It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.
This Pasadena, CA, palace was a vintage beauty even before the sellers got hold of it. Built in 1916, the four-bed, 5.5-bath had plenty of original charm, from the fireplace in the entry to the original hardwood floors throughout. But in other rooms, like the cramped kitchen and the master bathroom, that old-fashioned charm wore thin. It felt stuck in the last century, lacking the amenities that modern buyers crave.
After buying the home in 2017 and enhancing its original bones, the sellers put it back on the market in 2018, when it sold for a little more than $800,000 over their asking price.
So how did they do it? What changes made all the difference? We spoke to the experts and found out what the seller’s best moves were—so you can replicate them in your own home.
The kitchen renovation is one of the biggest changes in the house, and our experts agree it was a good move.
“The kitchen before was dated and cramped. Opening it up, updating cabinetry, and making the kitchen a more usable space is a real plus when selling,” says professional property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted with Design Solutions KGP. She points out that buyers looking for homes in this price range want a gourmet kitchen, so expanding the kitchen’s footprint was smart.
“A total gut renovation of the kitchen is stunning and completely buyer-approved,” says designer Sandra Funk of House of Funk. “Gorgeous appliances and lighting elevate the space, and a long island with plenty of seating is the ideal place to catch up with family and friends.”
Another huge change is in the bathroom, where they ditched the old bathtub and closed off a doorway to make a giant walk-in shower. Was it worth it? Our experts say absolutely.
“The bathroom revamp was done well … Many buyers today are looking for a large shower space, and adding a steam function is a real plus,” says Gray-Plaisted. “The updated tile work and new cabinetry brought the bathroom into the 21st century.”
“Walk-in showers appeal so much more than vintage tubs for functionality,” Funk says. “But remember to leave at least one tub in the home for the kiddos!”
Living room (before)
Living Room (after)
The changes to the living room were mostly cosmetic, but they made a massive impact.
“The ceiling beams, additional light fixtures, and fireplace elevate the architectural details of the room,” says Funk. “Staging also helps homeowners see how they could use the space.”
Gray-Plaisted also thinks the changes to the fireplace did a lot for the room.
“Updating the tile from the taste-specific green to a more neutral tone helps the fireplace stand out nicely.” She also appreciates how the soft shade of gray paint complements the new tile.
Dining room (before)
Dining room (after)
Comparing the before and after pictures, you might think you’re looking at two different rooms.
Funk notes that the one-two punch of the wallpaper and new chandelier draw the eye to the most interesting parts of the room: the wall molding and the ceiling.
“That combo goes a long way,” she says.
“The dining room before had great bones, but updating the lighting fixtures and staging with updated furniture allows buyers to see the room’s true potential,” says Gray-Plaisted, who did see one risky move in the renovation. “Wallpaper is popular, but the downside of wallpaper is that it is taste-specific, and that can limit your buyers’ market. This wallpaper here works with the traditional decor throughout the home, but may not be every buyer’s preferred taste.”
Taking the backyard from eyesore to outdoor oasis required new landscaping, installing a new fence, and completely overhauling the garage.
“They took an uninviting area and turned it into a space where you can actually enjoy spending time,” Gray-Plaisted says.
Overall, Gray-Plaisted was very impressed with the work of the sellers.
“The improvements to this house were wisely done,” she says. “The seller took a dated, tired look and created a new, refreshed listing that has the key features that buyers fawn over when hunting for a new home.”