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Kitchens Remain A Home’s Center Of Attention, Not Toast

February 1, 2011  |  by Jonathan Miller

One of my pet peeves with the way economists analyze and present the housing market to the public is how macro and detached the discussion is from the real world experiences of buyers, sellers and real estate professionals.

Talking toasters…
As a real estate appraiser of 25 years and a father of four, I see first hand how the kitchen is the center of my home and it is the same for most homeowners that I know. We hang out there, eat there and talk there.

It has been my experience that the kitchen is also the most valuable room in a home, tending to exert more influence in the overall value of a home than other rooms. It is also the most expensive room in the home to renovate.

There has been a fascinating discussion that suggests that technology over the past 50 years hasn’t been as transformative for ordinary peoples’ lives as the change that went before” and the example used was the kitchen. Nobel economist Paul Krugman makes the observation that there has been less of this change in the last fifty years than in the previous fifty years:

The 1957 owners didn’t have a microwave, … but basically they lived pretty much the way we do.

While I agree that a timeless appliance like the toaster hasn’t changed much since 1957 – it is still prone to burning toast just as much as back then – yet something else has evolved over time.

Megan McArdle at The Atlantic in her piece The Economics of Kitchens covers the counter point (no pun intended). The way we cook and its role in daily family life has, in fact, changed a lot over the past 50 years. There are a lot more conveniences in a modern kitchen today and perhaps more than ever, kitchens are the focal point of home life. One key point hit home (again, sorry) with me.

“Food prepared in the home” consumes less than 10% of the average family budget; in 1950, that figure was almost 30%…Cooking is both much better, and much easier for those who choose to do it…

In fact, according to a recent study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, more property owners are expected to renovate their homes in 2011 (and replace both their toasters and kitchens), the first time in three years remodeling activity is forecast to increase.

And I’d pay almost anything for a better toaster.

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One response to “Kitchens Remain A Home’s Center Of Attention, Not Toast”

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