeling a kitchen is a major disruption and investment. Sellers hoping to recoup the costs will likely nudge some potential buyers out of the market. If you’re getting ready to sell your house, you’ll probably be better off not making any major upgrades.

In most cases, a serious declutter, deep clean, and a few strategic touches are enough to bring out the warmth and foundation of what we all know a kitchen offers.