Inexpensive Wow-Factor Ideas For Rehabbed Houses

25 Replies

Days on market for houses that we are selling have been higher than I would like for them to be. The rehabs are nice and we are staging them. We are typically selling within 3-6 months which really isn't that bad in this market, but could be improved.

I was trying to think of ways for us to shrink the days on market. There are buyers and I want to make our houses stand out and be the ones they remember and want to buy because they had something extra.

Some of the things that we don't typically do that we could for relatively low cost are (keep in mind that these are houses below median price in my area - so granite counters and the like are not really necessary, but might be an option) installing fancy tile backsplashes, tile granite counter tops, under cabinet lights, recessed lighting, wainscoting/chair rails, spending more on curb appeal, outdoor living areas (large custom decks etc) and other things that can get rather expensive.

I'm not wanting to spend a lot but am willing to add something extra if it will help sell houses faster. We could spend $3,000 or more making the house stand out and it could end up saving us $10,000 or more in holding costs and price reductions.

What are your thoughts? What are some of the things that you are doing or that you plan on doing that really make a rehab stand out and get sold before the other houses that are on the market?

I really appreciate any and all input. Thanks.

In my experiences the small houses (ex 100k-120k resale) have smaller sq ft of counter tops. Call granite guys in your area and ask if they have scrap or reminate pieces that may be enough to do a smaller kitchen. In alot of cases, they will do it cheap just to use up the material and make something on the job.

Add a row of accent tile to your bath tub surrounds. It is typically just a different color of cheap tile (ex use 12 x 12 tan tiles and maybe 6x6 or 6x12 accent row around the top)

Pedestal Sinks help and in small bathrooms create more space

Chair Rail Dining/Eating room and just paint the wall white under it

These are just a few ideas I try to do and im looking forward to other responses on this thread.

It seems like when I buy a house there are always a couple of doors missing, so I started changing out all doors except closet doors with 6 panel doors,,,it really doesn't cost that much if you have to replace some anyway, and it does make a difference,,we also use satin nickel hinges and handles,,,I figure I'm adding $300 or so to the price, but its a much more upscale look,,,

I also buy appliances from the scratch and dent area of homedepot/lowes (I'm sure most people on here do also), and buy any stainless appliances I run across at a good price,,it really dresses up the kitchen

I like using 4.5" base moulding, crown moulding on kitchen cabs and in dining rooms and master bedrooms. Updates doors, hinges, kitchen faucets, etc.

3-6 months selling time is way too long a move in ready rehab. If your rehab is not moving in under 30 days then something is wrong with it.

We do the following (extra $ amount in parenthesis):

stainless steel appliances ($500)
grid windows in front of house ($150-200)
New interior doors ($600)
Recess lighting ($100)
Backsplash ($300)
Seller pays closing costs ($10k - but we add this to the sales price of the rehab - It's a BIG seller as we're usually the only one on the market offering this)

We also do the row of accent tile in our bathrooms that Brad does. And we try our best to get a buyer before the rehab is complete.

Have you looked at doing shadow boxes in the dining rooms instead of simple chair railings? It was "designer" touches like that which I remembered later. Things like crown molding or faux tray ceilings in the Master might be a good idea too. Wood trim is fairly cheap and can go up real fast if you know what you're doing!

Hey Danny,
I've actually been on your blog quite a few times. Your wife does great staging- Outside of the granite stuff I'd say you might wanna upgrade your lighting. The rehab we sold 2 months ago- we are in the process of another- I spent about $400 on two chandiliers and weirdly enough the buyer specifically asked that both transfer with the house- That was all they asked that they remain when we took out the furniture. I had a little chuckle internally as I thought- umm they already go with the house but nice to know that the buyers wanted to make sure- And when I look at your rehabbed pictures that usually the only thing I want to change.

If your homes take 3-6 months just to sell, then I would suspect that the mainissue is the price, not the "extra's" that you feel are missing. Why not look to use lower price points in your numbers before you buy so that you can decrease your holding times.

Thanks for all of the input.

This is really a great community and I'm glad everybody is willing to share their ideas and help. Got some great ideas from your answers.

By all means, if anyone else has some more ideas, please share.

