Updating your Home for Resale

4 keys to maximizing value and making your home appealing to potential buyers

Updating your home for resale

One of the first things I ask clients when we are assessing the scope of a new project is how long they expect to stay in their home. A remodel of your forever home can have a completely different set of priorities than a remodel of a home you plan to sell in 3-5 years, or a home you are looking to update so you can put it on the market in the very near future.

If you’re thinking of selling soon and would like to update the house so it presents well to buyers, now may not be the time to remodel. Before you invest in a serious remodel, I would recommend checking in with a reputable real estate agent in your area who knows your local market and can give you some sound advice on whether a remodel makes sense.

In the meantime, there are several things you can do that will help make your house as attractive as possible to potential buyers:

Lighten up

The first thing I recommend is to simplify, de-personalize and de-clutter.

Decluttering is one of the more important things you can do to create a feeling of calm and order. By decluttering, you’ll create clean horizontal spaces that allow the eye to travel around the room and appreciate the space itself. Consider every object that is currently on display or out on the counter, and edit until what remains adds to the look and feel of the space rather than distracts from it.

When a potential buyer looks at a home, they are looking for a connection that gives them a sense of home. They want to be able to envision themselves living there, and they want to feel reassured the home will fit them and the way they live.

Buyers have a hard time imagining their own lives in a space that is full of someone else’s.

When you are trying to make your home marketable, you want to make it neat, tidy, decluttered and as impersonal as possible. And to maximize the feeling of spaciousness, consider removing some furniture pieces and reconfiguring the layout to provide an open feeling.

This is the time to take down personal photos, keepsakes, and small decorative items and box them up to re-use in your new home. But, this doesn’t mean the current house needs to feel cold and sterile!

Pro tip: Replace personal and small items with larger, more impersonal decorative items.

Apply this to the home’s exterior living spaces as well. These are spaces that need to welcome a potential buyer by giving them room to imagine how they will use the space.

Clean up

Another big part of getting your home ready to sell is to bring in some fresh air, tackle any deferred maintenance items and do a deep clean.

Clean mirrors, glass and light fixtures, scrub tile and grout, clean and touch up trim work and paint, vacuum and wipe down window coverings and all furniture, clean sinks, toilets and appliances to a sparkling shine.

This is the time to clean the rain gutters, call a chimney sweep, clear cobwebs, wash the windows, and apply some elbow grease to get everything both inside and out shiny and clean. Take note of items that need to be touched up or repaired and call a handyman or contractor if needed to address any repairs.

Now is also a good time to call a home inspector. Seller’s responsibilities may vary from market to market, but it’s always good to know what you’re dealing with and decide up front how you want to handle it. This is another item to ask your agent about. The agent can also give you referral for a local home inspection company in your area.

Walk the home’s exterior as well, paging specific attention to how the well the landscape welcomes prospective buyers to the property. It is a good idea to have a landscape maintenance company to trim, edge, prune and mow. If you have mulched areas, consider refreshing them with a new layer of mulch too.

Freshen up

Sometimes, rather than a remodel, there are some small updates than can make a big difference.


If the kitchen and bathroom cabinets are in decent shape but look dated, consider having them painted or refaced. The same goes for baseboards, interior doors, casings, and other millwork and built ins.

Pro tip: For interior walls, consider a light neutral that works best with your hard finishes and give a fresh coat of paint. Ceilings can be painted in a white or even a lighter version of your wall color.

If the home’s exterior looks tired, consider a pair refresh there as well, since the home’s curb appeal is the first impression a buyer will see.


If faucets, fixtures and knobs or handles are dated, these are fairly simple to change out and can freshen up a space really well. Consider a satin nickel, matte black, or oil rubbed bronze, depending on your fixed finishes.

Light fixtures should also be considered. Consider updating fixtures that are dated or poorly functioning with a new fixture that is visually lightweight but also provides good lighting.


If budget allows, one great way to update a kitchen or bath is to replace a busy countertop with a neutral and timeless one. This can be a white, cream, black or light neutral countertop in a fairly uniform color that works with the other finishes in the room and home.


Hard surfaces that are dated, don’t work with other hard surfaces, or are too busy for the space are one of hardest things to work around. If you have floor tile, backsplash tile, accent tile or shower tile that isn’t playing well with others, there’s a good chance this will be on a buyer’s list of things they will want to change – if they have the vision to see around it.

It’s a good idea to consult with an experienced designer who can help you prioritize your budget and decide whether it’s worth changing out the tile – or perhaps refinishing it. Changing out tile is messy, and refinishing takes some serious elbow grease, but the benefit with either is a fresher, more updated space that will welcome a potential buyer.


If the carpet is in good shape and works well with the fixed finishes in the home, a cleaning is often all that is needed to refresh it. Sometimes carpeting needs to be stretched in a few areas too, and a good installer can advise on that as well.

If the carpet needs to be replaced, consider replacing it before putting the home on the market. The goal is to present a home that is turnkey – a buyer can walk in and feel ready to move in, rather than see a long list of items to update. A turnkey home has a higher perceived value to a buyer because it means they do not need to invest into updates when they move in. Again, check with your agent for recommendations for sellers in your market.

Liven it up

When everything has been cleared, cleaned and refreshed, the home is ready for the finishing touches: putting together a look and feel.

A home stager is a valuable resource for decorating with a buyer in mind, and often your agent has a stager they can wholeheartedly recommend.

When you are decorating for a potential buyer, you’re creating a story that the buyer can imagine themselves as a part of.

The colors you use will make the best of the existing furnishings and fixed finishes, but will also create a home that feels fresh, welcoming and vibrant.

Pro tip: As much as possible, create a palette that continues throughout the home using the same core group of colors. It creates a cohesive flow that feels natural and inviting.

With a little bit of elbow grease and some thoughtful planning, you can maximize the value of your home and get it sold more quickly, so you can focus on finding your next home and turning it into a space you’ll love.

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