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 pictures highlight the home’s best assets.
Living in Santa Fe, NM, is all about taking advantage of the gorgeous landscape, mild climate, art culture, and a city with just enough activity to keep you busy but not overwhelmed. And the suburbs outside of Santa Fe give you access to all that, plus the ability to own a sizable chunk of land.
Those reasons help explain why this four-bedroom, 3.5-bath house, just 20 minutes from the city center, was purchased in 2014 for $435,000 despite it being a textbook fixer-upper.
The 3,000-square-foot-house is on a 1.17-acre lot in a gated community. It comes with a private pond and walking trails, making it the perfect purchase for a buyer looking to enjoy the culture of the area while still keeping to themselves. Sure the home’s interior was in desperate need of an update, but the buyers saw the potential.
After six years and some stylish yet strategic renovations, the buyers sold the home for about $200,000 more than what they paid. There weren’t many big changes—just cosmetic updates and some nicely staged listing photos. So how did they make a profit? We went straight to our experts to find out what home improvements brought in the buyers.
The setup in this living room is a little different thanks to an adobe fireplace in the center of the room. In the before photos, it’s easy to see how a potential buyer would be confused by what to do with the main living room space as well as the space behind the fireplace. But a quick cleanup and careful staging helped to illustrate the best use of the space, according to designer Lori Bitter, of Dalia Staging & Design.
“The formal living space feels inviting for entertaining, while the second space feels more intimate for family and TV time,” Bitter says.
Careful design does a lot more than make a room look pretty, though. Bitter points out that the details help to accentuate some of room’s best features.
“The blue accents are a perfect balance for the dark floors and wood on the ceiling,” she says.
“Not a lot changed in this room, but it shows what a big difference a few details can make,” adds designer Mark Cutler, of Mark Cutler Design. “The new ceiling fan, uncovered windows, and brighter white paint all contribute to a more modern take on Southwestern design.”
An updated, functional kitchen is pretty high on the must-have list for many home buyers, which is why the sellers put a lot of time and effort into this space.
“The new kitchen feels fresh, open, and modern,” says Cutler. He adds that moving the wing wall on the peninsula substantially opens up the space.
“The combination of white tile with the gray cabinetry and updated lighting is so fresh,” she says. “Bringing the backsplash to ceiling with the modern hood is a dramatic touch.”
And while everyone loves a kitchen island, the sellers made the right move in removing the old island; the pine wood was channeling outdated ’90s vibes.
“Replacing the old island with a rustic furniture piece carries the warmth of the wood from the living space into the kitchen and keeps this kitchen feeling cozy,” says Bitter.
When a potential buyer visits a home, there are a few different things they might be looking for in a bedroom space. They might want a room that’s relaxing, maybe even luxurious—but they’re definitely not looking for a bedroom that looks old and dingy. Before the overhaul, this bedroom was full of clunky fixtures like that light fixture and ceiling fan.
But the sellers knew just what to do to lighten this space up.
“A white color palette will always create a room that feels larger and cleaner,” says Cutler. “And removing the window shades allows for more light and expands the view.”
“What a great example of how staging can make a room feel more impressive and larger,” adds Bitter.
Nothing dates a home like a bathroom in major need of an update, so our experts were pleased to see what happened in this space.
“Two main areas changed for the better: the shower tile and the bathroom vanity,” says Cutler. The brown palette of the old shower and the stained-wood details dated the room.
“The bright, white color scheme with bronze accents feels fresh and makes the room, especially the shower, seem larger.” he adds.
“This is a ‘wow’ moment for this home,” says Bitter. “Like the kitchen, the footprint hasn’t changed, but the finish choices [like the new light fixture and sink vanity] open this space up.”
The back patio of this home is a terrific example of the power of a good listing photo.
“Outdoor living spaces are coveted today,” says Bitter. “Staging an outdoor dining area shows buyers the possibilities for this valuable additional square footage.”
“Once again it’s about small details that make a large impact,” says Cutler. “Architecturally almost nothing has changed, but the room, with the addition of the seating area, feels larger.”
Cutler also likes the potting area, which gives buyers another example of a creative way to use the space.