Try adding a "fancy" shower head in all the showers. I just picked up a nice looking one at Wal-Mart for $20. I was too cheap to go with the really fancy one for $40 :)

Also, I noticed a few houses that were recently rehabbed around here had the same tile and materials in all 3 bathrooms. If you're going to tile 2 showers and 2 bathroom floors, mix it up a don't even need to spend extra $$$, just give them something else to be wowed by. Seeing the same bathroom over and over again tends to lose its lustre.

Almost forgot, do you replace all of the outlets, switches and covers? This is cheap and easy to do but makes a house feel much newer.

Same goes for door hardware, if you have that shiny gold stuff, get rid of it, it looks cheap and dated (which in turn makes the house look cheap and dated).

This is a great thread and very beneficial. I just put a flip under contract yesterday. Keep the thoughts and ideas coming!

For lower end houses I found that hot tubs sell. You can find nice working hot tubs for under $1000. I have gotten several for free over the years.

That could be a big plus over the competition for the right buyer.

Otherwise I just modernize the home as some have already suggested. White outlets/covers, stainless or brushed look hinges, knobs, lighting etc.

But more than anything the best bang for your buck is to lighten and brighten. Make sure all your light fixture have the highest wattage bulb they can handle. Pick light earthtone colors...

Btw Danny, you're slacking! 10 days since your last blog post, what gives? Some of us need our fix *blush*

Just getting ready for the big day. My son is due Friday. :)

Sorry to keep you waiting. Don't worry, should have one tomorrow. I've been working on it for a week.

Don't want to derail the thread though. I am still interested in some more ideas. Keep 'em comin'.

Great question Danny,
In a lower middle class home, a big flatscreen will do the trick. If the home is 200k and up, I would use a projector system with a few theater chairs.
Of course landscaping helps all of the time!!

Agreed with Will that if your houses are sitting that long, price is most certainly a factor. That said, here are some suggestions (some are repeats of what others have already said):

- Use nicer cabinets/countertops. For just a few extra bucks, you can get nice cherry-stained cabinets and granite-looking Formica countertops. Buyers think the cabinets we put in our houses cost about 3x as much as they do (typical kitchen is under $3000)

- Use stainless appliances instead of white. For faux stainless, we pay under $1500 for frige, range, dishwasher and microwave

- Replace all the light fixtures (no fluorescents) and plumbing fixtures and make sure they all match

- Replace all the outlets, switches and cover plates with new white ones

- Put mini-blinds on all the windows

Originally posted by Nathan Emmert:
Btw Danny, you're slacking! 10 days since your last blog post, what gives? Some of us need our fix *blush*

Agreed. I'm a junkie.

When rehabbing, the best money you can spend is in the kitchen, bathrooms, master bedroom, and curb appeal - hands down. Kitchens alone have been known to sell homes so make sure you go the extra mile in these areas.

Picking warm earthtone colors is also helpful as it attarcts the largest % of buyers. As opposed to a blue room where some buyers may not have a boy or like blue, the tans, creams, and other earthtone colors are welcomed by almost all.

One other thing I see some rehab flippers do wrong is do crappy work on certain items. For instance, I was in a home that an investor was trying to flip and it was sitting on teh market. He or she did a great job on the kitchen and tile on the floor, but then in the living room at the ceiling, you could see a large crack line and crappy looking "cut job" for the paint going from walls to ceiling. FYI: The spots where two different paint colors meet are called "cut lines"
Then in a bthroom, they did not replace the old wooden framed window and the window had a bunch of caked-on dirty spots and caulking - this is a no-no as its shows a lack of quality and when prospective buyers see items like this, their natural feeling is to suspect that other work was done poorly.

My best advice is to not leave anything in the home that looks like poor quality work. Small touch-ups only take time but are so valuable in the end.

I was at an open house that was rehabbed.
The entire house was rewired.
The closets had lighting in them.
Every female that walked through the house, said: "I wish that my closets had lights in them."


Some guidelines we follow, many borrowed from some of the more experienced rehabbers on BP:

1) We attempt to leave old charm when possible and refresh when needed, to include: chandeliers, fireplaces, hardwood floors, etc.

