Q: Do you ever wonder if you’re pricing your house out of the neighborhood? There are so many things I’d like to do with our cute little house but then I think, “don’t do it, you’ll spend too much and never get your money back.” And it’s definitely too small to stay here forever. For instance, does a full kitchen reno make any sense for someone who might be moving into a bigger and better home in a year or two. Or, do you just bite the bullet and spend the money so you can fully enjoy what you have now? Sorry, I’m probably rambling but I have a love/hate relationship with our home. One day I love it and want to stay and make it better. The next day I’m looking on real estate sites for a new one. -Molly
A: Good question Molly! Our little home is a modest 1350 square feet and we’re hoping to stay here forever… even if we have a gaggle of little ones someday. We’re just confident we can make it work. I think different people have different ideas about what big is and how much space you really need (I can’t imagine cleaning a bigger house so I’m very happy about the quaint casa we settled on). And coming from Manhattan where I had a closet sized room for a jaw-dropping $1200 a month (here’s a funny old video tour) our little ranch is a palace by comparison! I mean even the fancy people in the Upper East Side don’t usually have over 1000 square feet- and plenty of families live in NY, so that really helps me to keep things in perspective. Here’s my cute & tiny NYC apartment (circa 2005) that couldn’t even accommodate a couch. Guests had to sit on the full-sized bed to watch VHS movies with me on my 13″ TV. Cringe. Sidenote: look, there’s my little egg-crate-turned-jewelry-organizer on the makeshift side table! In a small space you only have room for the things you love, right?
As for the pricing-your-house-out-of-your-neighborhood concern, the usual recommendation is to get the worst house in a great neighborhood if you plan to do a lot of work on it (since getting the best house in a terrible neighborhood doesn’t help you when it comes to renovating – you’ll end up with an even nicer house surrounded by unappealing properties that look even worse by comparison). We were sure to get a total beater of a house (in case our before pictures didn’t make that obvious enough- hehe) so we would be able to do some major upgrades without feeling like we went overboard.
For example, every other house on our street was set back from the road with a spacious and lush front lawn while ours was set back just as far but had a curb-to-house mulch bed and a veritable forest out front. This was the first of many signs that there was some room for improvement when it came to our property. In short: Our house was a giant zit on our sweet neighborhood’s otherwise beautiful face, so anyone else with this affliction has permission to get to work. Of course you want to consider the purchase price of your home (ours was around 35K cheaper than all the other houses we looked at of the same size and in the same general area, which helped us determine how much we could “put into” it without feeling guilty).
On the other hand, if you already think your house is nicer than all the neighbors’ homes I would definitely pull the plug on any additional renovations (especially major ones like a kitchen redo). And of course you can always befriend your neighbors and take them a pie to check out their digs- or even call on a realtor to come over and tell you about the comps in the area and suggest what you should and shouldn’t do to maximize your profit when you sell in a year or two (they might veto a pricey kitchen remodel off the bat, which would be nice to know before whipping out your wallet).
That being said, our point of view is a little different than most when it comes to our own house (since we want to live here til we’re old and gray, we wouldn’t care if a realitor recommended against certain switcheroos, like trading our formal dining room for a third bedroom). We affectionately call Casa Petersik our “forever house” so we hardly think about resale value and all that when we pick up a hammer or a roller. But if you’re planning to sell in a year or two it’s a totally different ballgame (especially in this sluggish economy) so anything major would definitely be a lot more of a risk than the smaller projects that you can take on for less loot and effort.
The verdict: we would suggest making as many inexpensive upgrades as you can (switching out light fixtures, installing a programmable thermostat, getting a new bathroom vanity or painting the dated one you have, changing out kitchen and bathroom hardware and upgrading all of your home’s doorknobs from brass to chrome or nickel). And of course we can’t forget the number one way to freshen up your home in an afternoon on the cheap… why it’s paint of course! Here’s our dark and dated den before paint:
And here’s the same space after a few gallons of creamy goodness:
It’s almost unbelievable, eh? The paint really made the room. We didn’t drywall the paneling, we just left it and rolled right over it- and even though two walls are painted brick and two walls are painted paneling the whole room feels light and cohesive. Oh and the entire transformation only took about seven hours total and we did it with under $100 worth of paint. The lesson? A few cheap tweaks may be all that it takes to have Molly falling in love with her house all over again- without having to worry about paying the price.
What do you guys think? Can you think of anything else that might help Molly with her property predicament? Any other inexpensive upgrades that you’ve done on your just-for-now house that made it feel more like a forever-home? Any tales of hating your house and wanting to sell only to fall deeply and inexplicably in love with it (and ten years later you’re still there)? Do tell.
Update – Wanna know where we got something in our house or what paint colors we used? Just click on this button:
Paint your front door, replace exterior light fixtures, house numbers, and mailbox, and make sure you have a couple of pots of flowers to come home to. Coming home will make you smile, even if some things on the inside are so-so.
I think I’m a little too invested in you all winning the challenge—I almost squealed in my office when I voted and you were in first! Yay! I want to see you do all the fun projects you promised… (I’m currently renting a room in a friend’s house and I *still* love seeing all of your home improvements—keep up the good work!)
EVERYONE!!! Get your votes in and get them in DAILY!!!! Put it on your daily to do list!! Lets help Sherry and John win so they can show us some more amazing transformations.
As far as renovations, most/all of our renovations have been done on a budget.
The first HUGE saving we scored was the house itself, we bought a foreclosure. Some foreclosure are disasters (anything not part of the structure was either taken, broken or burnt), luckily for us, it was ALL cosmetics. We were able to get the house for approx 65K under comp price.
