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2 2 of 6 2/25/2009 9:25 AM Recipes for Success The Ingredients for an Effective Kitchen Rehab Source: MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE MAGAZINE Publication date: By Rachel Z. Azoff Nothing keeps K. David Meit, executive vice president of DARO Realty Inc., from his appointed mission. After six months of searching for the perfect kitchen cabinet, he emerged victoriously from an office stacked high with options. The winner: a white thermofoil cabinet with traditional detail and a raised panel. Meit was well on his way to a successful rehab. "My entire office was full of cabinets because we didn't want to buy a standard builder-grade, stapled, and glued product," Meit says. "We wanted something that was more of a dowel product or dovetailed together, something that is going to be a little longer-lasting than what you get at the supply house." Meit is just one of many owners searching for creative ways to make older properties stand out from the competition. After all, kitchens are one of the first rooms prospective renters check out. "When they walk into the unit, they're going to go and open the refrigerator door and open the kitchen cabinet," says Dan Doyle, assistant vice president of development at Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Village Green Cos. "They're going to spend more time there than they probably would elsewhere in the units as they're making their decision on whether or not they want to lease the apartment." But rehabbing a kitchen is no piece of cake. Owners and managers must sift through endless types of cabinets, countertops, and flooring, not to mention appliance and BEFORE: The kitchens lighting options. And if money allows, there's also the possibility of enlarging and at Nirvana, a 374-unit reconfiguring rooms. condo conversion in Miami, were Properties typically upgrade when units need a little transformed from drab refreshing or when the rent's going up. But today, tough to hip with stainless leasing months often dictate when it's time for a change. steel appliances, black granite countertops, The following examples show how kitchens can go from and new cabinetry. bottom of the barrel to top-notch, whether in a high-end condo or an affordable rental. Transformations AFTER The Look of Luxury When you're updating a property to a luxury community or high-end condo, certain products are a must. Residents expect stainless steel or even commercial-grade appliances, granite or quartz-based countertops, and wood cabinetry, says Neena Jud, project architect at Cole + Russell Architects, a Cincinnati-based firm. Ultra-luxury properties may offer a main sink plus a smaller vegetable sink and glass-front cabinets in which to display fine china. Nirvana, a 374-unit Miami property developed by Miami-based Midtown Group LLC, is shooting for a contemporary look as it transforms from a low- to middle-income rental to a hip, edgy condo for young professionals. The closed-in kitchens built in the '70s with laminate cabinets and old almond appliances needed to go, says Jeff Morr, executive president of Miami-based Majestic Properties, Nirvana's broker. After a gut rehab to open up walls and add islands, the modern Italian-style kitchens feature stainless steel appliances, black granite countertops, and a choice of

3 3 of 6 2/25/2009 9:25 AM white, cherry, or for the more adventurous buyers blue thermofoil cabinets. "It's the same kitchen you would basically get in a million-dollar apartment," Morr says. But here's the twist: Units are moderately priced from the mid- $100,000s. The company's able to offer luxurious finishes at an affordable cost by buying items in bulk, Morr says. Materials for each kitchen add up to about $5,000, plus $1,000 for the labor. Keeping Up There's always room for improvement, especially in the west Los Angeles market, where new luxury communities seem to pop up daily. Just ask SSR Realty Advisors, a Morristown, N.J.-based company, which recently purchased Marina Pointe in Marina del Ray, Calif. Although less than 10 years old, the 583-unit luxury rental needed a facelift to keep up with new product. Decked out in all white, the kitchens were passé, says Victoria Currens, principal at Style Interior Design, an Irvine, Calif.-based firm. White appliances sat atop a white tile counter with whitewashed cabinets, framed by a white vinyl floor and BEFORE: In certain white walls. markets, Home Properties tears down walls on Good-bye '90s, hello 21st century. Renovated closed-in kitchens to open kitchens feature white or chocolate brown oak them up to eating areas or cabinets, stainless steel or black appliances, black living rooms. These granite countertops, and a vinyl strip floor changes can cost as much mimicking wood. Walls are painted a neutral as $6,000. color, and ceilings and trim are white. Spending $4,000 per kitchen, Marina is now ready to compete with the latest product on the market. AFTER Going to Market The Little Things Count At class B and C properties, owners aren't looking to invest big bucks. Fortunately, small changes can make a huge difference and allow you to compete with new product, says Sandy Becker, vice president of CAPREIT, a Rockville, Md.-based company. Without spending $1,000 to replace cabinet fronts or $2,000 for brand-new cabinets, CAPREIT spruces up cabinets for $80 to $85 per kitchen by replacing old polished brass handles with brushed nickel hardware. A new faucet also can make a big splash. For $85, an old, low-lying faucet is replaced with a gooseneck stainless steel one that leaves plenty of room for stacking large pots. Another inexpensive upgrade is to replace fluorescent lighting with a more appealing glow, like recessed lighting. Depending on the number of fixtures, this runs from $100 to $150. CAPREIT usually invests in hardwood or ceramic tile flooring, instead of less expensive vinyl or laminate options. Although costs range from $450 to $800, depending on the size of the kitchen, quality flooring is a great way to attract renters, Becker says, and the durable materials save money in the long run. Upon lease renewals, CAPREIT will offer residents small ways to improve their kitchens. Residents' top suggestions at focus groups include under-the-counter coffee makers and CD players to free up counter space. A New Footprint Sometimes adding a microwave or updating lighting isn't enough. "It's really market driven how far we will push in a kitchen," says Scott Doyle, senior vice president of property management at Home Properties, a Rochester,