2) Kitchens! Kitchens! Kitchens! I echo what Will, J and others have said about the kitchen. We have only used stainless appliances. Lately we have been using granite counters, as we have a supplier who gives us great prices. Also, decent hardware can go a long way in dressing up cabinets and is money well spent in my opinion. Anytime you can open up a kitchen do it and extra counter space is a big bonus.

3) I love the look crown molding adds to a house. We add crown to the main living areas of the house and buyers seem to love it.

4) Curb appeal is key to getting people in the house. We spend a significant amount of money making sure the properties are appealing from the outside. We also focus on driveways/parking. Money spent making the outside of the house and yard look goes a long way (and a little money can go a long way in most cases).

5) Ceramic tiles in the bathroom...can be found at huge discounts and are a huge upgrade over other options.

The most important wow factor is to highlight the not always as visible upgrades (electric, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, windows, etc). I want buyers to get excited and take comfort knowing the home they are purchasing has not only been upgraded aesthetically but inside and out.

I don't have any experience flipping, but here's a few ideas;

Brick walkway to the front door with brick planter(s). We just looked at a house that had that and the house was an absolute wreck but the front certainly made an impression on me.

Staging the front with one or a few durable plants in nice glazed pots. Yucca and large colored grasses are drought resistant and tough enough to be dragged from house to house. & something strong & light weight to put it on top of- just high enough that you notice the pot.

A wooden shed in the back or side yard if the property doesn't already have one. In my area you don't need a permit for a shed under a certain size, and they are easy to build. One with a lean-to roof near a fence or wall is even easier. I forget what they are called, but a cut piece of nice trim at the roofline might add to it.

If a property has a shed, putting a few shelves or a bench in it.

I love the flat screen idea. I buy and rent, but I would put a flat screen over the fireplace if I were flipping. It saves space so the living room is bigger. Black Friday...good time.
That said, nickle hinges, door knobs and light fixtures really look nice. They're at eye level. I had to change out the outlets on my last house because they had been painted over multiple times (what the hell?) and it wasn't cheap--materials were. Changing the plates would be a no brainer with painting.
If my flips were taking too long to sell, I would take a page from the builder model homes. They try to make the homes memorable. Beige with white trim is so common, I would paint an accent wall in the living; or paint the kitchen "Pottery Barn" sage or the hall bath pale metallic silver with a shimmery, trendy shower curtain. Cheap, easy enough for buyers to change, but the right colors will appeal to alot of buyers. (Unfortunately, I don't have "the right colors", but at HD I found a beautiful Martha Stewart green that almost looks beige in indirect light. I used it once and plan on using it again.)

I just thought I would share what I think seems to be a good deal for those in search of stainless steel appliances. Try asking about Builders or contractor packages if you need the full set. On the low end of things, I found a Frigidaire Stainless steel kitchen package for $1999 that included an electric (or gas) range, a side by side refrigerator, an over the range microwave and a built in dishwasher. The price was even lower if you chose the package where the refrigerator was not a side by side. Another plus is a lot of these sites have free shipping if it is over $999 and no tax. Try Interstate appliance: or US Appliance. Be sure to check out the instant coupons that US appliance is offering. I discovered I could order the same items in the contractors package separately then use the storewide coupon and it was even cheaper than the contractors package! (they wouldn't let you use the $500 instant discount coupon on the contractors package)

If anyone else has some great saving ideas, please share. It would be so nice to find a buyers network or find places that offer discount prices on items if you were a biggerpockets member.

As a fellow stager, the only thing I can think of that is different than all of the obvious, is to make sure you are "creating" emotional connections. Staging is about more than making the place "look" neat, clean and upgraded (although all of those things are necessary!). It's also about helping the buyer SEE themselves living in that place, about making something SO very memorable that they cannot forget that home! Speak to the hearts of the people walking through the home. Think about your buyer, the community, who will be living there and create emotional ties to the home. examples:

Older community - create a "game room" in the sun room, or a golf themed "retiree" office.

Family community - create happy children rooms, girl, boy, with small toys in the corner, and a few generic family pictures. Or turn a room into a den, or a movie room, complete with faux popcorn!

In other words, set a stage so that their mind begins to wander.. you want them envisioning themselves in a scene in that home! Once you do that, they are HOOKED! :D


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