Back when Home Depot and Lowes took returns on tinted paint, we knew what rooms needed paint so we always checked out the OOPS paint center and were able to score paint for $3-5 a gallon. I would always keep an updated list of which rooms we found colors for and which one we still needed something. Yes, some of the colors you find are extreme (NEON lime green) but sometime you would find a color that really works.
Ebay saved us a lot of money! If there is something you see at HD, Lowes or whereever, check ebay! Before you buy something, ALWAYS look at the sellers rating and read some comments. STEER CLEAR of ones that have a lot of negative feedback or ones that just started selling. Also, knowing how to finesse bidding helps too. We got our fixtures anywhere from 30-50% off compared to store down the street. We also got our laminate flooring off of ebay. We had to rip up all of the nasty carpet and vinyl flooring in the 3000 sq house. Our laminate came to $0.74 a sq ft compared to $1.24, calculate that savings out. Our tiles came from Lowes or Home Depot. The trick for us here was to watch out for clearances at these stores, they tend to cycle out their tiles through clearances. But the savings doesn’t end there, did you know how easy it is to negotiate with the manager in charge at Lowes or Home Depot on clearances? It doesn’t always work, but I’ve been successful quite a few times. If you are too scared to negotiate, an easy saving is obtaining a coupon for either Home Depot or Lowes, they both take competitors coupons so it doesn’t matter which one you get your hands on. A common coupon is for 10% off. Check ebay for them if you don’t know of any other way to obtain one. You can get them for cheap and it can save you up to $500 off.
Get ready to put in a lot of time, sweat, and hardwork! For the more complicated items (electrical wiring and such)that you do not know what you are doing, hire a pro with some of the money you have saved. For the more hands on crafty stuff, if you don’t know how or where to start, check here first in their HOW-TO. if it isn’t there, google is your friend.
I can go on and on but will spare you. If you have read to this point, thanks. I am not trying to steal Sherry’s and John’s Blog.
Sherry, I know that a lot of times you guys mention checking out other homes during open houses and whatnot to make sure you aren’t doing more than what is in your neighborhood. I’ve thought about doing that, but haven’t had the guts to try it yet… how do you go about doing it? Do you create a fab story about how you are house hunting (complete with an alias and a disguise), or do you not have to give any information??? There are quite a few OH’s in our neighborhood, and we are doing lots of things to make our house OURS, but worry that we might do too much… or maybe that we aren’t doing enough (though, we aren’t going to be on the market for a VERY long time)….
Good question! We’re always forthcoming with realtors since we hate to lead them on. We just say something like “oh we live up the street and have always wondered what the inside of this house looks like” or “we just happen to be in the neighborhood so we thought we’d take a peek while we’re here but we’re actually not house-hunting at the moment.” The truth is that all realtors are happy to have anyone and everyone marching through their open house (even if they know you’re just browsing) because you might mention it to a friend/family member/neighbor who happens to be the market and that could just earn them a sale. We also see a lot of other couples doing the same thing so I think it’s totally acceptable to breeze through and make no bones about your “just looking” intention. Hope it helps! Happy open housing…
Sherry – I can’t stand it! I must know where you got the armless cream chair in your den. I love it to death.
Julia H says
Sherry – Your transformations are incredible ! With the den did you remove the ceiling tiles or paint over them ? Thanks! -Julia
Toki- That’s Target’s Dolce Lounge Chair (they’re super affordable and we actually have two of them, the other one’s in the living room). They take about a week of breaking in and then they’re cozy and wonderful- and they look like linen for a whole lot less. Hope it helps!
Julia H- We just painted right over them. It took a few coats and it was super annoying, but it all paid off in the end (here’s a post all about it).
I am dealing with the same thing right now! I bought an ugly 1970’s home and have been renovating it, but mostly cosmetically. I upgraded appliances, but only painted my cabinets, insteading of replacing them too. Now I have to do something about my cream colored countertops. Do you recommend replacing them with granite or is that too upscale for old school (but painted) cabinets that we will never replace….Sherry, would you have put the same granite with your old painted cabinets if they couldn’t be replaced?
We only plan on living here a couple more years, but want a quick sell!
Good question. The issue with our kitchen was that we were closing off a doorway to gain an additional wall of cabinetry so we knew we would have to either go to great lengths to match the existing cabinetry or replace it all. And since it was 50 years old and the drawers didn’t even have slides (picture a wood box being pulled in and out of a wood frame, squeaking all the way- ick!) we decided to bite the bullet and replace everything. But if we were keeping the same floor plan and our cabinets were in fine shape (with drawer slides!) we definitely would have just painted them and ordered up some new granite to top them off. Granite is quickly becoming the new standard in kitchens these days (realtors say most people demand and expect it in these times) so it would instantly update your entire room and most likely make for an easier sale in the future. You could also go with something like a butcher block from Ikea (very cost effective) or even a solid surface like Corian – heck even tiled counters can be charming- so you might want to suss out if other homes in your area have granite and if they do I’d go that route. But if you’d be the only one in your neighborhood with a kitchen of that caliber, something a bit more modest and cost-effective may actually be your best bet. Hope it helps!
If you are smart about your renovations, you can get a lot of work done on a budget. Like the Youngins, I have a 1950s ranch. The nice thing about these houses is that they are kind of style free zone and it is easy to make an update. We renovated our kitchen on a dime, knowing that it was to be for resale. We went with 24 inch granite tile rather than granite slab. My cupboards were in good shape, if a bit dated. Switching out hardware and a coat of paint worked wonders. We wheeled and dealed at Sears for our appliances and the whole thing came out for less than $5Gs. Not bad for a whole kitchen remodel.
