On “Unsellable Houses,” twin sisters Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb are well aware that we’re in a hot seller’s market filled with eager buyers. Yet in the latest episode, they tackle one type of home that’s hard to sell, even today: a rental.
In the Season 3 episode “Retro Reno,” the sisters help clients Travis and Erin renovate their Everett, WA, home. While the couple lived in this house as newlyweds, they’ve had renters for the past 14 years—and the sisters can tell.
“This house definitely has that rental vibe,” Lamb says of the home. “I mean, you can tell the difference between an owner-occupied and a rental.”
“Nobody’s going to walk in and pay top dollar for a home that feels like a rental,” Davis adds.
Lamb and Davis decide to invest $50,000 in the house and spend four weeks fixing it up. Find out how they turn this drab rental into a dream home and a successful sale, with lessons that could work wonders on your own abode, too.
A board and batten ceiling makes a space feel special
Usually, renters expect a simple, livable space. But Lamb and Davis know that buyers like homes with a bit more character. In fact, a little personality can be a big selling point, especially in a cute cottage like this one.
When it comes time to design the small living room, Davis has an interesting idea.
“Since this is kind of a smaller house and this is our only living space, we could do, like, a board and batten on the ceiling,” she says.
Lamb loves the idea, and the team moves forward with the board and batten ceiling. When the feature is done, the look certainly differentiates the living room from the kitchen. Plus, it adds some sophistication to this home that buyers will hopefully adore.
There’s a fine line between retro and dated
Erin and Travis know the place isn’t new, so Lamb and Davis decide to lean into that age and give the kitchen a retro design. They add a gray terrazzo backsplash, a throwback light fixture, and green cabinets.
Lamb and Davis know it can be hard to give a home a retro look without it looking simply dated. So they’re careful to choose the right green cabinet color.
“This is a beautiful color,” Lamb says of a particular shade of light green. “It looks like it could be a retro color. It looks like something you’d find in an older kitchen.”
The green ends up looking great, highlighting this home’s history while still seeming fresh and youthful. It’s a great reminder that paint is an easy upgrade that can transform the whole vibe—provided you choose the right color.
Bathrooms need more counter and storage space
In the bathroom, Lamb and Davis decide to make the vanity bigger. Because, as Lamb points out, “What is it that a buyer would want? They would want more storage space and more countertop space.”
When the bathroom is finished, it’s clear that the new, bigger vanity doesn’t take up too much space and it adds a lot of functionality. It’s sure to be a hit with buyers.
Can’t sand hardwood floors? Paint them instead
Lamb and Davis notice the house’s original wood flooring is looking pretty worn. They decide to paint the wood, though they realize that this can be a controversial design choice.
“People generally say no to painting hardwood floors because they don’t know that you can’t just continue to refinish, refinish, refinish, refinish,” Lamb says. “You can only sand the floor so many times.”
They paint the floor a creamy white, brightening up the space but still allowing the details of the wood to show through. The painted hardwood look might not be for everyone, but for this house, it seems it was the right choice.
“Our choice was to put carpet over them, to put a vinyl flooring over them, or to paint them,” Davis says. “And with our budget, this is our best solution.”
A composite deck is lower maintenance and worth the extra money
In the backyard, Lamb and Davis find an old deck that desperately needs an update. Outdoor entertaining space can be a huge selling feature, but the sisters know that in order to make this deck attractive to buyers, it shouldn’t require much maintenance.
Their contractor suggests using composite planks for the deck floor, and Davis is happy to spend the extra money on this feature since it’s much more durable than regular wood.
“This is such a good marketing opportunity for maybe $200 more in the big scheme of things,” Davis says. “These are going to be huge because this is a deck that will last a lifetime.”
The homeowners stop by to check out the finished house.
“This backyard was probably the biggest part of the house that looked like a rental,” Davis tells them. “This was a huge focus of ours, lots of landscaping, tons of cleanup, the deck out here. We chose to do cedar for our railings and then a little bit higher-end material for our deck so that it doesn’t have to be replaced. You just pressure-wash it and it will last forever.”
This update proves just how important home maintenance is to buyers—knowing that a deck won’t need much work and will last a long time is a big selling point.
Do Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb sell this unsellable house?
Originally, the sisters thought this old home could sell for about $400,000. However, once Lamb and Davis put $50,000 into renovations, they realized they could list it for much more.
They put it on the market for $520,000, and end up getting a full-price offer. This means they make a profit of about $70,000—proof that with the right upgrades, it’s pretty easy to turn a rental into a permanent home.
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