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. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.
This custom Chicago home hardly looked like a fixer-upper when the owners purchased it for $790,000 in 2017. Still, the functional but outdated features like the cramped galley kitchen and the spiral staircase straight out of 1991 left much to be desired.
The three-bedroom, 3.5-bath pad is located in Bucktown, one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. So to match the local flavor (and meet the demands of discerning buyers), the house went through a series of major renovations. Now, just two years later, it has nearly doubled in value and recently sold for $1,330,500.
Curious about which updates made all the difference? According to our experts, here’s what the homeowners got 100% right.
It’s hard to tell these two photos are even of the same house, but take our word for it—they are.
“Often we see traditional homes get a modern makeover,” says designer Maryline Damour of Damour Drake. “This is a great example of how to use the bones of a modern house and give it traditional character through some key architectural details.”
Property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted is impressed by the major updates to the exterior—and the impact they make.
“Moving the windows around is no small undertaking, but doing so enhanced the exterior and adds more light to the interior of the house,” she says. The windows and new roofline make the house look a lot more like what we think of as “home,” which is exactly what buyers are looking for.
Before: Living room
After: Living room
The original living room was modern and lacked soul before the renovations, but our experts are loving the changes, which include a brand-new staircase.
“While the staircase in the before photo was an architectural statement, the new staircase makes the space feel bigger as the eye travels unobstructed from one space to the next,” says Damour.
Other rustic touches like wooden beams on the ceiling and the brickwork around the fireplace alter the aesthetic of the home, making it feel more comfortable. Now, especially when staged with fiddle-leaf fig trees, contemporary artwork, and a crisp black and white color scheme, the design of the home channels the popular modern farmhouse style.
“This renovation took a modern interior and added traditional design elements and details that completely changed the look and feel of the home,” says designer Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio. “The floor plan feels open and welcoming but also functional and practical.”
A galley kitchen is an acquired taste—some people are perfectly fine with them while others crave an open concept kitchen. The galley kitchen in this home wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t a very good use of space, so opening it up was a very wise choice.
“Kitchen updates are probably the best way to help a home feel more modern and fresh,” says Hodges. “The new wood floors, bright cabinetry, and upgraded appliances were all smart choices that add value and visual interest.”
Replacing dark elements like the cabinets and backsplash with white cabinets and natural stone contributed to the overall airy feel of the room.
“Carrying the wood flooring into the kitchen also helps the space feel more spacious by flowing with the rest of the home,” says Sally Williams, an interior designer with Colorful Concepts.
The updated bathroom feels more like a spa than a room in your house—something our experts say will definitely attract buyers.
“A mix of tile, applied from floor to ceiling, makes the space feel luxurious, while the wood vanity is a nice contrast, adding warmth and character,” says Damour. “Removing the bathtub for a shower with glass doors and hanging mirrors across the length of the wall also help make the space feel bigger and brighter.”
Before: Roof deck
After: Roof deck
The roof deck, which stands in for a backyard, was always attractive, but our experts say that adding bright green turf makes this space feel even more like an outdoor escape.
“Replacing the cold, unwelcoming gray with bright finishes brings this space to life,” says Williams. “The addition of the siding-covered overhang has added much-needed dimension to the facade and creates a welcoming spot perfect for a pair of rocking chairs. The turf is genius and allows you to imagine so many possible uses for this deck area.”