As for open houses, I always stop and go through houses. Open houses rarely produce a sale, but serve mostly as advertizing for the agent. The agent needs feedback and open houses provide that. I can look around and see what needs attention and let the realtor know. I always provide honest feedback on the price and condition of the home.
I think like you two about your home. My home is roughly around 1200 square feet and for some reason, I don’t picture myself moving, even with kids. So usually I just do up my home the way I want it. I don’t go over board, but small fixes last a long time!
If someone isn’t commited to living in a home for awhile, then I wouldn’t do much besides what is need. Like you said, paint is the easiest way to fix anything!
I agree that space is all what you make of it. I believe any family can fit into any home. There are five of us and we happily lived in 880 sq. feet for a few years!
We are in the same boat right now. We want to make it nice for the remaining time we have in our house, but not go over what we could get in return.
I totally agree with paint! I am amazed every time we paint a room and always end up loving the room way more than before. We have just completed painting our dated kitchen cabinets (insprised by YHL, of course)and all the main doors in the house. HUGE DIFFERENCE! We are also updating most lighting fixtures, ceiling fans (which are super cheap at Lowe’s) and all kitchen applicances. Our realtor said this is the best investment when it comes to resale, since every one wants stainless steel. We are updating our wood deck and landscaping. I think a well manicured lawn and flower beds goes a long way.
What about rearranging the furniture in each room? It would make it feel new, but cost nothing.
OH, and I think our best find was at the Recycle resource yard near our house. Check your local eco-cycle center to see if there is one near you. You have to check back often because there are different items there everytime, but you can get some great deals. We got enough brand new tile for our bathroom for $5!
I just found out about your blog about a week ago (my boyfriend found it on the internet and thought I would like it) turns out I love it. I honestly think I have looked it over front and back finding great ideas. Im 22 fresh out of college, living with the rents so I don’t have my own place yet but I am looking towards the future and I have found a lot of great ideas for when I do find that perfect place. I was just wondering if you think your decoration style will be different in the house once you decide to have children? Do you think you will have to change a lot of things to babyproof once you have a todler running around? I notice a lot of fragile looking items on the coffee tables and end tables and was just wondering. Trust me im not looking to having kids anytime soon but my sister has a baby boy and I feel like once she became a mom her style just kindof changed a lot.
Again i love all of your great ideas…
We knew with the mention of a gaggle of little ones that it would be moments before someone would wonder how our decor style would work with kids. Thanks to our little niece and nephew we’ve seen firsthand how many things have to change around the house for wee ones, and we know that we’ll have to put breakables on higher shelves and definitely alter the objects that are in reach. We’ve already heard from a slew of moms that slipcovers are a lot easier care than upholstered couches (both of our sofas have slipcovers) and even though they’re light colors (tan and white) many moms have actually told us that white slipcovers are the best since they can be bleached/oxycleaned and tan really can hide a multitude of grunge so we think the sofas may just survive. We also have a lot of natural fiber rugs which won’t be perfect for babies to play on (they’re not soft enough for their sensitive skin) but we recently had a 6-month old staying with us for a weekend and we watched firsthand as their parents tossed down a plush blanket onto our jute rug in the den and the baby went to town on it. Easy, peasy.
Of course we know that our house will definitely evolve and change as we grow our family, but we just can’t see our overall airy and breezy style changing. Maybe we’ll bring in more wipeable materials (like the leather ottomans we already love so much) and our white curtains are only $5 a pop from Ikea so even if we have to replace them once a year it’s still worth the height and the lightness that they bring into our home. Hope it helps!
Bridget B. says
Timely post. DH and I have this conversation at least every couple of months. We have a 1970s era 3 bedroom 2.5 bath house.
We’ve made a lot of upgrades like buying new bathroom vanities, carpet and 2 inch faux wood blinds, texturing and painting the walls, staining and sealing the tile floors and replacing all the brass light fixtures and doorknobs in the house with brushed nickel.
Our mortgage is very affordable and we wouldn’t necessarily mind staying forever. But real estate values in our neighborhood and surrounding areas seem to be on the decline. We recently refinanced and the appraisal (mid-renovation) came out a little higher than similar comps in the neighborhood.
The changes that we have made so far were mostly to update the place and repair minor damage. We already have stainless steel appliances, so after several coats of paint, the kitchen looks pretty decent. But, I’m always tempted to knock out the wall separating it from our living room. This would also involve moving the cabinets on that wall to a wall where a window currently exists and moving the fridge to where our large pantry currently exists. I’d also want to replace our formica countertops with granite.
If we were staying forever, I would do it in a heartbeat, but since we plan on moving in 4-5 years and using it as a rental property, I keep trying to convince myself that we shouldn’t.
p.s. I’ve never understood why people wait until they put their house on the market to make major renovations. I would want to enjoy it while I’m there.
I think it depends on the neighborhood. If you live in an older neighborhood that consists of all older homes (like the old neighborhood that we once lived in) you can do total redos but you should go with the lower end items. We redid our kitchen (from the studs) for under 6,000 and it still looked 10 times better than the before. It also made a step up from the other selling homes in the area but not enough that it looked like a brand new home in a old neighborhood (you don’t want that). It must have worked because we sold it within a week.
i think you recommendations are spot on: do the least expensive fixes first, and check comps and open houses before a big remodel.
i’m in the process of fixing up 2 40s-50s houses and kinda obsessed with real estate. i think it is good to look with a critical eye at flipped houses- sometimes they can be so generic. staying true to your house is key- if it is a modest 40s house, then giant ornate fixtures make it look small- same with kitchens- dont squeeze in mammoth appliances to compete with new suburban houses- quaint and clean is the name of the game, with personality but not too much.
i’m waiting until the last possible moment before resale to redo the kitchen as i think trends are changing. for example, as much as i like granite and stainless, in 3 years there may be a new something people want. you’ve got to walk a fine line between timeless and trendy. and no matter what, if you arent reorienting your layout and your cabinets are in decent shape, work with what you’ve got. they dont make em like they used to!
