I purchased this 1970’s house in 2007, right as the housing market was starting to fall but not when it was at its very bottom in 2008. When I divorced in 2012 there was no way to sell the house without bringing money to the table. So, my daughter and I kept the house and lived in it until I met someone new and we married. At that time, the house was still not sellable without bringing money to the table. We decided to rent the house out and had several successful years of renting the home. Renting, however, comes with it’s own inconveniences and with the housing market improving in 2016 we tried to sell the home, but with little success and rented it out again for another year. Finally, in 2018 we decided to try to sell it again. We came up with a “flip” plan and my husband and I worked every weekend for 4 months to make it happen. We hired a contractor for some of the bigger jobs and a handyman for some mid-level jobs.
When we sold the house in spring of 2018, we made over $35,000 more than we would have had we accepted the offer we had on the table in 2016. We did spend $7,500 on the remodel, the return on this investment was breath-taking! This was a success for us and we want to share our tips and tricks, just in case you are wanting to sell your home and want a little guidance on ways to increase YOUR chances of success. While the market itself contributed greatly to the financial success, the improvements we made and the staging of the home pushed us over our goal price and helped us both pay off the remainder of our student loans!!
You know where to put the money ~ kitchen, bathrooms, curb appeal.
Here are some good ways to maximize impact for the least amount of financial output.
Improving Curb Appeal
These are pictures from the first time the house when on the market. The house was pale yellow and beige with a white door. BORING!
Here are the improvements that helped lead to success:
Curb Appeal Updates:
- I know it’s become cliché to go with a ruby red door but we did because it was safe and it really brightened up the front of the house. You could of course go with navy, black, apricot ~ almost anything bold and surprising will catch the eye of a potential buyer.
- We planted fresh mums, the color of the door around the front with accents of white annuals around the Japanese Maple.
- We got rid of the terrible pale yellow and beige paint with a nice, warm neutral color with soft-white trim. We also took out the rain barrel and replaced with the original gutter. This made me a bit sad, but the rain barrel’s had been off-putting to some buyers.
- We then paid to have all the windows in the house professionally cleaned. The result was so stunning, we then paid to have the same company clean the windows at our house. Most people love the LIGHT!
Refreshing a 1970’s Kitchen
You can see the issues for yourself ~ way to dark and that was a constant complaint from potential buyers.
Here are the fixes:
- We kept the black sink and black appliances but made them pop with the beautiful white cabinets. We kept the original, all-wood, well-made 1970’s cabinets but added the crown molding and then painted all the cabinetry white. This job require many steps and since we were only able to make it out on weekends, this process took us 6 weeks. There are several good tutorials available online for painting wood cabinets. Make sure you do all the prep necessary so you have a finish that looks professional and that will last.
- We also kept the stone backsplash and white countertop which looked so much better against the white.
- We replaced the washed out, faux stone flooring with premium vinyl flooring. My husband wanted premium vinyl just in case we didn’t sell and decided to rent again. If we could have had a re-do, knowing the house would sell above our desired price I would have insisted we put in hand-scraped bamboo flooring ~ the price was the same and the finished product would have been much more appealing (at least to me!) Oh well, hind sight and all that . . .
- We replaced all the cabinet hardware with a more modern, simple design and then spray painted all the hinges to match.
- We switched out the dark brown curtains leading out the back deck with light-colored, smokey silver-gray curtains.
- Finally we painted the kitchen in Sherwin William’s Smoke Embers.
I think the end produce was stunning and a great change (with a very low price tag).
Uplifting the Hearth Room
Again, the house was just too dark and too brown for current tastes. Here is the face-lift:
Hearth room updates:
- Un-mistakeably, we painted the fireplace and I LOVE the result. The brown brick fireplace was definitely ho-hum. We painted the fireplace Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain.
- I painted the whole room, including the built-in book cases in Sherwin William’s Agreeable Gray (which is my all-time favorite paint color!)
- We paid the contractor to remove the half-wall between the hearth room and the kitchen. So airy and spacious, a very small price for a big pay off!
Creating a Dreamy Master Bedroom
Here is where we brought in the contractor. This dated, cramped master bathroom needed a major re-start.
Here is what we made happen:
- We tore out the old sink, vanity and mirrors. Then we tore down the wall and door which led into the toilet/shower and created a new wall and doorway between the master bedroom and master bathroom, getting rid of the old layout where the bedroom and sink/vanity where all in the same space (very common in houses from this era). This change gives complete privacy to the bathroom and modernized the space.
- We closed off the door in the vanity area which led to a 3rd closet, replacing it with a wall on the master bathroom side. We then used this old closet space by combining it with a hallway linen closet to create a bedroom-level laundry room with linen storage. This was a huge update as the old laundry was in the dingy, unfinished basement.
- We took out all of the horrible yellow wall tile and replaced it with drywall.
- We put in a modern, gray vanity with matching mirror and changed the bathroom lighting. We put in modern gray and white tile. Painted the room in Sherwin William’s Revere Pewter.
- The shower door was removed and fully cleaned then replaced and the inside of the shower was re-painted by a professional company that specializes in painting old tile.
