When the spring rolls around and the flowers start to bloom, the world seems a little…brighter. There is something about spring that makes us a little more cheerful and a lot more renewed. It’s a time for positivity and change. For a lot of people, that change includes taking advantage of the spring market and officially listing their house. If you’re listing your house, there are a few things you want to know. How can I sell my house for the most money possible? And how can I sell my house fast?
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abbey O’Brien from Magnolia Realty (yes, the Magnolia Realty that Chip and Joanna founded). And boy have I been excited to share her answers with you! Abbey provided some great insights into what people are looking for in a home, how to make it stand out in the crowd, and what small changes will make all the difference. Prepping your house to sell can be daunting, but keep reading. Abbey’s about to share a few easy changes that you can DIY no matter the size or condition of your home.
And if you aren’t selling your house, keep reading! These simple changes will make your home feel brighter and better. They may even make you fall in love with a house that you weren’t too sure you liked anymore.
Q&A with Abbey O’Brien from Magnolia Realty
Q: What are the main things your clients are looking for in a home in terms of look and feel?
Abbey: With regards to aesthetics, most people are drawn to a “neutralized” home. This means — neutral, contemporary paint color(s) throughout… (I’m talking to you burgundy wall dining rooms!). Specifically in my market, light grays are still really popular wall colors, but we’re venturing into some all-white homes, too. Paint goes so far, and is easily the biggest dollar-for-dollar improvement you can do for your house.
As far as layout, people love open concept still, and natural light is never a bad thing.
If I was building a home from scratch right now, I would definitely have vaulted ceilings with a stone fireplace. Those are on a lot of people’s must-haves.
Note from Zoe: If you’re looking for a really light gray, I’d recommend Sherwin Williams Frosty White. It’s very popular in new construction homes. Our entire house is Frosty White and we LOVE it!
Q: What do your clients say they are willing to pay for more?
A: Definitively without a doubt, people are willing to pay more for updated and like-new. Here in this Central Texas market, we have a lot of new construction inventory homes — in every price point. In order for a resale to compete with new construction it usually has to be priced slightly under. But there are a few things a seller can do to make their home competitive. The first being staging. Most new construction isn’t staged with furniture — so having contemporary, stylish, neutral furnishings can help a resale stand out against the competition in general.
I’m not sure about other markets, but in Central Texas, granite or quartz countertops are almost expected. People have a hard time seeing past laminate countertops no matter the price point.
Hard surface flooring in the living area is almost a must-have on every buyer’s wishlist. In Texas, we have a lot of tile and wood-look-tile. Wood-look tile is expensive — people know that — but it’s so low maintenance, people are willing to pay more for a house that already has it installed. But carpet in the living areas is typically a negative for almost every home buyer I’ve ever worked with. Laminate or vinyl plank that looks like wood is a much preferred upgrade to carpet.
Q: What smaller details, if any, do your clients tend to value?
A: In my opinion, one of the biggest impacts you can make is with lighting. Swapping out builder-grade-basic for high-style lighting is easy, relatively affordable and makes a house stand out.
Right now, accent walls with custom molding and wainscoting are really trendy. For example, a vertical board-and-batten wall paneling in a hallway or mudroom is an easy DIY that instantly makes the house feel unique and gives loads of personality. I love the applications that Chris Loves Julia and Young House Love have done.
Note from Zoe: If you’re looking for accent wall inspiration from classic to trendy, we’ve got you covered. Our DIY faux shiplap tutorial is on the blog and so is our geometric accent wall tutorial. Accent walls are a great way to add personality without breaking the bank!
Q: What features or design elements in a house have made your clients say “wow”?
A: I suppose this depends on price point, but one thing that is high impact in every price range is a beautiful outdoor space. It’s really expensive to add square footage to a home, but creating outdoor living spaces always sets a home apart. With my personal home, we’ve created a second living room (of sorts) on our back patio with an outdoor fireplace, L-shaped outdoor sectional and a TV. Backyards don’t even have to be big to have a big impact. Some flower beds, Adirondack chairs, and a fire pit will go a long way. Just don’t forget the cafe string lights. 😉
If you’re considering a big renovation or remodel, I might recommend taking out the tub in the master and converting to a walk-in shower. Overall, people love walk-in showers in the master — and as long as you have at least one tub in the home, you don’t really need to worry about having a tub in the master bath. Most people are only concerned about having one tub (for bathing babies and puppies, etc.)
Q: Do you have any general advice on how to sell a home for more money?
A: Surprisingly some of the best projects that maximize your sale proceeds don’t cost a lot of money — just sweat equity.
Here’s a really cheap one for you: declutter everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I always tell my sellers to pack up about half of their stuff and put it in boxes or totes in the garage. They’re going to be moving anyway, so they might as well start packing before the house is on the market. Every closet, cabinet and pantry needs to look like something from the Container Store Instagram feed. By pairing down closets and getting things off the floor, you can make even the “coziest” home look like it has more than enough storage. While “shelfies” with nicknacks and houseplants look cute on the Instagram home blogger world, in real estate photos, less is always more.
Neutralizing your home to sell also means deleting a lot of your “personal touches” from the home — for example, swap your family portrait that is over the mantel for a neutral statement art piece instead. Without lots of family pictures and personal items, future buyers will have an easier time imagining themselves living there instead of feeling like they’re touring a stranger’s home.
The funny thing is… every time we put in the hard work of getting a house staged, it’s like an episode of Love It or List It. My clients say things like “OMG this looks way better!” “I could stay here if it stayed like this!” And ultimately that’s the goal, we want buyers to be saying that too!
A brief word of caution: if you’re concerned about resale value, be careful not to over-improve your house with projects. I see it all the time. People think that just because they’re spending $25,000 on an outdoor kitchen they’re going to get that $25,000 back when they sell, and the sad reality is, they might get $8,000. MAYBE. I can’t tell you how common of a pitfall it is with remodelers. I see it with pools and Carrara marble counters and tile roofs and hardwood floors. Notice earlier when I said, “if I built a house from scratch, I’d do vaulted ceilings.” It’s not something I would personally spend a lot of money on my current house to do — as beautiful as they are, I would definitely lose money by vaulting the ceilings in my current house.
The moral of the story is… enjoy your improvements first and foremost. If you want to build a $5,000 pizza oven in your back yard, do it, and enjoy the heck out of it, but be prepared to give it to the next buyer of your home at a steep discount.
Takeaways to make your home sell for more
Isn’t it amazing the difference small changes can make? As nice as it might be to gut your kitchen and start from scratch, that’s not your only option when selling (or loving) your home. Small changes like paint and lighting can make a major impact on how buyer’s (and you) perceive your home.
To sum up:
- Paint and lighting can make a huge difference on a small budget.
- Accent walls and an outdoor living space can take your home up a notch.
- If you aren’t moving now, make the upgrades that are important to you, but don’t expect full value back when you go to sell.
If you found this interview helpful, we’d love if you would take a moment to share it with your friends and family! And if you’re looking for some more inspiration and ideas, Abbey’s Instagram has got you covered.