Nancy Shirley says
When we were first married we bought a “starter” home and ended up living in it for 35 years. It was about the same size as “Young House Love” and through the years we ended up shifting things around to better suit our family- screenporch evolved into a playroom evolved into a breakfast nook and family TV area and so on. A small house can definitely work for a family with children, as long as you are flexible and creative and good at re-thinking uses. As my dad said- why would ANYONE need more than three bedrooms? I say remodel the kitchen and enjoy the house, you never know what life will bring…
Ok…this is my favouritre subject. Ask anyone, I am obsessed with real estate. My fiance and I have been buying and selling homes for a couple of years now. I get bored in my home after 3 months, especially if there are no renovation projects taking place. Our first home was about 1500sq ft, an older home, built in approx. 1920. It was dated, with lots of wood. We did a lot of painting, put in some new carpet and updated the bathroom by painting the vanity a dark chocolate brown and topping it with a gloss and then changing out the countertop, sink and faucet. People thought it was brand new!!! Our biggest reno was the kitchen, but it wasn’t expensive. We gutted it and put in a whole new kitchen…from IKEA…and it looked like a million bucks. Ok, well maybe not a million, more like maybe $15,000, but really it only cost us $4500. At the end of the day, we lived in that house for 8 months and sold it for $35,000 more than we paid for it! Whenever we do ANYTHING in our house, we are always thinking of resale. Because you just never know…I’m a big believer in improving property, but as Sherry said, you need to check with your local realtor on comparables in your area. It’s always nice to know what the highest sale was and if that house is comparable to yours or not. There will always be a cap, so just make sure not to over improve. Think of it on a percentage scale…if homes in the area are selling for 15% more than what you paid for your house, you know what you have to work with. I think it is always good to have a balance…between resale and what you like. If you know you are going to move in the next year, probably best to do small things to update your kitchen, like painting the cabinets, new hardware and maybe a nice new backsplash. A little goes a long way and if your house is updated, it will definitely sell more quickly! We are now on our 4th house and I’m hoping to find a new one soon…haha. :) Cheers!
It HAS happened where we bought a house, improved it, did all these wonderful things, sold it and then regretted it. Since then, I have been trying to replace that house to no avail. So…best to live with your improvements for a while before jumping the gun and selling… :)
What a timely post!! My hubby and I just bought (yesterday) what will become our very first “flip”!! We got it for an absolute steal ($100k under original listing price and $70k under appraised value), and we can’t wait to get started!! Here’s what it looks like right now: http://itsgreattobehome.net/. We’re looking forward into turning this ugly duckling into a beauty! :)
These comments are so nice to hear! My house is 1400 sq. feet with 3 bedrooms, and with 2 kids I’m starting to feel closed in. But I love my house and my husband feels the same way…he would stay here forever. Making the most of the space, purging clutter, and smart storage all help make the most of the space. Plus, we have a huge backyard where the kids can play…and it’s usually about 75 degrees plus here in California so outdoor living is a bonus! Great post Sherry!
Gosh I still can’t get over your den transformation – SO unbelievably gorgeous!!
Quick question: where can you find on BHG who is in first place and how many points each person has? Just curious :)
After you vote (you can use the link on the bottom of this post in the p.s. to get there) the page will reload and on the bottom (you might have to scroll down a bit) where you see each of the 5 thumbnail images of each project, underneath them will be the tally of votes for each challenger. Hope it helps! It’s crazy close!
Sam & Jacci says
Hey, guys! :)
I totally agree that you could raise a family at Casa Petersik!!! Before we lived in Ohio, we were Washington D.C. suburbanites. Everything was pricey. We had tons of friends with 3, 4, or even more children all living just fine in a 1400 sq. ft. townhouse. The small yards were often a much bigger issue than the small homes, and you all have plenty of outdoor space for little guys :) A bunk bed or two and you’re set :)
Sam and I have been talking about whether we’re going to price out of our neighborhood or not. Our conclusion is… probably. But, like you, we’re planning on staying for at least 20 more years, if not forever. You never know what’s down the road, though. With our current estimations, we’ll probably see a **max** return of about $40,000 if we sell in less than 10 years (our house is on the low end of average for our neighborhood). That’s roughly what we plan to spend in that time frame also. After that point, any improvements probably won’t get much back for us. BUT, if we’re still here after 10 years, the likelihood of staying for the long haul is high.
(I had to grin, by the way, at the thought of a Baby Petersik chillin’ with his balnkie on the jute rug). Sweet :)
One quick fix we did in our apartments and our last house was to replace all the light switches with flat panel switches. It was an instant update from the nasty yellow-tan paint coated switches that were there when we moved in, and very inexpensive to do. For our house, we did all the things people mentioned above: paint, new light fixtures (HUGE difference with just the first two!), new house numbers, new knobs. We also did a partial remodel on our bathroom & I think this was the key selling feature when the house went on the market (a 1920’s bungalow). For just about $700 we were able to replace the tub, re-tile the surround, replace the vanity, replace all fixtures, and paint. We did much of the work ourselves, and it was 100% worth it.
I gave my “temporary” home’s kitchen a cheap face lift by painting the faux wood formica cabinets, andding hardware and tiling the floor. It looked worlds better, and I’m certain the return on investment was great. Had we done a total kitchen remodel, there’s no way we would have gotten our money back.
With the cabinets, I used a specialty paint called Cabinet Rescue. The realtor didn’t believe me when I told her that they were painted formica! She said it was one of the best investments we made on the house.
