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Prepping a House for Resale: Tackling a Home with Deferred Maintenance

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

My husband and I temporarily relocated to Kansas City this past Spring in order to spend more time with his family and to get out out of the epicenter of Covid-19, New York City.

I figured this was a great time to offer my services to my mother-in-law because she has a huge home and is planning to downsize and put it on the market in the next couple of years. While there are tons of projects that could be done to the home, I had a limited time and needed to focus on the ones that were most impactful. Things I had to consider were: What parts of the house matter the most to buyers? What projects do I have the skill set to handle myself and the enough time to accomplish it before I go? How much money should one put into the updates in order to ensure a good ROI (return on investment)?

This facelift was desperately needed but often times the main reason someone decides to sell their house without updating it first is because they feel like it's just too much work and that they won't make their money back when actually sell, so why bother?

Here's why I always recommend putting a little effort into your home before you sell it, is because when someone walks into a home with an excessive amount of deferred maintenance they immediately categorize the property into either a "tear down" or a "cosmetic project." The difference between those two labels, made in a split decision, can either make or cost you thousands of dollars. More buyers are willing to take on a "project." Very few are willing to take on a "tear down" and those who are, are usually investors looking to pick up a property at an absolute bargain price.

So my recommendation to my clients, in this case, my mother-in-law, is if it's within reach to fix it up a bit, without dumping too much money into it, it is worth it to do so. Try to get it to a place where you fix up and highlight the best features of the house, and remove, or downplay any of the most terrifying parts of the house.

So we started by doing a walkthrough and identified the smallest projects that would have the most bang for their buck. We landed on the following checklist:

1) Repaint the dining room and living room

2) Remove the wallpaper and mold issues in the bathrooms upstairs

3) Declutter, declutter, declutter! (Every room if possible)

4) Depersonalize each room

Project #1: Dining Room and Living Room

I tackled these first because these are the first impressions of the house that the buyer sees, and therefore would have a huge impact for prospective buyers. While the rooms themselves weren't terrible, they had two major challenges holding them back from their full potential: they were overstuffed with too much furniture and that they both didn't get a lot of natural light. Operation "Brighten it up" was kicked into full gear.

There was also another caveat, my mother-in-law had added a "focal wall" in both of the rooms a few years back. The wall paper she chose for those walls she absolutely adored. There was no way she was willing to part with them so the design had to work to compliment them and include that. Did I mention the wallpaper was brown?!? As the saying goes, what the client wants, the client gets! :)

Dining Room Before

Dining Room Before

So here's what we did:

First we decluttered the room. We narrowed down the pieces of furniture to her "must keeps." If there wasn't a piece she absolutely loved and used regularly, it had to go. Especially because the furniture she had was all very large, solid wood pieces. The impact of all the pieces together were weighing down the rooms. So we needed less in order to move around more, but more importantly to give our eyes moments to breathe.

Secondly we created a cohesive color scheme between the two rooms. Most people prefer an open concept house. Since we didn't have the time or money to take down walls and since both these rooms were on opposite sides of the entry way we needed to make them feel like they belonged together. We wanted it to feel almost as if one space was an extension of the other because the way this house is set up is when a person steps in the home they see both at once from the foyer. The color scheme also needed to play off the wallpaper in the entry way, which was different than the focal wallpaper in each room, a challenge indeed.

So the color scheme we settled on was Sherwin William's "Stone Grey" for the walls. It's a pale grey with no green or blue undertones which picks up the light well. Then we also went with a shade of white from Sherwin Williams called "Highly Reflective Ceiling White" because that is literally what we wanted it to do...bounce as much light around the room as possible! :)

Third, we decided to open up the windows by pairing down the window treatments. Not only did they add too much visual clutter but they blocked what precious little light we were able to get in on the north side of the house.

In the dining room, we removed all the curtains and just left the shade. When not in use it could be pulled up and allow for maximum light to enter. When needed at night it could pull down and still provide the privacy you sometimes want. Again we wanted to keep it simple, clean, and decluttered to bring an element of reprieve to your eyes. In the living room we framed the window with one sheer panel of fabric, just to add that little soft touch.

Next we ensured that there were giant statement mirrors in both rooms. In the dining room we chose a oversized round brown mirror that played off the brown focal wall. The circle shaped also served as a way to break up all the squares in the dining room. In the living room we placed a large rectangle mirror above the buffet table so it perfectly reflected back the light from the front window.

The best part about this update was it only costed about $150 in paint and supplies and just a few days of work. Because they were both larger spaces to begin with, it felt like a large portion of the main floor had been brought back into the 21st century. Yet it still reflected my mother-in-law's taste.

Check back next week for Project #2: Transforming the Terrifying Bathroom! :) And as always any suggestions or ideas on how I could have made this better would awesome!

Forever grateful,


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