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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Give your house a mini-makeover

I watch that show on television that does the extreme home makeovers, both for the makeover part on the home and for the human interest aspect of the families that they choose. There’s nothing like a good tear-jerker tale to start the week off. Most of the time, it seems they end up tearing down the original house, rather than really making it over. I used to watch the makeovers on the show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and they most often just worked within the confines of the existing structure and really did makeover the interiors (as well as the owners).

I generally advise clients that the time to do major makeovers, like the kitchen or baths is not once you’ve decided to sell. You just won’t get the money back out and most sellers try to do that and end up overpricing the house. Hopefully you’ve done the major updates and upgrades as you went along, living in the house; so that you got to enjoy them for a while.

What I can recommend is that you try a mini-makeover for your house before selling. Most of the items on this mini-makeover list are relatively cheap and can make a big difference in the impression that the house gives to visitors.


Get the exterior and any decks or patios and driveway cleaned. Most often this will involve a power washing. Once you’ve got the dirt off, look to see if any paint needs touching up, especially on the trim. Don’t forget the garage, if it is detached. A new seal-coat on the drive will make it look good, too.

Check the windows all the way around for any torn screens, cracked storm windows or loose and misaligned shutters and fix those problems.

Trim back the landscaping. People often let trees and bushes go for years (decades) without proper trimming and it gives the place an “overgrown” look. Remember that people will be waling up to your front door, not coming in the garage as you most often do (see my post of August 22), so fix anything there that doesn't look right.

Check your garage door for rust at the bottom and a torn or missing bottom seal and fix those issues - repaint as needed.


Paint or wallpaper. Nothings spruces up a room like a fresh coat of paint, and don’t forget the ceiling. You can even use embossed wallpaper and create a tin ceiling effect or get real tin ceilings (a bit more expensive). Wallpaper is making a comeback of sorts, but I still don’t recommend that you use very much in the house and make sure that it color coordinates with adjacent areas or rooms and is not jarringly different. And don’t, don’t, DON’T paint directly over paneling, even if it is the old dark type. There are wall papers that you can get to put over the paneling that will hide the lines in the paneling and allow painting.

Put in new faucets. Look at both the baths and the kitchen and maybe update to the newer faucet finishes. Bright brass is out and the newer brushed nickel finishes are in.

Put new switch plates and outlet covers on. This small change can do wonders for a room. Switch plates in particular get dirty and leave the wrong impression with visitors.

Put in shelving in rooms like the family room, the laundry room and bedrooms. Relatively inexpensive and easy to hang designer shelving can add a touch of class to an otherwise plain room and it can increase the utility of laundry rooms.

A simple touch that adds class is to change to new lampshades and/or use the lamp shade embellishments that you’ll see in decorator homes – fringes or natural twigs and dried flowers. You should be able to find those at crafts stores.

Replace the knobs and pulls on kitchen and bath cabinets. In many cases the cabinets perhaps didn’t have pulls or knobs, so add them. You can also add class to a kitchen with under cabinet lighting.

A new bathroom mirror can spruce up that space, perhaps on a new medicine cabinet.

If you are fairly handy and have the tools to work with, you could try replacing the back splash in your kitchen with a tile back splash. Whatever you do, resist the urge to paint over an existing tile back splash or over tile in the bathrooms. If you are not that handy, hire this job out (see my post of July 1 about handyman homeowners). even just cleaning or re-grouting the tile in baths can make them look fresh.

So there are some mini-makeover ideas (and some cautions). You could probably do this entire list of makeovers for less than the cost of 2-3 cabinets in a kitchen remodeling project.

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