Great post! After renting for years, I just bought my first house last year. Every Saturday while I sip my morning coffee, I walk around my home and make notes of the changes I have made and the new projects I plan to conquer. I can’t get enough of watching that HGTV show “What’s My House Worth?” I’m a DIY’er, but I’m always concerned about out-pricing my home.
I love the floating shelves in your dining room! By any chance could you post instructions on how to install them? I have yet to find a good example of correct installation.
Thanks so much for your wonderful blog! You and your home have been such a blessed inspiration since I found you.
Hanging those cheap floating shelves from Ikea in our dining area was such a snap. First we grabbed metal anchors (making sure they could support a good amount of weight) from Lowe’s to fit the screws that came with the shelves and then just centered each shelf on the wall with 17″ between each one. Putting the anchors in was a snap (you just predrill holes slightly smaller than the anchors in the wall and hit the anchors into the holes with a hammer until they’re flush). That’s all it takes for the screw to grab the anchor and stay put for good. Three years later ours are still going strong with lots of weight on them. Oh and the spacing between each shelf is important if you have specific items in mind that you’d like to display, for example if you want to show of a grouping of frames or a collection of vases be sure to space the shelves with adequate room between them for the items that you want to stick on each shelf (nothing would stink more than trying to lean your photos on each shelf and finding out that they don’t quite fit). Hope it helps! Happy hanging…
In each of the apartments we rented prior to buying a house, the first thing we did was improve the lighting. We always replaced the florescent lights in the kitchen and added a chandelier to the dining room (a $60 basic iron chandelier we bought from Lowes, painted high gloss white and replaced the shades). We also added dimmer switches to all of the main lights and replaced all light bulbs with a lower voltage (often 25 watts). It is amazing how much difference soft lighting can make!
Okay, random question… :)
How do you hang things on a brick wall? For example, your collection of frames above the sofa in your den.
Depending on the depth of the grout between your bricks, there are two ways to hang things. If the grout is recessed enough (about a half inch deeper than the face of your bricks) then you can snag little hanging clips at Home Depot or Lowe’s which slip into the recessed grout and use the brick that sticks out above and below for leverage (no drill necessary, they just clip in between your bricks and hold a good amount of weight). If the grout between your bricks is less than a half-inch deep (as it is in our den) the only way we were able to hang things was to use a hammer drill with a masonry bit (which is meant for the job). Our tip is to go into the grout and not the bricks, though, so you don’t end up chipping them. Hope it helps!
I have been in almost knock-down drag out fights (you know you’re an adult when you fight about stainless steel appliances) with my friends regarding over-renovating and remodeling to sale. I always make remodeling decisions based on my aesthetics. The previous owners of my home didn’t consider ME when they decided to tile over original honeycomb tile in the bathroom so I’m not going to take into consideration what a future owner of MY home might like. Live for yourself! That doesn’t quite answer the question posed here but it’s something I feel passionately about.
Sami Jenkins says
When it came time to sell our starter houme last year, we did several ‘upgrades’ to make it more attractive to potential buyers — some cheap (new peel & stick tiles in the kitchen), some less so (refinished hardwood floors). Our biggest regret was not having done these things earlier — because we only got to enjoy our nice upgraded house for 5 months before it sold. Perhaps you can compromise on some things – like instead of a new kitchen, look around for a demo company (PA/NY/NJ has http://www.greendemolitions.org) or a Habitat for Humanity resale store where you can get a slightly used kitchen. If want a new countertop but don’t want to pay granite prices, consider granite tile instead. If you are vacilitating between love and hate, then compromise on ‘like’.
Candi Rodgers says
Hey Sherry and John!
My husband and I just bought our house about 5 months ago and we have been fixing it up ever since. We got it as a foreclosure (we bought it for about $25,000 below the comps in the neighborhood), so it was left in a pretty big mess (stained carpet, a falling down fence, and crayon all over the walls) but structurally it has really nice features. The light oak cabinets are a little dated so I am just going to paint them a creamy white and change out the knobs with some cheap Ikea knobs we bought (1.99 for a pack of six). We are also thinking about ripping up all the old nasty carpet and putting down a laminate wood floor throughout the entire house. Neither of us like carpet. The bathrooms are tiny, but we are having fun with them. My goal is to “modernize” the house. Like you guys, we plan on staying here for forever, but we don’t want to do anything major to the house. We have learned that Lowes and Ikea are our best friends! Thank you for all of your great advice and keep it coming!
We will be living in our house for 9 years next month and I am finally doing some projects I wish maybe I had done years ago! My husband is always working on moving us to LA from Dayton Ohio so I have been cautious in renovating our house for a long time. I finally decided that even if we don’t enjoy the results for long, the planning and doing of the project is still enjoyable to me. And of course, I do it all on a budget!
I am confused by so many going “green” yet living in houses that are way too big. I love our 1200 sq ft house (we do have a basement too). Like Sherry I couldn’t imagine keeping up with a bigger house.
As for the kiddos–we were married for 9 years and we were always told we would have to do major kid-proofing. Things were changed for awhile, but with my 3 year old our house is back to normal.
Okay, enough random thoughts for now!
sherry whats your stance on laminate vs hardwood flooring?
i have been thinking about this alot because my hubby and i close on our first home in exactly 1 week! we bought a 1970’s tri-level in a wonderful neighborhood, the majority in the area are valued well above what we paid for our home (we got a great deal- on top of the bonus 2009 tax credit!), so i’m confident that we can do the remodeling we want without losing a lot. either way, we made sure to buy a home we love and can grow into and want to stay there as long as possible! it needs quite a bit of updating so we are just changing cosmetics.
one question i did have, is on flooring… we were thinking of installing laminate on the main level in the living room/kitchen and tearing out the carpet and linoleum. i have found some laminates i like, granted they aren’t hardwood, but they clean up easy, shouldnt scratch, and are less expensive. or should we just bite the bullet and go with real hardwood?