- Finally, we updated the bedroom by painting the closet doors white and then the room in Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue. We got rid of all the bamboo shades and replaced them with white cellular shades. The result ~ a peaceful, light-filled master retreat.
Quick changes to the Hall Bath:
- The bathroom had new tile work on the floor and the bath surround in 2010. We kept that work and simply replaced the old medicine cabinet with a sleeker, updated cabinet.
- The shower curtain was ordered from Society 6 and the wall color was custom-matched to one of the shades of blue in the curtain. The curtain really made this small bedroom, I think it is sophisticated but interesting and looks like a piece of art.
- The old window was replaced with a new, vinyl window that won’t rot and the windows were frosted.
This takes us through the BIG changes. But the icing on the cake was a simple, inexpensive staging of the home (it was empty when we went to sell it and empty houses just don’t sell at the top price).
Staging Tips and Tricks:
Quick overall tips:
- Don’t skip staging, it really makes a difference in increasing buyer interest. Most people just don’t have a good imagination, and it is up to you to show them what the dream looks like!
- You don’t have to spend a fortune ~ we had a $1000 staging budget and easily stayed within that budget.
- You only need to stage the kitchen, living room, and master bedroom. We also stage one of the additional bedrooms as an office.
- You only need to “approximate” each room. This means don’t over-do it. Keep it super simple!
- We decided it would be less expensive to stage ourselves, but there are companies in every city that will loan furniture for staging. It is a bit more expensive than our “home-made” version but would still be worth it.
- I referred to this website and found it very helpful ~ take a look:
Living Room Staging on a BUDGET:
- The room was already painted in Sherwin William’s Revere Pewter, it’s a great color and we kept it.
- We ditched the old brown curtains and replaced them with a light striped gray ombre set of curtains from Target.
- The gray modern chairs also came from Target along with the futon couch (online). All the art work was found at area thrift stores. Dining room chairs and accessories where on loan from our home. The dining room table was found on Facebook Marketplace.
- The door in the foyer was painted white and the hallway was painted in the same Revere Pewter as the living room/dining room.
- After the house sold, we were able to sell all the furniture and almost made back the outlay. The staging would have been worth it even if we didn’t sell the items, the house had so much more buyer interest than when it was standing empty.
Staging a Bedroom as an Office:
- We painted this bedroom and another in Revere Pewter. We never made it into the 4th bedroom to paint, but it didn’t end up mattering. The desk, lamp, art and small ladder along with the accessories were all purchased at area thrift stores. The chair was purchased at Ikea.
Tips for staging a Hearth Room
- If you have built-in use accessories sparingly. I brought books in matching colors from our own library and then intermixed some simple collectibles found at thrift stores. The art above the fireplace was on loan from our house. The smaller pieces above each built-in were purchased at a thrift store and I painted the interior the red so it wold pop and look better with the center piece of art.
- We added a fabric ottoman from our house, topped it with a cashmere throw and a small wooden tray with a ceramic tea set.
- The kitchen was the most work to remodel but the easiest to stage.
- We removed the 1970’s yellow glass from the cabinets above the desk and replaced them with frosted glass.
- Always have a cake plate on display. I also always buy an inexpensive, iced cake at Walmart and put it on display. Having a cake on display has been my secret tip and I use it every time I am selling a house.
- We put up a little bit of thrift store art to further define the desk area and another Ikea chair (the other is in the upstairs office).
- There is a crystal vase to the left of the range. Every week I put in fresh flowers. That and the cake are my best advice on making people WANT your kitchen to be their kitchen.
- I brought over some small plants from our house for the counter tops and white antique pitcher found at a thrift store.
- Top off your kitchen staging with some pretty dish soap and hand soap. I like Watkins and bought it for the kitchen and the hand soaps for each bathroom.
- We also went to Trader Joe’s, bought a few of our favorite things and staged them in the pantry. Then after the house sold, we took them home and ate them up!
Tips for Staging the Master Suite:
- We did end up paying for a queen bed frame from IKEA. It really made the room. We used a queen-sized air mattress underneath it and the white duvet was on loan from our home. The fluffy white pillows and cases are from IKEA (new pillows and new white cases look so fresh, clean and crisp).
- The art above the bed, thrift store!
- The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue. This wasn’t the safest choice, but I think taking a chance and using something unexpected charms most buyers. The color was lovely on the walls and made the bedroom feel very relaxing.
- We bought 2 outdoor tables from Target for the bed stands (I am now using them in our garden room). The lights were on loan from our home. The art came from guess where? The thrift store, of course 🙂
- All the dark window treatments were replaced with these great, inexpensive cellular shades from Menards.
- Much like the kitchen, the remodel was intense but the staging is easy!
- Thrift store art ~ best place to get nice art SUPER cheap.
- Fluffy white hand-towels (there are fluffy white towels and washcloths folded neatly in the bottom drawer of the vanity). TJ Maxx is a great place to get beautiful towels for a great price.
- A candle from TJ Maxx and J.R. Watkins hand soap.