Prepare Your House to Sell While You Dwell

Does your Empty Nest have you planning to move (and maybe downsize) in the next 5 years? Maybe you long for a smaller space to maintain, or a smaller mortgage so you can fund your dream vacations or you have always wanted to live in a city or at beach and realize that if you don’t do it soon you may miss the opportunity.

If you are dreaming about living in a new location now that your kiddos have left the nest, it may be time to start planning sooner rather than later. Why? Making home improvements when you aren’t under the stress of selling will make your life and the process so much easier!

Having a few years to make your updates will allow you to plan them out and take them on one by one so that when it’s time to move, your home is ready. The biggest reason to make home improvements now versus waiting until the last minute is so you can enjoy the results of your improvement. 

I created a video about this topic, you can view it here.

There’s nothing worse than having a kitchen in your home that you’ve always wanted to update but never did until just before selling your home. Don’t hate your house for the next 5 years! When you do that you’re improving the kitchen for the next buyer and not for yourself. I believe if done right you can achieve both - designing to dwell with a little bit of designing to sell tossed in!

These updates are geared to the architectural, permanent elements of your home. If some of the changes feel too “safe” to you, rest assured, you can still infuse your home with your style through your decorating, which includes your furniture, art, accessories, window treatments and area rugs. 

Here are the things you should consider when updating your home now, so you can enjoy them, in preparation for putting your house on the market in 5 years.

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1. Kitchen updates - kitchens and bathrooms give sellers the largest returns on their investments so this is a room that deserves some love if it’s outdated. If any materials are damaged or worn out you should definitely replace them. If your kitchen is just living in the 90s you have a few choices. You can have your cabinets professionally painted and update the countertop, backsplash, lighting and faucet, or you can bring in all new cabinets. If you want to change the layout of the space so it functions better, you’ll want to go the route of all new cabinets.

If you are replacing your appliances, select those first so you can build the cabinetry around the sizes of your appliances.

For ideas on different ways to update your cabinets read my blog post, Three Ways to Transform Your Cabinets.

Updated White Kitchen with Classic Color Palette

As far as materials go, I suggest the following for a neutral kitchen (and bath) update:

  • Countertops - Quartz, marble or quartzite countertops in a not-too-busy pattern. Marble looks, butcher block and solid black countertops are all classic looks.

  • Backsplash - subway tiles are classic and come in a variety of colors and materials such as marble, glass or ceramic. Hexagon shaped marble backsplash tile is also a classic choice, along with a penny round tile. Make this selection after you pick your countertop material.

  • Cabinets - White or soft white cabinets are still very popular and are very classic. If you don’t love white cabinets, consider a mid-tone wood with a light grain.

  • Lighting & hardware - Don’t get too trendy here either. Brushed gold is very popular now and it’s a gorgeous, warm finish, but it’s hard to know how long that will be the case. Polished nickel is a classic finish as is black so that may be a better way to go, depending on the other elements in the room. Keep lighting simple with glass orbs, lantern styles or simple glass column pendants.

2. Bathroom updates - the same idea applies to bathroom updates - classic finishes like listed for the kitchen. 

In addition, you’ll have a lot more tile to consider in the bath than the kitchen, especially if you are updating a shower or floor. Use the same guidelines when making those selections. 

In a room that’s tile-heavy, a good guideline is to select no more than 2-3 different tiles and repeat as needed in various locations such as floor, shower walls, niche and backsplash. I don’t suggest any accent tile on the shower wall to keep it timeless. Another way to bring the tiles in this space together is to repeat the same shape in various tiles such as a large hexagon on the floor and a smaller hexagon in the niche or backsplash. This enables you to vary the look but tie it together at the same time!

Shower niche with white and gray hexagon tiles
Brushed Nickel Single Handle Shower Control Valve

Sometimes a bathroom update can be as simple as a new vanity cabinet, mirror and lighting, finished off with a fresh coat of paint. If you are replacing any vanities I suggest putting in extended height cabinets, they are much more comfortable.

3. Flooring - this is always an area of the home that takes a beating! If you have wood floors it may be time to have them refinished (you may need to be out of the house for several days during this process so it’s great if you can plan a vacation during this time), or you may have always wanted to replace your carpeting with wood floors. Now is the time to consider those updates and how or if you can incorporate new wood flooring with existing wood floors. 

When updating carpeting look for stain-resistant and very durable styles with great padding. For color I’d stick to neutrals but not too light! If you have wood stairs consider adding a carpeting runner or replacing the one you have. There are some great durable carpets with texture that look and perform well on stairs.