Good question! We love Lumber Liquidators since they offer up hardwood flooring for around $2-3 a square foot (which is typically a price range only available for laminate flooring) so that’s always an option. Many people actually prefer laminate flooring for the easy install and the durability (it usually resists scratching, can be easily cleaned, etc). But that being said, hardwood flooring is a longer term investment and the continued durability and the option to refinish it is also a selling feature (hardwoods can last 100+ years, ours were only refinished once in their entire 50 year life so we can even refinish them again in 25 years for 75+ years of use and a like-new look). All in all, laminate and hardwood floors are really just two different options with positives and negatives on both sides. Hope it helps!
Just wanted to comment on the hardwood flooring. Old hardwoods like those found in a pre-1970s house can easily be refinished as they are solid hardwood. Many hardwoods sold today are not solid hardwood and cannot be refinished multiple times (as there is simply not enough real wood to sand down and refinish). Oh, and I don’t think you can ever refinish a pre-finished floor. My brother-in-law does this for a living and his dad is a major hardwood flooring supplier out east. So just something to think about if you are thinking about installing hardwoods.
Flooring certainly is complicated! You’re right about some flooring not being refinishable. Hardwood floors are always able to be refinished at least once (usually three times) and even prefinished hardwoods can be sanded down and restained at least once. But engineered wood flooring is the kind that usually can’t be refinished at all (it’s made with a sort of veneer of hardwood flooring but since it’s not 3/4 of an inch thick like solid hardwood, it can’t be sanded down. The purpose of engineered wood floors are so people can achieve the look of solid hardwood flooring with just a true wood veneer that’s not as thick and therefore not as expensive). We don’t have much experience with engineered flooring other than knowing they’re sort of in the middle of laminate flooring and hardwood floors, but in our experience the true hardwood (which can be refinished) from Lumber Liquidators is cheaper than the laminate flooring at Lowe’s and Home Depot so it’s a no brainer. Hope that helps to clarify!
Consultant Calamities says
Great posts, here. We are in our 3rd house. We sort of “flipped” the first 2. I say, sort of, because we didn’t do it too fast, but we did fix them up and resell them in about 4 years, and made good $$. It helped us to afford the home we have now. I LOVE painting and fixing up houses, but I have to admit, I’m a bit sick of the heavy renovation side of things. LOL. I’m so OVER that, but I still like painting, re-arranging furniture, and re-arranging decorative items once in a while.
We always get stuff CHEAP. I never spend a lot on stuff for our house. We shop at: furniture consignment stores, antique shops, and I’ve even gotten a few things at yard sales and TJ Maxx. We mainly like to buy previously used things and freshen them up somehow. People always compliment our home, and ask “Where did you get that?” and inevitably, its something they won’t be able to buy for themselves because we bought it at an antique store or something, lol.
Our next project is yardwork (EVERY house we’ve bought, the yard has been severly overgrown & neglected…sigh…) The yard is about 70% “there” but we still have some work to get it 100%. That’s the job for this summer.
We are also going to paint our kitchen cabinets white. We had white cabinets in our last house and LOVED them. I also have a guest room with white furniture and a white bedspread. When people tease us with “You can’t have WHITE cabinets with a CHILD!” I just go “phhhhbt.” LOL. We have a young child, but from the start he’s been taught to be respectful of our things. We don’t let him run around the house with sticky fingers, we don’t let him trash things.
Yes, I put smallish and breakable things away or up high for a while when he was a toddler, but when he got older, he learned not to touch certain things. I helped with temptation by keeping stuff out of reach that I didn’t want broken, but at the same time, he learned to (for example) not touch this particular lamp. PERIOD. Children CAN be taught these things. We don’t run the house like a dictatorship, but we will NOT be forced not to have nice things just because we have a young child.
People have also scoffed at us for having antiques with a child around. well, our antiques aren’t super expensive antiques, but many are nice. Accidents/dents/messes might happen once in a while, but again, we teach our son to be respectful of the furniture and not bang things around purposefully. He doesn’t “ruin” our stuff, never has. I swore I’d never have a child dictate if I could have nice things in my house or not; I refuse to be limited in my decor because I have a child. But with being understanding of the occasional mess or breakage, and teaching a child to be respectful of other’s things, you can STILL have nice things in your house with small children.
Ok off my soapbox. lol. ;-) Love all your house pictures. keep up the great work.
Oh, and your house seems much bigger than 1350 square feet. looks nice & roomy with the new bright paint and nicely uncluttered rooms.
Excellent post! It’s so refreshing to find a couple that is totally happy in the home (albeit cozy) they are in. We love our 1200 sq foot house like a child, but friends always assume we’ll be moving into a bigger home.
With that said, my husband tries to bring me back down to earth (or our neighborhood) when I want to do crazy,over-the-top remodels that cost an arm and a leg. I’m still working on rebuilding a front porch that was taken off of our 1920s home in the 70s. Cross your fingers. =)
Great post. I really like some of the points you made. I can appreciate having a “forever” house. Our home isn’t grand. When we bought it, it was the best we could afford. Nothing else in our price range fit what we wanted. It was in the height of a real estate boom…”small town discovers itself as a wine mecca.” House prices in our area still have not dropped drastically in the economic downturn. And we still feel lucky to have our place. It is not in the best neighborhood, but it isn’t the worst either. I fail to see why so many folks feel the need to “upgrade” all the time. I guess I’m pretty conservative and would like to stay in my comfortable home, with its manageable mortgage payment and “bloom where I’ve planted myself.” I cannot imagine trading in those things for a nicer place just to keep up with some ideal that doesn’t appeal to me anyway. I wish folks would just be happy with having “enough” instead of always wanting more. Our country is now (and probably forever) paying for the mistake of many, many folks living outside of their means. I of course do not fault folks for moving because of employment or family obligations. Nor do I fault anyone for doing things right and then losing their job. Just wish folks could look down the road a bit and be savers instead of spenders.
