Having spent the last three years moonlighting as—in the words of Billy Joel—‘a real-estate novelist’, plus the last two years renovating my own home, I learnt very quickly what sells and what doesn’t, and what many buyers look for when they’re buying their first, or second, home.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on major renovations, but if you are planning to sell—and most people, at some point, will sell their current home—you need to put in some time to spruce the place up a bit. If you’re not selling, but thinking about updating that tired 1980s kitchen or bathroom, you still need to know what’s on trend. However, trends come—and then, they go … I know builders who can walk into a kitchen and tell you when it was built or upgraded simply by the colour and use of materials. Colour, materials, and flooring will set the date of your renovation or makeover, so choose carefully!
Check out our 10 top tips for that big, or small, upgrade.
1: Take your time! Don’t try to do everything at once. Work out what you need, or want/can afford well before you start; be it a full renovation (complete pull-out and re-build) or makeover (paint, soft furnishings, upgrade appliances etc.). Work out where to start first, do your research, and stick to the plan!
2: Street appeal. If your house looks crap from the outside, drive-by potential buyers will assume it’s crap on the inside. You don’t have to go to great lengths or spend a fortune rendering, or replacing your gutters or roofing, but a coat of paint, a nice new mailbox, and a garden tidy up can make a huge difference to those doing the ‘drive past’.
3: First steps. As well as street appeal, don’t forget your entrance and hallway—even a small front porch will look welcoming with a bistro setting and a couple of cushions. A small hallway will really open up if it’s light and bright. Go for a hall table with a glass top, and mirror to reflect the light, and open containers if you have room.
4: Kitchen. Don’t mix too many materials. I’ve seen kitchens that have a combination of timber cupboards, stone and laminate tops, and feature splashbacks—overwhelming is an understatement. Decide on a feature—what you want to stand out; either splashback, benchtops, an island or whatever, choose the feature colour and material—stone, glass, timber, stainless steel, etc., and keep the rest plain and simple.
5: Shelving versus cupboards. Open shelves, exposed beams, and cabinetry that stops below the ceiling (popular in the 70s) are dust gatherers—plain and simple, and unless you like dusting every day, and washing pots and pans even when they haven’t been used; then fine, go with open everything—otherwise forget it. And if you really want your gorgeous glassware on display go for a glass-fronted cupboard with fitted downlights. In the bathroom, if you must have shelves, go for glass—they have clean lines, and will open up a small area.
6: Appliances. Get them off the kitchen bench! An appliance cupboard doesn’t have to include power, nor does it have to be in the kitchen. For appliances you use every day, such as your toaster and kettle—fine, but for others create large cupboards that will take your blender, juicer, slow cooker, food processor etc., and keep them out of sight. A separate microwave space, over or under the oven or bench or in a split pantry, is also a great idea. If you have a large cupboard close to the kitchen—in the hallway or laundry, you can utilise that for plastic containers, bowls, hand mixers, casserole and baking dishes etc. If you have a monochrome kitchen, pop some colour with your appliances.
7: Colour. That lovely bright red wall in the lounge room may look terrific with your off-white leather lounge; but if the prospective purchaser has a red, pink (or even blue) lounge—colours may clash. If you’re renovating to sell keep to monochrome and neutral colours such as white, pale grey, or off-white. Even if you’re not selling—stick with neutral and pop the colour in your soft furnishings.
8: Floors. Think about the usage your floors get. Do you have lots of visitors, young children or pets? Some areas are very heavy traffic and need flooring that can sustain the use. Soft boards or light porcelain tiles should be kept to lightweight areas. Hard timbers and heavier weight tiles or stone are ideal in entrances, main living areas, and kitchen and family rooms, and many people still prefer carpet in bedrooms.
9: Lighting. Downlights have become popular of late, but beware, they cast no shadow and can make a room appear clinical and without texture. Simple pendants are still good for living areas and bedrooms and won’t break the bank, while moveable spots work well in kitchens as you can move them along the bar to light specific areas. Get TASTICs for the bathrooms. Trust me—you, and your prospective purchaser will love them.
10: The backyard. Often neglected, and often overdone, the backyard needs the following essentials. Good secure fencing on all sides. Tidy trees and shrubs, outdoor living/dining furniture (if you have the space) and an outdoor clothes line—yes, there are people who still like to hang out their washing. That’s it!