While we’re talking about stairs, if you’re redoing your flooring you may also need to re-stain or replace your stair railing and balusters for an updated look. You could also have them painted with a durable oil or heavy duty interior latex paint.

4. Interior doors & moldings - these elements are often overlooked when preparing a house for sale and they have a huge impact! Your doors are a large part of the feel of your home and are also large! If you have painted doors consider repainting them. If they are basic slab doors consider updating to panel doors that compliment the style of your home - and stain or paint them. Updating the door hardware and hinges may also go a long way toward updating your home, depending on their current state. 

Large living room with neutral color palette and ceiling molding

Your base, crown and window moldings may also need a fresh coat of paint (especially if you are replacing flooring and repainting walls) or they may need to be updated to a more current style if they are builder-grade size and style.  

I like a semi or high gloss on moldings and doors. Keep the molding paint color the same throughout your home. To stick with our classic theme select a soft white color for these. Or, if these are stained, versus painted, in your home, keep the stain the same color throughout. 

5. Paint colors - I suggest going neutral here, too. A warm neutral color palette is a great way to go to appeal to most people. Keep the value (lightness and darkness of the color) light or middle to light to help the house feel light and airy. Keeping the value similar also helps the house flow from room to room. When you look at most paint color strips there are 5 - 6 colors on a strip, with the lightest color at the top. That top color is the lightest value and the bottom, dark color, is the darkest value. I suggest sticking to 2 - 3 value levels throughout your home, so for example, the top 3 colors on the color strips you select.

I recommend painting over accent walls so rooms have one color and removing wallpaper as you update. Don’t get me wrong, I love wallpaper, but a potential buyer may see it as work! Although there is a lot of great removable wallpaper out there that you may want to consider if you must add wallpaper and a bit of personality before selling.

*Color selection tip* - The key to selecting the right paint color for your home is to select the color IN your home. Please don’t go to a paint store and select a color based on the color strips in the store, or simply from the links above. The light in your home will determine what looks best! You also need to take into account the undertones of the permanent elements in your home - the flooring, cabinetry and stone on your fireplace, for example. If those elements are staying and have a yellow undertone, you need to select the “right” beige/greige/white/taupe/other color with the right undertones to compliment the existing elements.

So let the colors in the links above be a guide and inspiration to what I am thinking about when it comes to a light, warm neutral color palette, but don’t put on of them on your walls without checking it on your walls in the morning, afternoon and evening to make sure it looks great in YOUR home!

6. Exterior doors & shutters - Is it time for a fresh coat of paint on your front door or maybe a new door? Use an exterior paint product and depending on your home’s style or location, select the color accordingly. If your home is a historic home use appropriate historic colors, If  you live in a suburban colonial consider black, navy or red to coordinate with existing house material (siding, brick or stone, use those elements to select right door & shutter color). 

Sherwin Williams Exterior Color Palette
Sherwin Williams Exterior Color Palette
Sherwin Williams Exterior Color Palette

The same thing applies to selecting exterior colors as interior colors - you need to compliment the existing elements of your home. So if you have brick on your home consider the colors in your brick when selecting your door and shutter color. The same goes for other materials - don’t ignore your siding color when picking a door color. If you want a red door, find the right red to enhance the other elements on your home. 

7. Landscaping - this isn’t my area of expertise, but I know that curb appeal is very important when it comes to your home’s first impression. If you are unsure if your garden is enhancing your home, consult a landscape professional for some guidance on where and what to plant. It does’t have to be complicated, simple may be best! The key is to create a garden that compliments your home’s architecture, your climate and one that you can maintain on your own or will hire a gardener to maintain. There’s no point in planting a lovely garden only to neglect it. Be realistic with what you can and will maintain. 

8. Roof and windows - these are elements that a new homeowner will inspect as they are important for so many reasons! If you’re unsure of the state of you roof, consider having it inspected before putting your house on the market and plan to update it and your windows according to the inspection report. Updating your windows to more energy efficient windows can have multiple benefits for you now and will be a nice selling point.

Scheduling your own home inspection before selling is a great idea so you don’t have any surprises when a potential buyer completes his/her inspection. It will give you a chance to make updates to systems you may not know need to be updated. Less surprises = less stress!

I hope this list has helped you see why you should improve your home now, 5 years before you plan on selling, so your life is better for the days and years ahead. You will be able to enjoy the improvements and reduce the stress that comes from selling a house. Your Empty Nest years are to be enjoyed and a time to thrive. Preparing your house for dwelling and selling will do just that!

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