When i start feeling fed up with our house i just remind myself that we are lucky enough in this very unstable economy to even have a home, be it small or in need of updates it is ours and i am thankful…so many people are losing theirs these days it seems petty for me to be upset about square footage or a so so yard.
You can try zillow.com and look at estimates of what homes are for sale and what homes are worth in your area.
I love your house and your blog! I’ve found some great inspiration for our house that we bought in December. I have a question. How did you paint your brick wall? My future husband and I had an impossible time getting paint to cover on a brick wall in our living room. Thanks!
Hmm, I wonder why you guys had so much trouble with coverage. We didn’t even prime our brick because it sucked up the paint like a sponge. Of course it took three of four arduous coats so if that’s what you mean by “getting paint to cover” then we’re right there with you (since paint is so porous it takes a few more coats than drywall).
There’s also the possibility that your brick was “sealed” which is sort of like being coated with polyurethane (which brings out the shine but also makes it a bit slick when applying paint over it (it can make for some visible brushstrokes and strange swirls for the first few coats). Either way we hope you got the smooth and opaque finish you were going for in the end!
Thanks for your quick response! We really just had a hard time getting it in the grout. I mean, nearly called off the wedding hard time! It took us a long time to do it (and there are still some spots I missed). I wonder if that had something to do with the red color we were using. What kind of brush did y’all use? Thank you so much!
Ohh, red. Red is always a bit of a bugger to get coverage with (typically taking more than twice the amount of coats of other colors to get that deep ruby saturation). Your grout also might have been more recessed than ours (our roller got into most of the cracks since our grout is relatively flush with the brick and then we just touched up the places that we missed with a two inch angled brush. So sorry to hear about your troubles but happy to hear that you lived to tell the tale!
Ahhh, you used my question! I feel semi-famous now :) Thank you for covering that. My husband and I are definitely taking your advice. Unfortunately (and fortunately) we bought the second best house on the block. As I met our neighbors and have heard them talk about their houses seems like ours is in pretty good shape already.
As a bit of background, this two-bedroom house was “flipped” in early 2003. It was in dire shape before the flip. A young couple just starting out swooped it up. Apparently there were multiple bids and they were the ones that got it by writing a personal note to the seller about how they knew this was the house for them. Fast forward 4 years later, they had a baby and put their house on the market. Five days later, after a lengthy house search of our own, I found the listing on a for sale by owner site. I immediately called and made an appt. to go see it. We knew right when we walked in that it was the house for us. We offered full asking price (that was our first mistake). But we were smitten with its charm and we bought it right before the market tanked later that summer.
Our first upgrade was to rip out the disgusting carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. They look beautiful now. My point being, there are still upgrades to make that won’t break the bank. We didn’t buy this house as our “forever” home but we did want to fill it with our own taste. A master bathroom reno is the next thing in store. We have actually thought about keeping it long term and renting it out. Because of that, we know that expensive upgrades are not the right thing for us to be doing. I hope to buy a “beater” the next go-round due to your advice.
Maybe I’ll send you some pictures. If you go to my blog and click on the label “home” you can find some pictures.
Thanks for “featuring” my question!
I am a house flipper, which makes me a professional house seller I guess. I often find beaters and turn them to gold. That doesn’t mean that I always do major renovations. Sometimes it’s not in the budget to rip out all of the cabinets. In fact, I’ve only purchased new cabinets once out of 6 flips. Every other time I’ve painted the cabinets white. I’ve even painted those hideous laminate cabinets with the wood trim on the bottom. That particular choice wasn’t something I would normally do, however it was a condo I was living in and I was already priced the highest in the area. So, redoing the kitchen wasn’t an option.
Anyway, if I were to give advice to anyone, I’d say to always prepare for a future move. You never know what will happen in your life to be able to predict whether you’ll be in one place forever.
Oh my! I can SO relate to that back and forth love-hate relationship (though it’s finally turning into a mostly love relationship!).
My hubby was so worn out from removing wallpaper borders, scrubbing, and priming, that our house sat for MONTHS without the final coat of paint. I was pregnant, so I was no help (total bummer for a hands-on gal like myself).
Eventually we bit the bullet and had a professional come in and finish the painting for us… we had lead paint in our living room that we didn’t want to touch and smoke tar was coming through some of the areas we painted. About that time we also went on a quick trip out of town. We found that having someone come in and do the work in a quarter of the time, and a weekend out of the house cured our “decorators block” and we’ve been able to move forward DIYing ever since.
And that’s coming from someone who still has her washing machine in the KITCHEN and a dryer in the attached garage! Can you guess what our next “big” project will be?! All this feedback was great to hear… I think I’ll hit up some open houses this weekend!
I thought I was the only one with a washing machine in the kitchen (the dryer’s in the utility room with an outdoor entrance only)!
As for the original post, I can totally relate. Our 1100-square-foot ’60s yellow brick is far from my dream home. It feels small, but in reality, we don’t even regularly use the dining room or one of the three bedrooms (except for storage and the very infrequent guest).
I guess it’s just the size of the “important” rooms that makes me want to move in the next 5-10 years. The kitchen is tiny and awkward (not to mention the washer…), and the lone bathroom is cramped as well. Plus the bedroom we use as the master barely fits our double bed and dressers with enough room to walk.
