The holidays are upon us, and that means lots of cooking. Not coincidentally, it also tends to be a time of year when homeowners pay attention to the ways their kitchens fall short of ideal.
If you think redoing your kitchen will make you happier, you may be right. A study conducted last year by the National Association of Realtors asked consumers how happy they were with the results of their recent remodeling projects. Those who had done a full kitchen remodel reported a "Joy Score" of 9.8 out of 10, said Christina Hoffmann, content manager for HouseLogic, the NAR's homeowner resource site.
And a kitchen remodeling project could also make your home more attractive to potential buyers when you sell it, Hoffmann said.
"When asked to rank the projects that appeal most to buyers, [a kitchen renovation] was at the top of the list of projects Realtors feel will likely add value to the sale," she said. About 57 percent of Realtors also reported that they've recommended clients update their kitchens before putting their homes on the market.
So which upgraded kitchen features should you prioritize to get the biggest return on your investment?
Hoffmann said HouseLogic and the NAR have found that high-end appliances (while they might make you feel like a Food Network star) won't help raise the value of your home.
"Unless you plan on staying in the home for a long time or [cooking] is really your passion, the splurge isn't worth the value," she said.
But it turns out, homeowners could learn a lot by looking at the high-end features buyers say they want in newly built homes.
According to a recent study of homebuyer preferences conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, wealthy buyers would rather have more cooking, eating and storage space. The results showed that when asked which kitchen features are "essential" or "desirable" in a new home, respondents with annual incomes of $150,000 or more favored space-makers like central islands, breakfast bars and walk-in pantries.
Click ahead for 10 of the most in-demand features for upscale kitchens.
When cooking multiple dishes at a time, a central island can be a great feature, providing extra prep space or a place to put cooling racks of holiday cookies. That could be why 84 percent of the high-earning homebuyers surveyed by the NAHB listed an island as essential or desirable.
It's also a popular feature for those renovating their existing kitchens. According to home design website Houzz's 2016 Kitchen Trends Study, 37 percent of people who recently renovated their kitchens added an island.
Granite/natural stone countertops
Countertops are one of the largest surfaces in most kitchens. That may be why 93 percent of people in the Houzz survey said they got new countertops as part of their kitchen renovations. The NAHB study found 83 percent of high-income buyers want granite or natural stone countertops.
Does your holiday feast require more ingredients than you can fit in your cupboards? Like a walk-in closet for your food, these pantries provide extra storage and could help keep the kitchen from looking cluttered. Houzz found that 10 percent of kitchen renovations included the addition of a walk-in pantry, a feature 82 percent of high-income homebuyers labeled as essential or desirable.
Table space for eating
When friends and family members are visiting for the holidays, it might be nice to spend time with them rather than sequestering yourself in the kitchen. Having an eat-in kitchen provides more space for visitors to sit, talk and nibble on what you're preparing. This feature was noted as essential or desirable by 82 percent of homebuyers in the NAHB study -- tied with walk-in pantries.
Recessed lighting could be an unobtrusive way to brighten the kitchen. Because these lights are built into the ceiling, they offer a clean, simple look that is well-suited to almost any decor. Eighty percent of the NAHB survey participants found this feature desirable. It's also a popular feature among people renovating their existing kitchens. The Houzz study found that 72 percent of homeowners who updated their kitchen lighting opted for recessed lights.
Double sink (side-by-side)
When cleaning up after a holiday feast, it's nice to have a big sink. Many buyers have said they'd prefer a double sink. Seventy-nine percent of the homebuyers surveyed by the NAHB listed a side-by-side double sink as a desirable kitchen feature, and 89 percent of the homeowners surveyed by Houzz said they updated their sinks and faucets as part of their kitchen remodeling projects.
A backsplash can add a pop of texture and color to a kitchen. Maybe that's why 78 percent of the high-income homebuyers surveyed by the NAHB listed it as a desirable or essential feature. According to Houzz, 88 percent of recent kitchen remodelers added a backsplash and 25 percent of them chose to use white tiles.
Adding pull-out shelves to kitchen cabinets could help with organization and make it easier to remove heavy items. Seventy-four percent of the homebuyers surveyed by the NAHB said these shelves were a desirable feature, and 42 percent of Houzz's kitchen remodelers who upgraded their cabinets also added pull-out or swing-out shelves.
Drinking water filtration
Depending on where you live, the local drinking water may or may not taste so great. This could be especially true for people whose drinking water comes from wells. Maybe that's why 70 percent of high-income homebuyers surveyed by the NAHB said drinking water filtration is a desirable feature in their kitchens. These systems are sometimes built into refrigerators with ice and water dispensers, and can also be added to existing faucets.
If you don't have space for a separate dining area in your kitchen, a breakfast bar could be a great way to add some seating and a little extra counter surface. Sixty-eight percent of homebuyers in the NAHB survey cited this as a desirable feature, and Houzz found that 22 percent of recent kitchen renovations included the addition of a breakfast bar.