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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beyond the Basics - More Tips for the Frugal Home Seller

In last week's post, we looked at 4 basic steps to take in order to get your house ready for the market. This week, let's take it a bit further. If you're serious about selling your home, you'll want to, at least, explore some of the options I suggest. Some of these steps will have a cost factor, but you'll save lots of money if you can do some of it yourself. And your home will be better positioned to sell.

1.  Get rid of the wallpaper. I don't care how much that decorator paper cost when it was new, or how much you love it. The painful truth is that the majority of buyers don't like wallpaper. And even if they might like some wallpaper, they won't like the color or the pattern on your dining room walls. It's a given.

Depending on how much wallpaper you have, and how it was applied, this can be a simple Saturday afternoon task, or a week of messy, nasty work. Sure you can hire someone to do it, but the frugal home seller will make it a DIY project, following these steps, except for the suggestion to use white shellac. Leave that part out.

Once the wall paper has been removed, you can spackle any holes or dings, and get ready to paint. Make sure that you choose a neutral color, but one that is current and popular. Your Realtor will probably have some good suggestions. You can also check out model homes in upscale new developments. Companies like Toll Brothers do a lot of market research on what consumers are looking for in new homes, and they use that information when they decorate the models. Take advantage of their work!

2. Posh-up the powder room.  It's absolutely true that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. If your kitchen and bathrooms are outdated and unattractive, there is no question you'll have a harder time selling the house. But it can be really expensive to redo kitchens and baths. A powder room reno, however, doesn't have to cost you big money. Because the powder room is typically very small, it's a project you may be able to handle yourself. And if done well, a pretty powder room can create a good impression of inviting, attractive public spaces in your home.

Consider painting the walls a nice, rich, decorator color - taupe, sage and mustard a colors I have seen work well recently. Paint the trim a glossy white - unless another another decorating style is prevalent in your area. You'll also want to address the flooring. If you already have wood or nice tile, you're in luck. But if you're faced with linoleum or vinyl tile, or - yikes - carpet, you'll want to make a change. Here again, the cost should be pretty low, especially if you can do the work yourself. Because we're talking about minimal square feet, you may be able to pick up a small amount of good looking stone or ceramic tile in a close-out or a partial box for a fraction of its original cost. You might also try looking on Craig's List or Freecycle, and at a Habitat for Humanity restore.

A new vanity, sink, faucets and hardware can totally change the look of an outdated powder room. Here again, you can search Craig's List and Freecycle. Or look for bargains in the close-out and returned sections of Home Depot, Lowe's, Habitat for Humanity retores, and local home improvement stores. Brushed and polished nickel are popular choices in my area these days, and brass fixtures are now out of favor.

If the toilet is really old, think about replacing it too. Toilets aren't cheap, but you don't have to buy top of the line to get the impact of new, clean and updated.

Finally, add a great-looking mirror (another opportunity to shop for a bargain) and crisp, luxurious-looking hand-towels and your powder room makeover is complete.

 3. Replace out-dated light fixtures.  Nothing says "tired" more than funky light fixtures. Think about replacing the most prominent light fixtures - kitchen, dining room and entrance hall - with attractive new ones. It's amazing how a couple of pendant lights over a kitchen island, or a modern chandelier in the dining room will give an entirely new look to your home. And, while some light fixtures are off-the-charts expensive, if you have a good eye and are willing to spend a little time shopping, you can find some great looking lights for super-bargain prices. If you don't trust your own tastes (and believe me, some people shouldn't), ask a friend who is design-savvy to help you with your selection.

In future posts, we'll look at more ways you can make simple, and relatively inexpensive changes to your home before you put it on the market.


  1. For fixtures - run to Ikea - they're affordable and are in stock.

    For Wallpaper, we filled a tank of hot water of a garden sprayer with the stuff to eat the paste (found in any hardware store) and super-saturate the paper. Wall paper then comes off in a breeze.

  2. Ikea is really cheap - but they have some environmental issues that are problematic. So I'm not sure I'm still a fan.
    Wallpaper remover stuff does work well, though vinegar is an ok substitute and much cheaper.