To expand those rooms or build an addition is cost-prohibitive and would absolutely price us out of our neighborhood (which is nice but modest, and all older construction). We’re already in one of the better-kept houses on the block.
We did get a good deal on the home (below appraisal), and the value has already increased in the year we’ve had it with no renovations. For those reasons, we’re not looking to make any pricey upgrades.
In the past year, I’ve gotten used to the inconveniences of an older house, like the lack of a dishwasher (and did I mention the indoor/outdoor laundry trek?) and sharing a single-sinked bathroom with my husband. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t have that dream home in the back of my mind: spacious, modern kitchen; master suite with double sinks; smooth-textured walls (ours are all popcorn-textured – seriously?!); and a roomier overall feel.
And that’s why this is our starter home.
How did you hang the pictures on the left hand brick wall?
We used a masonry bit to predrill some small holes (into the grout- never the brick!) and then just banged nails into them for a strong hold. Hope it helps!
Hi… Just wondering what paint brand/color you used on the walls in the den? I love it!
Such a great transformation!
We used Glidden’s “Wishes” on all the walls except for the fireplace wall which is a tone deeper (Water Chestnut also by Glidden). Wishes is no longer available at many Home Depots but they still have the formula in the computer to whip it up for you if you ask. Happy painting…
We just bought our first house in a modest neighborhood whose value isn’t likely to skyrocket or fall too far from where it is now. We don’t know if this is our “forever house” or if we’ll be here just a few years. So while we have grand plans for our dear house, our budget (and baby #2 due in January) keeps us firmly grounded in reality by slowing the pace of our projects to mere crawl.
Having said that, we have 5 major projects that we plan to accomplish over the next 5-10 years in the following order: adding a deck and landscaping front/back yard, new roof, kitchen update, master bath reno, replacing the exterior shingles. Undone, these projects are most likely to put off prospective buyers (and bug us, too!).
These are/can be expensive and time consuming projects. We may or may not get our money back on them should we decide to sell. What we will get is complete satisfaction in living with the results. To minimize our cash output, we’ll DIY like crazy and be modest in our design/materials choices.
I like your answer about the cabinets. We’ve been debating replacing ours. The 50-year old cabinets are in fine shape. We painted them and changed the hardware when we moved in. We need to replace the counters (the laminate is scratched, stained, and gouged). So we’ve been thinking – should we do the cabinets? We’ve bought at a somewhat high price for the neighborhood and know that we won’t get a large financial return on improvements. We also want to reuse where possible. We’ve thought about widening the doorway between the kitchen and living room – but that wouldn’t affect the cabinets! Score a point for not replacing!
Also, I wanted to share a trick for drawers without slides. This is what my mom used to do and what I’m now doing: Wax the bottom of your drawers. I bought a block of wax from a craft store that sells candle-making supplies. I emptied the drawers, flipped them upside down and rubbed the wax block over the part that rubs. Now they run quite smoothly. The wax needs to be redone every year or two. So, when you’re cleaning out your drawers anyway, flip em over for a fresh coat.
Great tip! Thanks so much for sharing!
“Anyway, if I were to give advice to anyone, I’d say to always prepare for a future move. You never know what will happen in your life to be able to predict whether you’ll be in one place forever.”
AMEN to that!
I have had to move several times in the last 20 years, both from places I owned and places I rented due to circumstances beyond my control. Disability for one: going from an income that afforded the mortgage in the first place down to, say, $1,000 a month really changes your plans. Then when that happens in a down market (this was 15 years ago) and having to take a $55K LOSS in the bargain. Well, you get the picture.
Some years later, I was able to live above poverty level, when my father’s estate was settled. However, while there was enough money to buy a modest townhouse, the Trust would not permit me to, so I rented one. That was going to be OK, but then the Trustee was scammed of our inheritance and murdered. Talk about Drama! So it is back to living at poverty level.
I was renting several rooms over a store in a commercial center, pending the results of the trial of my brother, an OK place that permitted some privacy, although waaaayy too small, with Hope and a Service Dog. Problem was, my landlord didn’t keep up his mortgage payments, so the entire property was foreclosed upon and sold to the Township to be razed for ‘public housing’ which I will not be able to afford once it is built.
So, MY advice to whether one should make improvements to one’s domicile is to go ahead and do what requires minimal financial investment (painting, papering, cosmetics, anything with very low-cost materials) plus your own sweat equity. The DOING is an enjoyable hobby wherein one learns new skills and gets to live with the positive results while living there. That is a WIN-WIN-WIN if I ever saw one. How many people spend a couple thousand dollars, say, on a ski trips (not to denigrate vacations) or gambling (that I WILL denigrate) with little to show for the expense other than a suntan, broken leg and/or loss of capital.
Painting kitchen cabinets is a no-brainer (I do it every place I have ben permitted to) but replacing them, I’d think on that a while. Especially in this economy.
I am now renting a room in a new geographical location where it is far, far less costly to live, all my stuff is in storage 800 miles away, while I try to save enough money to begin anew. I lived 37 years in the old area, loving it, never thinking I’d leave. But Life is what happens to you while you’ve busy making other plans (John Lennon).
In 6 weeks I will turn 65. Never too late for a New Beginning.
Katrina C. says
That’s what we did, we bought the UGLIEST house in a great neighborhood. We are still in the process of fixing our 1,300 sq foot house. Phew..It just seems every time I get excited about decorating.. I become preggars! It’s a cute Cape Cod style house. we are putting up Cedar vinyl siding, but we have no clue of what colour to use for the shutters..Phew..I will post pictures when the siding is finished!