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Lessons From Listing Photos: A 1900s Bungalow Gets a Gut Reno, and We Can’t Stop Staring

December 5, 2019

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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.

When the sellers purchased this Sacramento, CA, bungalow in late 2018, it was dated and dreary. But they made quick work of renovating it. Less than a year later, the bungalow was back on the market with the addition of modern touches that make it a California home buyer’s dream.

Despite the massive makeover, this house still had a major factor working against it that couldn’t be changed: its location just down the street from a busy freeway. But the gut renovation was effective enough to attract buyers who were willing to make the trade-off in order to live in a pristine, stylish home. After just 27 days on the market, it was sold for $200,000 over the original purchase price.

So what did the sellers do to make this house so desirable to buyers, and how can you have the same results in your own home? We went straight to our experts to find out.

Before: Front exterior

front exterior_before
The original exterior blended in with the surroundings.

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After: Front exterior

Front exterior_after
This new exterior was designed to stand out.

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New paint and landscaping took this house from dilapidated to delightful.

“I love this all-gray palette, it really allows the mustard front door to sing,” says Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design.

Curb appeal goes a long way in the eyes of buyers, and Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative designer of Casa Consult+Design, says the sellers’ changes like removing the old screen door and adding a bold pop of color make an impactful first impression.

Before: Living room

living room_before
All this wood weighs down the room.

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After: Living room

living room_after
The white and gray decor lightens things up.

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Everything about this space says fresh and clean after the renovation, but the bones—and the character they bring to this bungalow—are still all there.

It’s “by far my favorite room transformation,” says Trudel-Payne. “They honored and brought new life to the home by keeping all the intricate architectural details that make every space drip with charm.”

MacNeil agrees that the juxtaposition of the traditional millwork details with the new midcentury modern furniture and fixtures works in this room. Even if the new owners decide to swap the Eames chairs for something a bit more rustic, this neutral space can accommodate many different design schemes.

Before: Kitchen

kitchen_before
There are too many mismatched surfaces in this kitchen.

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After: Kitchen

kitchen_after
A clean, streamlined look brings order and freshness to the kitchen.

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We’d call this house a bona fide fixer-upper, but this kitchen needed the most help out of any room. Pre-renovation, the mismatched materials, colors, and prints would make anyone’s head spin, but now the coordinated interiors and soft color palette bring a calmness to the home.

“Removing the linoleum flooring and replacing it with hardwood was the first step in the right direction,” says Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home. “Changing out the old, two-toned wooden cabinets to new gray cabinets with brass hardware gives the space a clean, streamlined look.”

Our experts agree that gray is a nice alternative to white if you’re looking for a neutral hue to paint your cabinets. Trudel-Payne also says that gray cabinets work exceptionally well with a subway tile backsplash, which is another trendy material that buyers tend to favor.

Before: Bedroom

bedroom_before
The old bedroom was a little scary.

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After: Bedroom

bedroom_after
After renovations, the bedroom is a place to relax.

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No, that’s not a screenshot from a recent horror film—that’s really what this bedroom looked like before the renovation. Clearly it was in need of some love in the form of new flooring and fixtures that added personality to the room.

“It was a great idea to add barn doors to cover the built-in shelves,” says Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “They allow the storage space to remain but hide the mess. Plus, they slide so they don’t take up any room.”

MacNeil also appreciates the industrial vibe the barn door hardware adds to the space.

Before: Bathroom

bathroom_before
The old bathroom was cute but dated.

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After: Bathroom

bathroom_after
A fresh white bathroom wins every time.

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Some of our favorite bathroom renovations are the ones that don’t require a big budget. Most of the changes that occurred in this bathroom are purely cosmetic.

“The previous mismatched paint colors made the bathroom feel old and dingy,” says Fasone. “Minor updates—including the fresh coat of paint, the new medicine cabinet, and the vanity—give the bathroom a total face-lift.”

“What a quaint space,” says MacNeil. “I love the traditional vertical shiplap walls. This is a look that many designers covet, so they are lucky to have this original detail.”

Trudel-Payne reiterates that being smart (read: frugal) about aesthetic choices can help your bottom line in a big way, especially if you’re renovating the home to sell it.

“More than half of a renovation budget usually goes to things no one sees like electrical and plumbing,” he says. “But using the existing architectural details is the key to a budget-friendly transformation.”

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