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Upgrading a Small Refrigerator to a Full Size Unit

Market Ready


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Q. I have a small under-counter refrigerator in my kitchen. Is it worth the investment to replace it with a full-size unit?

A. If you’re marketing your place toward supermodels, a tiny refrigerator is fine. Otherwise, compared with a full-size unit, a small under-counter fridge “is always a negative,” even in the tiniest kitchens, said Shannon Aalai, a vice president with the real estate company Citi Habitats.

In New York, under-counter refrigerators are more common than you think, she added. “There’s this assumption in New York that people eat out all the time, and nobody stays home to cook.” Nevertheless, she said, “even people who are not big cooks still want somewhere to put frozen things.”

“Some of these fridges are so small, you can’t even fit things like water,” she said. “It can feel like dorm living.”

And few adults want to feel as if they are moving into a dorm room.

Replacing an under-counter refrigerator isn’t as simple as swapping it for a full-size unit: the countertop is usually in the way, so a limited kitchen renovation, at the least, is often required to modify the cabinetry and open enough space. That can be an annoyance — and expensive — but it will probably pay off once the apartment is on the market, Ms. Aalai says.

She recalled how one buyer she recently represented balked at an otherwise desirable apartment on the Upper West Side. “It was one of the best kitchens we had seen,” she said, but “they had a mini-fridge. For my guy, it was a deal-breaker. The kitchen was so nice, and he didn’t want to rip out the counters to put in a full-size fridge.”

If tearing out the kitchen counter is too daunting, there is a less laborious solution, says Eve Robinson, a New York interior designer: installing refrigerator and freezer drawers. They fit under the counter, she said, are more convenient than swing-door refrigerators, hold a lot and generally offer a high-end built-in look. “What’s so nice about them is that they come right out and are really easy to access,” she said. “You don’t have to bend and crouch to get into the refrigerator.”

And because the drawers come in various widths, they can fit different sizes of cabinetry, so “you don’t have to do a lot of construction,” said Ms. Robinson, who favors models by Sub-Zero.

“The unit usually comes with two drawers: you could do one that’s refrigerator and one that’s freezer,” she said. “Or you could do two units side by side, so you have four drawers.”

However you achieve it, ample room for refrigeration is a selling feature, particularly in Manhattan, where people are used to small spaces, Ms. Aalai says. “People will say, ‘Oh, my God, full-size appliances,’ ” she said. “Only in New York would you have somebody say that.”