4 4 of 6 2/25/2009 9:25 AM N.Y.-based real estate investment trust. To push the envelope, Home sometimes uses an open design the latest trend in new construction. Walls on closed-in kitchens are torn down, opening up to eating areas or living rooms, and sometimes islands or breakfast bars are added. Some residents in larger metropolitan markets, like the Washington and Philadelphia suburbs, are willing to pay for structural changes, which easily add up to $6,000 with new appliances, Doyle says. But since not all residents want to pay that kind of premium, Home will often extensively rehab just a limited number of units for those who want the upgrades. As far as materials, Home looks for value. "Being a B, B-plus type of property, we are not overboard on fashion," says Keith Knight, Home's vice president, capital improvement and national accounts. "We try to keep it functional, clean, and very marketable." Company properties tend to have white or almond bisque appliances and light oak cabinets, since lighter colors are easier to clean over time and brighten smaller kitchens. For countertops, there are an increasing number of laminates to choose from that mimic the look of granite and marble patterns. Tough Job Desperate for Repair Years of neglect leave properties in bad shape, and affordable properties are particularly susceptible to this problem. The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), for instance, is completely rehabbing 55 buildings for seniors that hadn't been updated for 30 to 40 years. Kitchens in the 9,400-unit community contain beat-up stoves, broken cabinets, and peeling countertops. With nearly $350 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), kitchens are getting new laminate cabinets, gas stoves with a self-cleaning oven, high-efficiency refrigerators, and laminate countertops. Eleven architectural firms are doing the plans and specs for the buildings. "The buildings generally were alike, but there were enough minor details that you just couldn't have a cookie-cutter approach," says August Chidichimo, CHA's director of capital construction. While HUD sets minimum standards for materials, CHA tries to go a step above the requirements, like using aluminum energy-efficient windows with Ultralift balances, which allow windows to be opened with 8 pounds of pressure instead of the typical 15 pounds. Rehabs cost $9,000 to $11,000 per kitchen, with ADA-compliant units costing slightly more. CHA plans to complete nearly all rehabs by the end of this year. Built to Last Kitchens in affordable communities typically get five times the use of those at other properties, says Mark Silverwood, president of Leesburg, Va.-based Silverwood Associates Inc. "[These residents] are not the ones going out to dinner," he says. "These are working families with kids, using the kitchen a lot more often." That's why durability is a primary consideration when Silverwood chooses materials for extensive rehabs at 50-year-old properties in Arlington and Alexandria, Va. Typical selections for these communities include white or almond GE appliances, oak cabinets, Formica countertops, and vinyl flooring. The company also enlarges windows and replaces dim 60-watt bulbs with 4-foot-by-4-foot fluorescent fixtures. Rehabs cost up to $7,000 per kitchen. Creating space also is a top priority, says Silverwood. Built in the late '40s and early '50s, most of the properties' kitchens have a galley design with all cabinets and appliances on one wall. Since the kitchens typically are wedged between living rooms and bathrooms, the company moves the living room wall out 12 to 18 inches and puts cabinets on both sides of the kitchen. Case Study: Going Retro

5 5 of 6 2/25/2009 9:25 AM DARO Realty's portfolio dates back to the '20s and '30s. Kitchens, last remodeled in the '70s, offer dark oak cabinets with faux butcher-block countertops and a dull brown tile floor. Although the company had added white appliances in the '90s, "it just wasn't pretty," says K. David Meit, executive vice president. So for the past two years, the Washington-based owner and manager has been aggressively rehabbing both kitchens and baths two of the biggest selling points in apartments. "We put a lot of thought into how we wanted our kitchens to look, and we decided to be true to ourselves and not try to be something that we are not," Meit explains. DARO didn't want to imitate a modern kitchen, which typically features maple cabinetry and almond appliances. "Black and white is what our kitchens looked like when they were first built, and we find that the people who want to live in our buildings are looking for that," Meit says. "They are willing to not have wall-to-wall carpeting and washers and dryers in their apartments because they want to have that traditional feel." To play up the '20s look, DARO added black and white checkerboard vinyl floors and traditional white cabinetry, with faux granite countertops for a slight contemporary feel. The company also installed white GE appliances. DARO has gotten the rehab process down to a science. Upon turnover, units are renovated by a turnkey contractor. Updating a kitchen costs around $5,000 and takes about two weeks. While a new kitchen certainly adds value, the company can't specify a rent increase, since properties are rent-controlled. For its Washington properties at a lower price point, DARO decided not to make such a large investment. Many units have oak cabinets that are only five years old, so in-house maintenance crews will replace butcher-block countertops with Formica almond ones for around $200 and add white appliances for $600 to $800. "The cosmetic aspects of the apartments to the prospect aren't as important," Meit says. "As long as it's updated and it looks clean, they are happy." So you want a great-looking kitchen, but don't have a lot of capital to invest? No problem. Scott Bigham, vice president of construction management for Seattle-based Pinnacle, an American Management Services company, tells how to keep costs low without compromising style. Add new vinyl flooring that resembles wood: $175 per kitchen For a brand-new look, resurface laminate countertops with a spray-on epoxy in a color of your choice: $110 per room Update cabinets with chic doorknobs: $35 per kitchen Replace an outdated, rusted faucet with a washerless Euro-style single-handle faucet in chrome finish: $30 Modernize walls with knock-down texture and fresh paint: $75 Grand total: $425 ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT

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