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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.
Within California’s capital city lies the posh neighborhood of East Sacramento, an area filled with historic and diverse homes, ranging from Tudors to bungalows. Some homes, like this 80-year-old, four-bedroom, four-bathroom ranch, are badly in need of an update.
When the property hit the market in 2018 for $900,000, it was clearly a very valuable place.
When they bought it in 2018 for $900,000, the new owners quickly zeroed in on its considerable strengths. The original architectural touches, like built-in cabinets and an arched soffit over one of the bathtubs, give it a unique charm. It’s also located in the tony enclave known as the “Fabulous Forties” (the streets are named after numbers in the 40s). But they also realized it would need considerable work to bring it to its full potential.
An eight-month renovation returned the home to a level of sophistication it hadn’t seen in decades. And when the refurbished house went on the market, it was eventually sold for $600,000 over what the sellers paid for it just a year earlier.
So what design choices worked to the sellers’ advantage the most? We went straight to our experts to find out what they did right, and how you can have that same success in your space.
Before: Front of the home
After: Front of the home
You’ll have to look pretty hard to find any similarities in these before and after images, but we promise that it is the same house. It’s simply come out of hiding from behind all that overgrown greenery.
According to our experts, it’s really just several small changes that made such a huge difference in the appearance of the front of the home.
Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, loves the way the dark roof, door, and shutters contrast with the white panels on the house.
“The color palette makes the home pop,” says Karp, who’s also a big fan of the new landscaping.
“The lighting creates warmth, and the addition of potted wildflowers usher in the farmhouse vibe without going overboard, and creates a welcoming entrance,” he says.
Of course, nothing sells a house better than an entrance that welcomes prospective buyers, right?
Before: Living room
After: Living room
The sellers may have added a ton of style to this living room, but they also took away something fairly major: the fireplace!
So how do our experts feel about losing a feature than many consider central to the room’s design?
They don’t miss it at all. In fact, Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, thinks the room greatly benefits from letting the fireplace go, as it helps gain more of what really matters: space.
“This is a beautiful and bright space made even larger by removing the fireplace and opening up the wall between the living and dining rooms with an arch, enhancing the architectural details,” she says. “I love the added stained-wood casing around the other door to warm up the space. The new stain color of the floor is perfect for the update. The previous oak floor was too yellow and orange.”
Karp admires the universally flattering and stylish decor choices.
“While the color scheme is still neutral, the space is brought to life with plants and wooden accents,” he says.
This room didn’t see as many changes as the rest of the house. But our experts agree that the modifications made the room more stylish and functional.
“This is a perfect example of how designer staging completely transforms a space,” says MacNeil. “With the placement of some key furniture, art, and an area rug, the space now has purpose.”
“The floors were also darkened to match the rest of the house and add warmth to the room,” says Karp. “All these elements make this a space where you can create, reflect, and feel inspired.”
Another nice touch: keeping the original built-in cabinet. It’s a nod to the house’s historical roots and provides more storage space.
Perhaps the most genius move in the whole house was transforming the arch above the bathtub into a unique design element.
“I am in love with this bathroom,” says MacNeil. “The original arched soffit over the tub looks stunning clad in this small mosaic.
It “is an element that would typically be removed during a renovation, and I am so happy they kept it,” says MacNeil. “It brings an architectural design feature that speaks to old European design.
The rustic sink vanity also gives a nod to the modern farmhouse aesthetic that crops up in other rooms of the house.
The original backyard looked a bit like a wasteland with no place to sit and relax. But several additions make this area a comfortable place to enjoy that California sunshine.
“A covered patio is such a great selling feature,” says MacNeil. “They took this one to the next level by creating two massive, open gables in a gorgeous stained wood. I love the exposed steel fasteners that give an edge to the design.”
Karp sees this outdoor space as the perfect complement to the renovation.
“Ultimately, they created a space that thrives on rustic details and pure functionality,” he says.