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. “Lessons From Listing Photos” is our new series in which we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.
The former owners of this Portland, OR, home knew they had a gem of a property—even before they fixed it up. Despite the dated kitchen and questionable wall paint colors, they purchased the two-bedroom, two-bath home for just a shade over $450,000 in 2014. There were plenty of midcentury modern design elements like floor-to-ceiling windows and an extensive wood-paneled ceiling that made the home a good buy.
Three years and numerous renovations later, they put it on the market—selling it for nearly $300,000 more than they paid!
To find out which updates made the biggest impact—and how you can consider them for your own renovations—we went straight to the experts. Check out their insight on this Pacific Northwestern knockout below.
Welcome to the future
It’s no secret that kitchens sell houses, but this one looked incredibly dated. Clearly the renovations—including new cabinets, appliances, flooring, lighting, and subway tile backsplash—made an impact.
“Buyers love freshly updated kitchens. Although the previous cabinet style is popular for those who love a midcentury modern vibe, it can also narrow your buying market,” says property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP. “Painting the upper cabinets white and lower cabinets black is classic and very much in style now.”
Interior designer Maryline Damour of Damour Drake explains that the painted cabinets also make the space feel roomier.
“The new kitchen has the same footprint as before but feels bigger and brighter with the use of white upper cabinets, tile, and the new recessed lights,” she says.
Damour also pointed out the addition of wood floors—something the rest of the house already enjoyed.
“Continuing the wood floor into the kitchen ties this space to the rest of the home,” she says. “It also helps to highlight the wood frame around the window and door—an element that was all but lost before.”
In the before photo of the fireplace, the area lacked furniture and featured several different wall colors—two things that made it feel disjointed.
“You don’t necessarily need to have the fanciest furniture to sell a property, but you do need to package a property so that it resonates with buyers,” says Gray-Plaisted. “The placement of the furniture allows buyers to see the full value the house has to offer.”
She also says the neutral wall color allowed the architectural details of the fireplace to shine.
“The room appears larger due to use of the same color throughout,” Gray-Plaisted says. “Color can break up spaces making a home feel cramped and broken up.”
Damour says furniture is also important in making a space feel cozy—or in this case, less harsh.
“With all the right angles in the architecture, both the free-form coffee table and the cowhide rug brings in some curves and helps relax this space,” she says.
Leslie Saul, interior designer and founder of Leslie Saul and Associates, thinks the biggest impact comes from the lack of clutter.
“I approve of removing the artwork that was high on the walls and decluttering all of the plants and stuff,” she says. “With all the extras gone from the walls, it’s easy to focus on the features that make this house stand out.”
Dining area (before)
Dining area (after)
Give it a purpose
With only a rug and a painting, it was pretty hard to tell what this space was supposed to be used for in the before photo. But a few simple changes made it obvious that this is a great place to set up a dining table and take advantage of that floor-to-ceiling view.
“Creating a dining area gives the space purpose,” says Gray-Plaisted. “It allows the buyer to understand the flow and possibilities that a property can have.”
She also says that using the same white paint in this area gives the entire house continuity.
Damour is a big fan of the smaller decor choices in the dining room.
“The map provides visual interest to a plain wall, while the sheepskin on the chairs helps soften all the wood and brings in another textural element,” she says.
Sitting area (before)
Sitting area (after)
Show them how it’s done
The wood wall and accordion doors are tricky elements to design around and could leave potential buyers confused about how to use the space—especially if it’s empty when they see it. But filling this area with ample seating options and a sideboard with storage capacity was a genius move.
“Staging the area definitely brought purpose to the room, allowing buyers to see how they can use the space,” Gray-Plaisted says. “Removing the pink walls was also a wise choice.”