5 Ways to Upgrade a Cookie-Cutter House Before Selling It

published Sep 1, 2020
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Selling your home when it looks pretty similar to other properties on your street can be challenging. Many housing developments are built that way to save time and money, so you’ll want to kick up your home’s look several notches to make buyers notice it first. 

“Buyers are not thinking, ‘Look how much potential this has if we make all these changes.’ They want to move in and have it already done for them,” says Lyric Turner, owner of Red House Staging & Interiors in Washington, D.C.

There are many easy and affordable ways to make a cookie-cutter home stand out—and improving these five areas may even bring you a higher offer, according to recent research conducted by Zillow. 

Punch things up with paint

Keep one thing in mind when readying your home for sale, says Chantay Bridges, a Realtor with Los Angeles Real Estate Now.

“Curb appeal, curb appeal, curb appeal! If the front looks shabby, no one will want to see the interior,” she says.

Start with a fresh coat of paint to make your front door pop, adds Turner.

“You might have to work with the colors your homeowner’s association approves, but it will look fresh and new,” she says. While you’re at it, swap outdated outdoor light fixtures, replace faded house numbers facing the street, and don’t overlook the power of an inviting front porch.

“You want people to immediately picture themselves having their cup of coffee there in the morning or entertaining friends. The staging should match what the porch can do. It drives me crazy when I see a big, beautiful front porch with a tiny little bistro table and two little chairs. That’s not demonstrating the potential,” she says.

Liven up your landscaping 

As sellers continue to follow social distancing recommendations, outdoor space tops buyers’ wish lists, so elevate your landscaping by trimming, cleaning, and sprucing everything up. 

“Your landscape needs to scream ‘Come look inside!’” Bridges says. “Great landscaping tells buyers your home is well-maintained.”

Turner suggests adding movable elements, such as oversized pots planted with boxwoods or colorful seasonal foliage. 

“You can take them with you and it’s easier than planting a tree or bushes and keeping those alive during showings,” she says.

You may even want to add a fire pit to appeal to families wanting a spot to gather during staycations—buyers will pay a premium for this kind of feature, according to Zillow’s analysis

Credit: Minette Hand

Add texture and interest inside

Transform your interior by putting up decorative wall coverings, whether it’s grasscloth wallpaper, shiplap, or barn wood, suggests Turner.

“You can do an accent wall, a powder room, or the bottom of your kitchen island to take your space from drab to much more interesting, and that can be done in a weekend,” she says. 

“Many builder-grade homes have small, thin baseboards, so replacing those with a thicker baseboard that’s eight or nine inches high can elevate a room, too.”

Brighten up your lighting

Buyers notice when a home is flooded with light, says Bridges, so make that a priority.

“When a home is bright and airy, it’s more appealing,” she says. “Light fixtures are also attention-grabbers: Most clients can tell the difference between an old antiquated piece versus something new, modern, elegant, and stylish.”  

Consider installing smart lights controlled by an app, so you can tell buyers they’ll save on energy costs: According to Zillow’s research, homes mentioning smart lights in their listing description sell faster.  

Refresh hardware and faucets

Outdated cabinet knobs and tired kitchen and bathroom faucets turn off buyers, so upgrade them with on-trend options, suggests Turner. 

“You can’t go wrong by switching out brushed nickel for matte black, because that’s what buyers are looking for,” she notes.

Bridges also suggests switching out any faucets that are 10-plus years old for ones that are classy and sleek. Pro tip: Invest in a touchless faucet to impress COVID-era buyers. 

No matter where you choose to revamp your property, consider your buyer’s first impression, suggests Bridges.

“Add a little flair, and do something different or unique. If everyone on the street is beige, add some dramatic colors, window treatments, or over-the-top fixtures,” she says.