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‘Unsellable Houses’: These Upgrades Pay for Themselves, but Others Are a Waste of Cash


On “Unsellable Houses,” Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis prove time and again that making even just a few inexpensive upgrades can help a house sell for more money. But on the latest episode, they prove that sometimes it makes financial sense to go all out on renovations that take a house to a whole new level.

In the Season 3 episode “Builder Drab to Coastal Fab,” the sisters meet Bob and Tricia, the owners of a 3,100-square-foot, five-bedroom, three-bathroom home (including a large basement apartment) in Snohomish, WA.

Rather than scrimp on renovations, the sisters invest a whopping $100,000 into the project. Read on to find out why—and whether their plan pays off. It might inspire you to splurge a little bit more on your own property, too.

Renovations in the kitchen nearly always pay off

dated kitchen
Before: This kitchen wouldn’t excite a typical buyer.


The kitchen is one space these twin sisters overhaul completely. They add new cabinets and counters, remove a wall, and put up a stylish new marble backsplash. The marble is pricey at $1,800, but Lamb is confident this is the right choice.

“The backsplash I picked in the kitchen, I picked it because it’s gorgeous,” she says.

After: This kitchen was completely redone.


Still, Lamb and Davis manage to save money by having the kitchen’s herringbone tile put in at a right angle so it’s not as difficult to install.

“It’s different than traditional,” contractor Jeff Lawrence says of the angle, “but it’s also easier when you go around, like, a window or the outlet cutouts.”

The smart lesson here: There are different ways to save money on a renovation. If materials can’t come cheap, a simpler installation could help even out the budget.

The backsplash looks lovely next to the new cabinets.


Invest in your bathroom—particularly a tub

old bathroom design
Before: This old bathroom had only a shower.


When Davis and Lamb first tour this house, they find the main suite doesn’t have a bathtub. The sisters point out this could be a problem for buyers, so they add a wet room, an enclosed space with a shower and tub. The feature is great, but it does come at a premium.

“So obviously this is why we bought so much tile,” Davis says, standing in the space. “I mean, we have to tile all the way to the ceiling around this tub, which is not something we normally do.”

wet room
After: The tile was pricey, but buyers are willing to pay more for premium bathrooms.


The pricey upgrade will likely impress buyers and persuade them to pay more for this house. So, in the end, it makes sense.

“This is definitely going to be one of the most expensive bathrooms that we will do, but I think it will absolutely pay off,” Davis points out.

A full basement renovation may be a waste of cash

basement kitchen
Before: The basement kitchen didn’t need a full renovation.


While Lamb and Davis go all out on the main kitchen, they don’t need to do the same for the basement apartment downstairs.

“It wouldn’t sell the house to do a full remodel down there,” Davis says. “It’d be money spent but not needed.”

new countertops
After: The new countertops brighten up this space.


Instead, they spend $4,500 on new quartz countertops and $780 on a porcelain backsplash in the downstairs kitchen, and they update the cabinet pulls. The simple upgrades make a big difference for this kitchen, giving it contemporary styling without doing a full remodel.

updated finishes
The new backsplash isn’t as fancy as the one upstairs, but it looks good.


Memorable features like a ‘secret room’ are worth every cent

office door
Before: This was just a normal office entry.


To finish this basement apartment, the sisters decide to turn an office entry into a feature.

“Right off of that kitchen, there’s this odd little room. It seemed kind of like a wasted space,” Lamb says. “So I actually want to put a hidden passage and make this a secret room. It looks like a bookcase, but then you push it open.”

The bookcase feature makes this small room feel like a bonus special space, which will surely interest buyers (and their kids).

hidden door
After: This bookcase is really a hidden door.


Leveling a floor might not be worth the money

living room
Before: This living room is on a different level than the kitchen.


This home has a strange layout, with a living room right off the entryway and on a different level than the kitchen. While home renovators could spend a fortune to level the floor, Davis and Lamb decide this change is not worth the investment. Instead, they make cosmetic tweaks to help tie this living room to the rest of the house.

painted wall
After: The new feature wall draws attention away from the strange layout of this space.


“I want the potential buyer to see it as a fun space that is connected to the rest of the living [area], whereas before it felt like it was very disconnected,” Lamb says.

She suggests painting one living room wall blue and adding white lines, which will look a lot like wallpaper. The feature wall looks beautiful and costs very little money. Hopefully, buyers will now walk in and see a beautiful space instead of an odd layout.

blue painted wall
Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb painted this wall to look like wallpaper.


What happens to this unsellable house?

When Lamb and Davis first see this house, they estimate they could sell it for about $800,000 as is. Instead, the HGTV stars invest $100,000, and when the home is done, Bob and Tricia get an offer for $1,400,000!

After Lamb and Davis recoup their investment, they still have a profit of $500,000 to split with the sellers. It’s a great success that shows how the right upgrades are an investment that can really pay off!

The post ‘Unsellable Houses’: These Upgrades Pay for Themselves, but Others Are a Waste of Cash appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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